Green the Mumbai Marathon

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Mumbai Marathon is a special race. The great weather, the flat course, the sea breeze and most of all the wonderful crowd support from cheerful Mumbaikers from all walks of life during the race is rare to find in any other Indian city. The city which never stops, halts completely for a few hours so that runners can have the roads to themselves.

I have run this race many times and every time I come back with some great memories from the run. Race organization by Procam is professional and they scale up to the bigger participation every year, but if there is one thing that I have not seen any improvement in, and it can surely improve by leaps and bounds, it is that of waste management and waste reduction during the race and at the holding area.

Be it the single use plastic 250 ml bottles, tetrapaks distributed at aid stations, cold food packaged with thin plastic at finish line, that hardly anyone can stomach post run, there is a huge scope for improvement in how the event can grow up to be a green event in the true sense. While the messaging on littering is a great first step to ask runners to take responsibilty for #SwachhBharat, a lot more onus is on the event organizers themselves to raise the bar.

Following are the top 5 areas that TMM event organizers must aspire to address:

1. Cut down number of single use disposable water bottles used during the run: Plastic water bottles can only be downcycled and never recyled into another bottle, which means that every plastic bottle you use is made from non-renewable resource - petroleum. In addition to water bottles, organizers can have dedicated refill stations with water dispensers and reusable cups so that runners who prefer carrying their own bottles can fill water. This also reduces wastage of precious drinking water as most runners throw away the bottle away after a sip. Organizers must refrain from using paper cups as they have a plastic coating thus greatly reducing its recyclability.

2. Zero waste holding area for pre/post race. Why do we need 250ml bottles at the finish line? After finish, the runner needs to drink much more water than a few sips. The holding/finish area must contain only water dispensers with reusable cups.

3. Remove Premixed electrolyte tetrapaks with straws and plastic - Replace them with the powder equivalent and have the volunteers mix it in jugs and pour into cups. Straws and plastic covers have virtually NIL recyclable value. Tetrapaks also are non-recyclable and can be upcycled only through the parent company's CSR initiative.

4. Stop serving packaged cold food post run - We runners deserve better. Period. Please serve hot food on steel or biodegradable arecanut/leaf plates. This also reduces wastage of food and unnecessary wrapping which is again non-recyclable.

5. Compulsory waste audit - Please do a detailed waste audit post event and make the data public.

Procam does not have to look further than its sister event TCS 10k that is organized in Bengaluru in May every year. Apart from the single use water bottles, there are also refill stations and reusable cups especially catering to the Dream run equivalent - Majja run, that usually has large number of runners who are not focused on a fast finish. The post race meal last year was freshly made, hot and served on bio-degradable arecanut plates.

Another large city marathon to look up to is Bengaluru Marathon organized by NEB sports that has embraced green initiatives right from its first edition, from zero waste race hydration to post run hot food on steel cutlery. Even the event booklet given in the goodie bag carried a page on awareness on reducing the waste footprint.

Three days past the event, waste from Azad maidan is still being sorted. Putting more hands sorting through garbage is neither profitable nor dignified to the waste workers. Generating less waste is any day better than generating garbage. If this event truly wants to embrace Swachh Bharat, Procam must look at more concrete steps than just 'not littering' and shifting the onus onto the runners. The Mumbai Municipal corporation must evaluate and monitor the amount of waste generated by this mega event and insist on detailed waste audit. As the title sponsor, TCS must insist on a greener roadmap for the event.

Please sign the petition for leaving Mumbai a clean and green place. Measure your Personal Best performances not only with the hard work that you put in, but also by the waste you leave behind.

Love Mumbai. Hate Waste.

#SwachhBharat #SwachhMumbai #RunGreen

Pictures of trash from 2018 and earlier editions: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8h4h1rWbndmsWht23

Pic Courtesy:

2018 Venue pictures/video - Thanks to the anonymous Mumbaiker for contributing the pictures.

SCMM 2013, SCMM 2014 Editions - Midday

TMM 2018 - http://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/mumbai-marathon-2018-runners-face-hurdles-on-their-way-to-finishing-line-slam-organizers/1207699



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