London Marathon sustainability 2019: How is sport tackling plastic waste?

Deborah Williams 29 April 2019 (Last Updated April 29th, 2019 13:33)

Every spring, hordes of energised and diligently-trained runners set out to tackle the UK’s largest athletic feat, the London Marathon. This year saw the event reach its 39th running, with fundraising surpassing £1bn.

London Marathon sustainability 2019: How is sport tackling plastic waste?
London Marathon sustainability 2019: How is sport tackling plastic waste? Credit: Veolia

The London Marathon Events  (the company which runs the London Marathon) has announced its aim to become a world leader in delivering sustainable mass participation sports events.

The organisation created a dedicated sustainability team to help develop this vision, including the execution of recycling chain and waste management audits. With LME aiming to eliminate landfill waste by December 2020, how has sustainability within the London Marathon improved this year?

London Marathon sustainability: 2019 clean-up sets new plastic recycling record

The London Marathon 2019 clean-up set a new record for plastic recycling, with more than 350,000 bottles collected within six hours by French waste, water and energy management company Veolia.

The company reported it had managed to clear-up operations for three of the six London boroughs that governed the running route, including the City of London, Westminster and Tower Hamlets. More than 40 vehicles and 120 Veolia staff worked to clean up the event on behalf of the three local authorities.

City of London Corporation Environmental Services Committee chair Jeremy Simons said: “The London Marathon is one of the most famous long-distance running events in the world. We’re proud to be recycling so many plastic bottles in the Square Mile, and this year we are rolling out 10 new water refill points, bringing the total to 17.

“The City is a world-class destination and we all have a responsibility to make sure that it is kept clean and safe for everyone to enjoy. Together, alongside London’s local authorities, we can all play our part in reducing the use of plastic – shaping the environmental legacy we want to leave behind.”

Veolia London regional director Pascal Hauret said: “The London Marathon is a fantastic, yet challenging event for our teams. Tight deadlines for road openings make it essential for our crews to clear the streets quickly, whilst maintaining the safety of nearby crowds.

“This year we’re delivering the largest portion of the clear up task, covering streets in the City of London, Westminster and Tower Hamlets. Our widespread presence will allow for greater efficiency between areas and also ensures more of the event’s plastic bottles are collected for recycling.

“This is important to us as the UK’s current figures show that over 40% of plastic bottles don’t make it to recycling centres. We’re pleased to be part of making the Marathon as sustainable as possible.”

Drinks retailers championing sustainability in sports

Veolia has set out aims to develop new methods for collecting and recycling plastic, with a special focus on flexible packaging. The waste management company partnered with the world’s largest food and drink company Nestlé to tackle plastic waste collection, sorting and recycling across 11 priority countries. The company’s, Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) division also announced, last December, it will use 25% of recycled content for its plastic packaging by 2021, including within its Nestlé Pure Life water.

Most recently, in sports, biodegradable, Lucozade Sport-filled Ooho capsules were distributed to runners at this year’s Marathon, following its trial at the Richmond Marathon in September last year. The capsules were developed by Skipping Rocks Lab, in partnership with soft drinks company Lucozade Ribena Suntory, in a bid to cut down on the use of plastic bottles in sports.