One event, the New Forest Marathon, uses cardboard cups rather than plastic cups or bottles, and requires runners to drop them within designated drinks zones, with anyone seen dropping them outside these areas disqualified.
If runners need to dispose of food and drink packaging outside these areas, they can give it to a marshal.
Another popular event, the Conwy Half Marathon, has a similar policy. Guidance for runners on its website says: “Runners will now be disqualified and taken off the results if seen discarding their rubbish outside of a water stop or not with a marshal.”
Wild Running, an event organiser whose races include a Dartmoor ultra marathon and a Lake District fell running camp, said it was encouraging participants to bring their own collapsible cups.
Ceri Rees, the founder of Wild Running, said: “We should all be in this for the long run, and hold event organisers accountable for their race equipment.”
Barry Hopkins, the director of Sporting Events UK, said: “We have been using reusable timing chips, with low plastic content, which can last for hundreds of thousands of active scans. Many of our signage items are produced in such a way that we can reuse them at future events.”
Organisers of this year’s London Marathon, due to be held on October 3, are encouraging participants to buy an £11.99 bottle belt so they can carry their own water to reduce potential Covid-19 transmission through contact, as well as reduce waste.
Banning soft drinks in plastic bottles
Similar guidelines for sporting venues suggest banning soft drinks in plastic bottles and providing water fountains and reusable cups on a deposit return scheme instead.
The guidance says: “Consider providing refill fountains for athletes and staff too, so they can reduce their single use plastic consumption and keep well-hydrated. Athletes can be ambassadors for behaviour change if they are visibly seen using a refillable bottle.”
The new documents have been produced on behalf of the Interreg Preventing Plastic Pollution project, an Anglo-French partnership of expert organisations working to reduce plastic pollution in the rivers and oceans.
Hannah Amor, the project lead at the Environment Agency’s plastics and sustainability team, said: “Experts tell us that 50 per cent of all plastic produced is for single-use items – things that are used for only a few moments and then thrown away. This is having a detrimental impact on our planet.
“The sports industry is in the unique position of being able to influence millions of people worldwide by leading the way in sustainability and setting a good example.
“By minimising avoidable plastic consumption, the industry can help reduce the impact of plastic on our planet, reduce its carbon footprint and contribution to the climate crisis – possibly saving money at the same time.”