This photo shows only a tiny part of the four thousand water bottles ready for runners crossing the finish line at a local event. I love the energy at races, and enjoy being a volunteer at a finish line, at an aid station along a course, or distributing timing chips in the predawn hours before a race. But four thousand unrecycled plastic water bottles makes me crazy! To see what 4000 water bottles looks like, click here. Multiply that by the thousands of race events just like this one across the United States every year.
Runners don't fit the old stereotype of "dumb jocks". They are, by and large, well-educated, self-motivated, disciplined, health-conscious, responsible and successful in the real world. Spending such a big chunk of their life running along the roads, trails, and sidewalks of America, they are usually disgusted by the litter they see. Even when they've run 6.2, 13.1, or 26.2 miles, the vast majority of runners place their water bottles in trash receptacles rather than litter. Unfortunately, most races don't provide any on-site opportunity for runners to recycle those finish line water bottles. If it's convenient, runners will recycle. If I can get crotchety condo residents to start recycling, races can get runners to recycle!
It surprises me that organizations sponsoring race events aren't required by municipal parks departments to provide on-site recycling to keep all the bottles out of city landfills, and to keep parks clean. And why don't race organizers require the water sponsor for the race to provide recycling services? Would it really hurt Ozarka to haul those four thousand empty bottles to a recycling facility after such a captive audience advertising opportunity?
Interestingly, a little race called the New York City Marathon was also run today. Lance Armstrong was there, apparently running strong. More exciting, Poland Spring Brand Natural Spring Water was there. According to The Final Sprint, Poland Spring, as the official water sponsor for the race, arranged the recycling of all 75,000 of the one-gallon water bottles used at rehydration stations along the race course for the 38,000 participants in the premier 38th ING New York Marathon. Last weekend Poland Spring provided for the recycling of 13,500 water bottles at the finish line of the five-mile Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff Race.
Of course, Poland Spring was advertising something to those 38,000 participants. It was the company's Eco-Shape bottle that is 100% recyclable and made with 30% less plastic than most bottles. And that's progress.
Aquafina will be the official water sponsor of the December 9, 2007 Wellstone's Dallas White Rock Marathon benefitting Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. I wish when I scan through the list of sponsors and organizers, I would spot a coordinator for event recycling. That would be something to cheer about!
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder