Sunday, 21 January 2018

Runners - Ditch the plastic!

We have all been moved by the Blue Planet pictures of rafts of plastics in our oceans. We’ve watched horrified by the stomach contents of a dead albatross chick,  shocked by pilot whales entangled in plastic bags and disturbed by the calf poisoned by his mother’s polluted milk.
Closer to home the RSPCA receive on average 14 calls a day reporting animals affected by litter. Wild birds and small mammals trapped in empty cans or choked on plastic bags and balloons. Your own pets sniffing out and eating rubbish add to these figures.
The Guardian tells us that Micheal Gove is haunted by the plastic pollution he watched on the TV but still Britain failed to send any senior figures to the UN summit on plastic back at the beginning of December.
So…. Its up to us then.
As Harriers we can allow ourselves a small pat on the back. We have posters aimed at discouraging litter at our races and legal litter zones around marshal points. This December Noel spent 3 and a half hours following the tail car at the Bedford Harriers Half picking up the litter left behind.

Noel's bit 
A couple of years ago some of you may remember that I ran the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon twice accompanying the great Ben Smith in his quest for 401 marathons. He joined in with me collecting Gel wrappers and it proved a good distraction for a few miles. Here is what we found in just 2 miles between Astwood and Cranfield.

This year I said I'd do a litter pick sweep run and Sylvia joined in for the first few miles. I have to say there were far few gel wrappers this year, so perhaps people are getting the message. What I did notice was the quantity of gel wrapper tops, you know, the little tear off what the heck do I do with this small bit of plastic. These greatly outnumbered the wrappers. So, I'm afraid we need to keep hammering out the message about litter. We also need the gel manufacturers to address the issue and come up with a better design for the tear off top. Personally I do not tear them all the way off which makes them only a little bit harder to suck from. 
There were also loads of Tenants Lager and Red Bull cans but I had to start leaving these behind after 3 miles and 2 full bags. I wanted to leave the course tidier than when we started but at 40 minutes per mile it would be dark before I finished.

 For some years now, there has been a contingent of Harriers working as recycling crew at Glastonbury Festival. “Love the Farm, Leave no Trace”. 

But we can and should do more.

Water is the obvious target. Cups not bottles and compostable paper not plastic or polystyrene. Could you consider carrying a collapsible cup or bottle? Easily available for a couple of  pounds from a camping store. Richmond park and Rome Marathons are already on board with this.

Gels next, At the very least put the empty packet back in your pocket. You carried it half way round the race, carry it to the end and dispose properly in a bin. I’ve been trying to find out if the plastic pouch is recyclable but unlike tea companies, gel manufacturers don't mention it on their websites. I can only find one gel in the house at the moment, Gu, there's no recycling information on the packet at all. Not even to say it isn't. Waitrose and Tesco's online shopping sites suggest that SIS packets are ok with your plastic recycling.
But what about the tops? What did you do with the tab on the top? Did you rip it off with your teeth and spit it out on the ground? Mmmmm did you? Are you a #suckytoptosser?

Green Champions.The Singapore marathon this year employed volunteer green ambassador runners wearing special printed t-shirts reminding competitors to “Bin It”. They are hoping to become the first city marathon to embrace the circular economy and become zero waste.

Race numbers. Running imp offers numbers made of Tyvek which is a plastic. Its recyclable with your plastic bottles but not compostable. Pretex is pulp combined with polyamide and polyester with no environmentally harmful breakdown in waste. Let’s encourage race organisers to use Pretex.

Cuppa? Arrived at the race or finished and fancy a cuppa? T-bags are coated with a plastic that doesn’t break down in the compost heap. This is so they can run them through a machine to seal them in the manufacturing process. Dig over the pile and you will find the plastic skeletons left behind. Loose leaf tea is the way forward and a small change we can all make at home.

Keep up with the Joneses. I challenge you all to go home and look at the amount of plastic waste in your own bins. Want to keep up with us? In our house we  now use loose leaf tea. I make my own yogurt in glass bowls and have a selection of very light weight organza bags I sewed myself for loose produce at the market or supermarket.

USP for our races. How about we too embrace the circular economy, aim for Bedford Harriers Half marathon – Bedford’s or even Great Britain’s only zero waste half. 

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