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London Marathon Events aims to become world leader

A runner carries her drinks in a bottle belt at the Virgin Money London Marathon

Leaving The Right Impression

In 2020 we launched our first-ever environmental impact report, Leaving the Right Impression, which set out the waste, emissions and products produced and used across all our events, and at our head office and warehouse in 2019.

All our annual environmental impact reports including our latest iteration are shown here:

A range of innovative initiatives will be trialled at the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon which aim to dramatically reduce LME’s environmental impact and set the standard for mass participation events. These include:

  • A unique 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.

In addition, LME will also introduce the following sustainable measures for the 2019 race:

  • A campaign to encourage spectators to dispose of their waste correctly and to bring refillable bottles and use the free Refill scheme in London to keep hydrated.
  • Halving the number of generators at the Start and all generators will be fitted with particulate filters.
  • Using eco-efficient tower lights to reduce the amount of energy used and emissions.
  • All clothes discarded at the start will be collected and sent for reuse or to be recycled.
  • All plastic bottles used will be 100 per cent recyclable.
  • All Lucozade Sport bottles used will be made from 100 per cent recycled plastic – a first for the brand - and all Buxton bottles will be made from 50 per cent recycled plastic – a UK first.
  • Recovery bags given to runners at the finish will be made from 90 per cent recycled plastic and free from unnecessary leaflets and giveaways.
  • No ‘goody bags’ will be given out at the Virgin Money London Marathon Running Show.
  • All race instructions and registration materials will be digital, not printed.
  • All branding material (scrim) - more than 30 kilometres of it - will be collected and reused or recycled into industrial rags.

Warren Plaskett, Head of Marketing at Nestlé Waters, said:

“As a business we take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. We are proud to have a longstanding relationship with the Virgin Money London Marathon and together we want to promote the best sustainable practices and highlight the importance of recycling.

“We have been working hard to deliver our commitment of increasing the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles and are pleased to share for the first time, our Buxton bottles will be made from 50 per cent recycled plastic, an increase from the current 20 per cent.

“We remain committed to increasing the amount of recycled materials in our packaging and to working with industry partners to improve national recycling rates. The new joint Closed Loop Recycling project at this year’s marathon is an important way to highlight that our bottles are fully recyclable and when recycled can be made into many things including new bottles”.

“We are passionate about the concept of Eliminate, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and fully committed to reducing our environmental impact. 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."

Hugh Brasher, Event Director

Claire Keaveny, Head of Marketing at Lucozade Sport, said:

“For many years Lucozade Sport has helped hydrate and support runners on their marathon journey. Now there is a critical need to help our planet by reducing plastic waste. It is our company promise to act in harmony with people and nature and we all must play our part to do the right thing.

“At this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, all our Lucozade Sport bottles will be made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and we’ll retain responsibility for them; collecting them on the course and returning them to our factory to be recycled back into new bottles. We’re also investing in innovative solutions such as Lucozade Sport edible Ooho packaging.

“It is only with collaboration and forward-thinking initiatives such as this partnership with the Virgin Money London Marathon that we can begin to address the global issue of plastic waste and continue to minimise our impact on the environment.”

Emma Tottenham, Chief of Staff at CYBG, owner of Virgin Money, said:

“We are delighted that London Marathon Events' sustainability ambitions align to those of Virgin Money and the wider CYBG businesses. We have a target of achieving zero carbon and zero waste by 2030. None of our waste has gone to landfill since 2016, and last year we recycled 74 per cent of our waste, but we are continually looking to improve. As we build the strategy for the new enlarged bank, our community, social and environmental focus is front and centre. We are proud to work with the London Marathon and support its efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of the event.”

LME has partnered with Environmental Resources Management (ERM) a world leading sustainability consultancy, to help create an Environmental Policy, Environmental Management System and Environmental Impacts Register to embed sustainability within the organisation. ERM will also provide ongoing support and advice on the path to delivering world leading sustainable events.

Commenting on their involvement, Keryn James, ERM Group Chief Executive said, “Mass participation events present many unique sustainability challenges. ERM is delighted to be asked to partner with London Marathon Events as it aims to become a world leader in this regard. We look forward to applying our world class expertise to support them in achieving their ambition.”

In developing the trial and plans for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon, London Marathon Events have been sharing ideas with the #OneLess initiative, which is working to stop ocean plastic pollution at source by reducing the number of water bottles used in London in favour of more sustainable options, like refilling.

Professor Heather Koldewey, co-director of #OneLess, said:

"The #OneLess team has worked closely with the London Marathon over the last year to find solutions to single-use plastic water bottles at this major sporting event. Their passion for eliminating, reducing and reusing will have a positive impact on marine plastic pollution. The work is ongoing but it’s exciting to see so many ambitious actions announced today. We are also delighted that there are 24 drinking fountains within 500 metres of the route of the Marathon, including one installed by #OneLess, that will make it easier for spectators to bring a refillable bottle to the event."