1 run, 2 runs, now 10k: Races going green in Bengaluru

After the Bengaluru Marathon and Pinkathon, it is time for TCS World 10K to go green. An in-depth look at how waste was managed at last week’s run.

Races in Bengaluru are going green, or at least, some extra effort is being put in to make them green events. Bengaluru Marathon 2014, touted to be the city’s first world class marathon with over 8,000 participants, had set an example in responsible waste management even for an event of that magnitude.

Then was the turn of Pinkathon, an all-women race. In 2015 as well as in 2016, organisers and volunteers ensured that the use of plastic was avoided to the maximum extent.  Apparently for the first time in Bengaluru, green water stations with reusable cups, alongside regular water stations with plastic bottles were put in place, and waste segregation was ensured.

And this time, it was the turn of TCS World 10K. The event that was held on May 15th, was remarkably different from its previous episodes. Areca plates, steel spoons, water cans placed at water stations… proper waste segregation… a lot of workers and volunteers picking up the waste littered around… that was the scene in and around Kanteerava Stadium, the race venue.

Hasiru Dala workers busy clearing the waste at TCS World 10K. Pic: Green Team @ TCS 10K

Those who have participated in the TCS 10K event during last few years must have definitely observed some changes in the way the waste was managed at the event this season. Thanks to the involvement of Hasiru Dala and support from Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) volunteers, the event was a lot different this time. It reflected the emerging trend of “green events” and responsible waste management in Bengaluru.

Team of SWM volunteers led by N S Ramakanth at the event venue. Pic: Green Team @ TCS 10K

So how did it happen? How different was the event compared to the previous runs? What were the environment friendly measures taken this year to make it a responsible racing? Which are the things that were missed out? Here is a sneak peek into the event.

N S Ramakanth, member, Solid Waste Management Round Table says, “It all started with the TCS World 10K last year. Last season, I came to know about the event only a week earlier. In a short span, we tried to do as much as we could to make it an eco-friendly event. But we couldn’t do much and there were lot of loopholes to be plugged in. Therefore, I told the event organisers to inform me about this year’s event a month in advance, so that there is enough time to plan and prepare to handle the waste generated at the venue.”

Ramakanth took upon himself the responsibility of coordinating between the event organisers and various other teams from Hasiru Dala, NGOs, caterers, volunteers etc, to manage the waste at the 10K.

The two areas which Ramakanth wanted to emphasise on were – plastic ban and waste segregation. Having seen a lot of waste generated due to poor planning in the last year’s event, Ramakanth says he wanted to ensure that unnecessary waste was reduced this time.

Managing food waste

“Unlike last event where food items were distributed in boxes which were randomly thrown by participants, we made sure this time the hot food was served in areca plates. The caterer was strictly directed not to use plastic plates and spoons to serve the food. Reusable steel spoons were used instead of plastic ones. The leftovers were segregated at source by Hasiru Dala workers. Separate bins were placed for food waste and to drop used spoons, plates and ORS bottles,” Ramakanth explains.

In addition, paper plates were used to distribute snacks. The housekeeping staff was trained to clean the paper plates before sending them to dry waste collection centres. Without cleaning them, the dry paper waste would just lose its value.

Water management leaves a lot desired

Three out of eight water stations had five-litres containers and steel glasses for the runners to drink or refill their water bottles. Initially bubble top water cans with five litres capacity were placed at the water stations. But once those cans ran empty, there was no replacement. “That’s all they had. Then the runners had to use the plastic water bottles which were made available in plenty,” says SWM advocate Sindhu Naik.

Bubble water can at one of the water station on the race track. Pic: Green Team @ TCS 10K

Having been a runner at the event in the past, Sindhu opted to volunteer with SWM team on Sunday. “We have been pushing hard to make it an environment-friendly event since four years. I feel this time it has been much better,” she says.

However Sindhu is a bit disappointed that though conscious efforts were made to segregate waste, with bins mentioning the kind of waste to be put in, runners were indifferent. Some of the runners would also refuse to drink water from reusable steel glasses.

