Edible vegan seaweed pods and compostable cups replaced 2160,000 plastic bottles at this year's London Marathon.
The Ooho seaweed pouches, which were made by Skipping Rocks Lab, featured sports drink Lucozade encased in a thin, tasteless membrane. After drinking, runners could either eat the pods or discard on the ground - as they biodegrade within six weeks.
Event organizers still have a long way to go when it comes to reducing plastic waste, with 704,000 bottles being used this year - but that is a huge 216,000 drop from the 920,000 used in 2018.
This is not the first time the edible Ooho seaweed capsules have been trialed at a race, but London Marathon Events say it was the biggest trial, with more than 30,000 edible pouches handed out at the Lucozade Sport station at Mile 23.
London Marathon Events (LME) released a statement before the event saying 2019 would be its most sustainable race yet, and revealed a slew of measures it would implement - alongside the seaweed capsules - to achieve that. Among its aims, LME said it has 'committed to ensuring zero waste to landfill by December 2020 through improved procurement, maximizing reuse and recycling'.
To work towards achieving this, it implemented what it described as a 'unique closed-loop recycling project' for plastic bottles in Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Southwark, and Canary Wharf, whereby bottles used in these boroughs would be collected and returned directly to a bottle reprocessing plant, where they will be recycled into new bottles.
In addition, 700 runners trialed new bottle belts made from 90 percent recycled materials. "Encouraging runners to carry their own water has the potential to radically change how hydration is provided at mass participation running events. The bottle belts will be collected for cleaning and reuse," said LME.
Further measures included (but were not limited to) using compostable cups at three drinks stations, drop zones across the course for runners to drop their bottles in - which would help the clean-up process for recycling, and race numbers being printed on demand rather than being pre-printed, as some 10,000 runners do not make it to the Start Line.
'Most sustainable ever'
"We are passionate about the concept of Eliminate, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and fully committed to reducing our environmental impact," Hugh Brasher, Event Director for London Marathon Events, said in a statement issued before the race.
"We believe we run the best mass participation events in the world and we want to match that by leading the world in mass participation event sustainability.
"Working closely with our partners and local authorities, we have developed some truly innovative initiatives and plans to make this year's Virgin Money London Marathon the most sustainable ever."
He added that the 'challenge is huge' as sustainability has to be considered across a myriad of factors. LME was currently working on reducing CO2 emissions, transportation of runners (both internationally and within the UK), a reduction in the use of generators and plastics together with more local procurement of event infrastructure.
"We know our participants share our passion and want us to take action," he said. "It is a huge challenge as we must balance providing proper runner welfare with reducing our environmental impact.
"We can't achieve everything in one event, in one year, but the changes and the trials we’re introducing for this year have the potential to change how mass participation events are delivered in future. Everyone can make a difference: our participants, spectators, contractors, volunteers, and staff."