London Marathon Events (LME) has committed to becoming a “world leader in delivering sustainable mass participation sports events”.

LME has established a team within the company to develop new environmental initiatives and practices and also commissioned a full review of its sustainability practices, including a rigorous audit of the recycling chain and waste management processes. LME has committed to ensuring zero waste to landfill by December 2020 through improved procurement, maximising reuse and recycling.

Hugh Brasher, event director for LME, said: “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. This challenge is huge as we are looking at sustainability across a myriad of factors: just some of the areas we are currently working on include 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. 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.”

A range of initiatives will be trialled at the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon. These include:

  • A closed loop recycling project for plastic bottles in Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Southwark and Canary Wharf. Bottles used in these boroughs will be collected and returned directly to a bottle reprocessing plant, where they will be recycled into new bottles. Bottles used in other boroughs will still be recycled but not through a closed loop system.
  • Reducing the total number of drink stations on the route from 26 to 19 and a reduction of more than 215,000 plastic bottles on the course, compared to 2018.
  • 700 runners will trial new bottle belts made from 90 per cent recycled materials. LME has worked with Manhattan Portage to create the belts which are specially designed to carry the Buxton 250ml bottle. This initiative will also monitor how much water a runner uses. 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.
  • The largest ever trial of Ooho seaweed edible and biodegradable capsules – following a successful trial at The Vitality Big Half, Lucozade Sport will be provided in more than 30,000 edible Ooho seaweed capsules at the Lucozade Sport station at Mile 23.
  • Following the trial of compostable cups at one Lucozade Sport station in 2018, three Lucozade Sport stations will use compostable cups rather than bottles in 2019. The cups will be collected and composted at a plant in Bedford.
  • Introducing drop zones across the course for runners to drop their bottles. This will help speed up the clean-up process as bottles are collected for recycling. Bottles will also be collected and recycled from the road.
  • 500 runners will trial wearing specially designed Virgin Money London Marathon capes at the start and finish, so they don’t bring a kit bag. These capes will then be collected and cleaned for reuse. Extensive use of capes in future years would reduce the number of plastic kit bags produced and the need for baggage lorries to transport runners’ kit from the start to the finish.
  • All runners on the Green Start will have their race numbers printed on demand at the Virgin Money London Marathon Running Show. Currently, race numbers are pre-printed for all 52,000 accepted runners and some 10,000 runners do not make it to the start line.

LME is also introducing a range of other sustainable measures for the 2019 race.