Question and answer session with Race Ambassador Elana van Zyl-Meyer and Race Director Janet Welham
Elana you are obviously delighted with the success of the 2017 #RunGreen campaign?
“Incredibly excited and I really want to thank all those runners who supported our #RunGreen campaign. As organisers we are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure that we protect the fragile environment in which our event takes place. With over 20 000 runners and their supporters descending on an ecologically sensitive environment between the ocean and the Table Mountain National Park, we have a great responsibility to take care of the environment. The independent environmental impact report is evidence of just how significant the campaign was”.
Janet I believe you have been recognised internationally for the success of the #RunGreen campaign?
“We are delighted that AIMS have seen fit to recognise us. We are proud to be the first marathon in Africa to achieve this. It shows that as a city and as a country we can compete in environmental issues, we can organise on a par with the best in the world, and not only compete but beat the best on offer. So we are proud and humble as runners, as Capetonians and as South Africans. Elana and I have been invited to receive the prestigious AIMS Green Award 2017 in Athens next week. The award is for the event that achieves the most criteria as set out by AIMS in their environmental impact program. The citation reads, “Sanlam Cape Town Marathon had the most complete file based on the criteria set out for the award”.
Elana, what is the objective of #RunGreen
“It is to ensure the minimum environmental impact of the race on our city and the environment. To this end we focus from the outset on staging an event that is sustainable and climate neutral. We then engage with many green organisations and charities as stakeholders. We educate runners and our co-partners as to what we need to do to achieve this.”
Janet, what does the #RunGreen education program entail?
“We don’t think runners consciously go out to leave their imprint on the environment, in many instances they are simply not aware of their impact. We saw it as our role to enlighten them. In 2017 we encouraged all runners to support the sustainable environmentally aware nature of the event by taking the pledge to #RunGreen. We urged runners to support sustainable environmental causes via our recognised charities. We sent out communication educating runners on environmental issues related to the race. Constant communication regarding the importance of using ‘chuck zones’ along the route for the disposal of litter, and to prevent runners from throwing empty water sachets on the street. We encouraged runners to carry their own water where possible. Special care was taken by water station managers to ensure that all waste was collected. In a sense we used the environmental analogy of being in the bush whereby after you pass through, “you leave no trace of having been there”. An example is the water station on the promenade where fine mesh was attached to the railing to prevent water sachets not dumped in the bins from entering the water. We are delighted with the way in which the runners and all our supporting services, water stations, event organisers, marshals, SAPS, Metro Police and more have combined to make sure this event has a minimal impact on the environment. The #RunGreen campaign aims to be preventative rather than reactive.”
What is the #RunGreen process?
“The process entails that we review and measure our carbon footprint from the beginning up and until after the event, after the calculations are complete we (with the help of Sanlam) offset this by purchasing carbon credits from the JSE supporting South African accredited climate neutral projects. Furthermore we adopted a “zero waste to landfill” policy, with the aim to recycle all our waste so that none of it ends up in our overstressed landfill sites. We educate all runners to follow the “reduce, reuse, recycle” policy. We ensure there is minimal litter by providing sufficient bins and signs indicating where they are. We have drafted and submitted our comprehensive Environmental Waste Plan. We do an enormous amount of communication and education around sustainability. Finally we believe this is a journey that we all need to make in order to protect and preserve our planet, we believe that in showing that it can be done, we might inspire runners and others to do the same.”
How is the #RunGreen program measured?
“Zero waste to landfill” means that any waste accumulated as a result of the event must be reused, and recycled.
Firstly we reduced our waste per runner by over 25%. We introduced a waste sorting facility at source where we were able to sort our waste into three different categories including waste for recycling, organic waste and general waste.
We recycled 2,736 tons of material in the following categories: paper [newspaper, whitepaper, cardboard], glass, metal, aluminium, and various forms of plastic – PET, HT, and LD. It is truly inspiring to see our staff at the sorting station working throughout the marathon and a few days afterwards sorting waste to ensure none of it goes to the landfill. It is time consuming and costly but there is no alternative to saving this planet.
We ended up with 1.4T of general waste (i.e. non-recyclable solids which included all the plastic sachets and all organic waste). This was sent to an incredible South African company of which we can all be proud. New Horizon Energy Plant which converts general waste into renewable energy sources including liquid Biomethane (CBM) and foodgrade CO2. The compressed bio methane, renewable gas and refuse driven fuel that is then distributed by Afrox as an alternative to diesel and LPG. We are particularly proud of our achievement in that as one big source of waste is the plastic sachets which have become a challenge for race organisers in South Africa. The organic waste was fed into the New Energy Plants anaerobic digester where the substrate is biodegraded into organic fertilizers.
We as race organisers enlist the service of specialist independent company NCC Environmental Service (Pty) Ltd to monitor, record, evaluate and report back on how we are doing in terms of impacting on the environment.
Prior to the race the Environment Control Officers [ECOs] from NCC Environmental Service (Pty) Ltd travel the route to ensure that all the wheelie bins, chuck zone signage, and additional waste containers are deployed. They photograph the situation before during and after the race. If there are any environmental issues, they contact the respective water station managers / waste management companies assisting us in clearing all debris from along the way bringing it back to the finish where it is recycled. An hour after the race the photographs show no indication at all of 20 000 runners having passed on either route.
NCC conclude their report by commenting, “The ECOs would like to commend the organisers on hosting the 2017 CTM and Peace Trail Runs with minimal issues on the environment and their amazing waste management program. Which resulted in zero waste being sent to the currently overstretched local landfill sites”.
Elana, congratulations, is there anything you would like to say in closing?
Yes. I think awards are simply a recognition that you have embarked on the right path and are making progress. We are aware that there is much to do to improve, and as such we encourage continuous feedback. The race belongs to our runners, to Capetonians who support it, to South Africans who travel far and wide to run and, to all our international runners who make the effort to visit and support us.
Africa is our home – it’s Cape Town, must run it!
New Horizons Energy Plant – http://nhenergy.co.za/our-process/