Shilpi Sahu, who was one of the runners and an SWM activist, was not very happy with the way the event was organised. “The event organisers had placed bubble water cans with steel glasses in only three water stations. The steel cups were hidden somewhere and weren’t visible to the runners. Lakhs of plastic water bottles were used and scattered all around. This could have been replaced by water dispensers,” she observes.

The key task in managing waste was done by Hasiru Dala workers. They were there throughout to clean the plastic water bottles strewn all over the place. They were just a phone call away, says Sindhu. As many as 250 Hasiru Dala workers were deployed at the event venue.

On the use of plastic water bottles, the event organiser, Procam International CEO Dilip Jayaram says that the bottles will be offered to athletes as an option in future. “The athletes should have complete knowledge of the impact of plastic use. If they decide to choose plastic bottles, they will be given,” he says.

Bin only for plastic bottles at TCS World 10K. A Hasiru Dala worker supervises the bin. Pic: Ganga Madappa

Apart from managing the food counter and water distribution, a few other small initiatives were taken to reduce the plastic usage. Separate bins were placed to dump plastic bottles. Plastic goodie bags were replaced with cloth bags. Procam International, the organiser, says plastic wrapper around the medals were replaced with bio-degradable bags.

Gaping gaps at the event

Shilpi Sahu points ORS served in tetra packs as an issue. Sindhu Naik agrees that few things could have been planned better. “Oranges served on Styrofoam plates could have been avoided as it is banned now. They should have replaced it with areca plates,” she says.

Though arrangements were made to serve food in one place, the SWM volunteers and Hasiru Dala team was not aware of the food served at the Nike lounge. “No primary segregation was made. Everything including food and plastic forks were mixed in the same bin. Hasiru Dala workers had to then do secondary level segregation,” Sindhu said. 

Shilpi also says plastic flexes and banners could have been avoided. However, the event organiser has a different take on using plastic flex and banners. Dileep Jayaram says that they wanted to avoid the use of plastic flex and banners, but it was difficult to find an alternative. “Cloth banner was not feasible because there is no much availability of cloth itself,” he says. So the organiser says they had to resort to the next best thing, i.e. to put the waste plastic flex and banners into good use after the programme.

“We have found a way out for disposing plastic flexes and banners too,” says Ramakanth. The plastic flexes and banners were handed over to a NGO – Swabhimaan Trust which works with Bengaluru slums. The NGO will prepare double layered sheets using the thick plastics and distribute it to slums, to use them as house roofing. “We have ensured that no waste goes to the landfill,” Ramakanth says. Procam will distribute sewing machines to Swabhimaan Trust through which they can prepare double layered sheets to cover the roofs in slum areas.

Disposing the waste

Ramakanth puts the quantity of wet waste generated at the event at minimum 3 tons, and dry waste of 2 tons. While the dry waste was all taken by Hasiru Dala, wet waste has been transported to Whitefield for composting. PET bottles gathered at the venue were given to Saahas Zero Waste for recycling.

Used areca plates at TCS World 10K ready to be used for composting. Pic: Green Team @ TCS 10K

Plastic water bottles collected at TCS World 10K to be transported to Dry Waste Collection Centre. Pic: Green Team @ TCS 10K

A plan was in place to manage the waste water too. The water from half used bottles was collected in tumblers which were then used to water trees in Cubbon Park.

The event organiser – Procam International – will work with the Forest Department to develop an urban forest in and around Madivala lake. The wet food waste which is composted in Whitefield will be fed to the saplings in the lake surroundings. The saplings could be then replanted in other parts of the city.

Procam wants to achieve 10 on 10

Dilip Jayaram, Procam CEO says making events eco friendly is a continuous process. “We have pushed to make the events green in Mumbai and Kolkata too, and it will continue in the next race to be held in Delhi,” he says.

Jayaram gives credit to N S Ramakanth for coordinating and supporting the event organisers to make the event of this magnitude environment-friendly.

Procam hopes to improve on the eco-friendly quotient in the coming years. “We have put our efforts to minimise the waste generation and standard waste disposal. But there are areas where we have scored 4 on 10 or 7 on 10, on which we would work in future,” promises Jayaram.

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