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Climate and Environment

How LA Marathon Organizers Are Trying To Reduce Waste Along Route

Large group of runners on a street in Los Angeles during the L.A. marathon.
Runners take part in the L.A. Marathon
(Michael Yanow
LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Kristina Ter-Ovsepyan is set to run her 4th L.A. Marathon this Sunday. During her first race, she was shocked by the pile of trash she had seen. “I was thinking, ‘How could they throw all this trash on the streets?’ You have all these bins sitting around, even participants are holding trash bags for you.”

As the years went by, she noticed less banana peels, water bottles, and even clothes abandoned on the streets.

Now “there’s people helping to clean up,” Ter-Ovsepyan says. ”I’m not feeling that guilty anymore because I know it gets cleaned up, and it gets cleaned up pretty quickly.”

With 13,000 runners plus thousands of spectators expected this Sunday, organizers of the marathon have plans in place to address the inevitable waste left strewn across the city from Dodger Stadium to the Century City finish line.

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Dan Cruz, head of communications for the L.A. Marathon, says that organizers “recognize that sustainability is an ongoing effort, not just a one-day initiative,” and that they are “committed to maintaining a sustainable future.”

Since 2015, The L.A. Marathon has had a gold-level certification from the Council for Responsible Sport. The distinction comes by way of a demonstrated commitment to limiting the event’s environmental impact.

Shelley Villalobos, executive director for the Council for Responsible Sport, says “the L.A. Marathon is a national leader in terms of how it puts its community and environmental values into practice at and through the event.”

The Marathon's Sustainability Efforts

The L.A. Marathon has partnered with several groups to create green initiatives.

In 2019, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began placing Water Monsters — large water tanks along the marathon route — providing hydration for runners while saving an estimated 7,200 single use plastic water bottles from going into landfills.

“The marathon is committed to sustainability and we’re underscoring that commitment by providing pure, clean, refreshing tap water to all participants,” Cruz said.

Since 2009, the marathon has teamed up with the nonprofit Move for Hunger, which collects leftover food at the finish line and delivers them to local food banks.

Cruz said that the marathon’s long-standing partnership has donated nearly 24 million pounds of food over to local food banks, equaling 20 million meals.

To further their sustainability efforts, Goodwill has stepped in to collect discarded shoes and clothing along the marathon route. In 2020, Cruz says that 236 shoes along with 7,000 pounds of clothing were collected.

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In a first for the L.A. Marathon, this year’s pace car will be the electric Volvo XC40, making the run an emission free event.

With compost, recycling, and landfill bins set up at both ends of the race, organizers hope to divert approximately 60% of waste from landfills.

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