Recycled Running – What can we do?

From 23-29th September, it’s Recycling Week, a campaign to encourage the public to recycle more. Now in its 17th year, this year’s theme is Recycling. It’s in our own hands. 

The focus on being sustainable and zero waste has never been so high on the agenda, but in the running and triathlon world, we seem stuck in the 1970s. So what can we do as running and triathlon consumers do ourselves to change the status quo?

Vote with your feet 

Don’t get us wrong, everyone loves a memento of a big race and a bit of race bling, so we’re not advocating the end of medals. But as the running and triathlon community and the number of events explode, are ALL T-shirts, caps, water bottles, water cups (often handed out in plastic bags full of more paper leaflets) really necessary? 

Some race event companies, such as Maverick Races are already making a stand by banning water cups and requiring you to use your own (try HydraPak Speed Cup ), while the Virgin London Marathon last year trialled Lucozade in edible Ooho capsules.  But what about everyone else?

Perhaps it’s time to stop doing events that don’t subscribe to sustainable principles, or at least make an effort to recycle or cut down on plastic and waste.

Recycle Your Event freebies

We’ve heard of so many runners who are given ill-fitting race t-shirts and have come up with some creative uses to make the most of them.  Such as Too Many T-Shirts which turns race shirts into blankets and ReRun Clothing who extend the life of running clothes by repurposing them to create ‘new’ clothes, with profits going back into running projects.  
Part of the reason why t-shirts are created for events of course is because they provide effective advertising for the event and sponsors. Again, we could all make a stand by saying no to event t-shirts. A free commemorative photo would be one option to serve both public and race organisers – and wouldn’t require queuing for aeons when all you want to do is find the nearest bar / bed after a race!

Get wise with laundry

The average UK household uses 13,500 gallons of water washing clothes a year. It all adds up to a huge environmental impact, in terms of water and energy to heat it. We can’t avoid washing our sports kit (at least if we want to  maintain an active social life) but why not use a cold water cycle and dry clothes outside? 

Buy gear less often and choose eco-friendly

As ethical brands grow in popularity, and are able to invest more in research and development, new high performance fabrics are emerging all the time. Recycled polyester, plastic bottles, organic cotton, bamboo, coffee grounds and even sustainably managed algae are being turned into running gear by some great new ethically-minded brands. Some of our favourites include Vivobarefoot, running shoes using 70% plant—based materials , and bamboo clothing at BAM. Some of these brands are relatively pricey, but the more we make sustainable choices as consumers, the more companies will be interested in developing the technology on a scale which will bring prices down.  

Sportswear giants Adidas and Athleta are already leading the way on the high street – having signed up to environmental pledges promising to use 100% recycled plastics and 80% sustainable materials respectively by 2024.  This is one trend worth following.

Recycle running shoes

In the UK, 300 million pairs of running shoes are thrown out annually. This may be in part due to recommended guidelines that you change your trainers every 500 miles to prevent injury and maximise performance, which clearly adds up to a huge impact in terms of plastic waste but the running industry is taking note. 

Runners Need for instance, partner with clothing and shoe recyclers SOEX, one of the largest textile recycling companies in the world, working across 90 countries. The trainers are either reused or broken down in to  80 plus different components and reused in everything from new trainers, athletics tracks, and all-weather sports pitches. 

You can drop running shoes off to Runners Need at any time of the year but between 13th October to 24th November 2019‬, at 40 designated drop off points UK wide and you can get a £20 voucher to spend in store

New shoes, AND a cleaner conscience – we’d call that a #winwin!