Runners in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon left a pile of banana peels in recycling bins and a trail of paper cups on the roadside following Sunday’s event.

62,284 runners attended the city’s biggest annual sporting event. Full and half marathon runners ran the course from Tsim Sha Tsui and finished at Victoria Park.

hong kong marathon
Photo: Sam Yip.

NGO The Green Earth posted a photo of an overflowing recycling bin at Victoria Park on Facebook on Sunday night, with its garbage compartment and plastics compartment stuffed with banana peels.

The green group said that it observed the habits of around 350 attendees, and found that about 72 percent of participants tossed their banana peels, plastic bottles and other recyclables into the trash.

hong kong marathon
A designated area for disposal of cups. Photo: The Green Earth.

An HK01 reporter observed that many participants tossed their plastic bottles into trash bins instead of recycling bins, and receptacles provided for disposal of banana peels were instead filled with plastic bottles, plastic bags, and other trash.

The Green Earth wrote that a young female staff member on Ting Kau Bridge was sweeping trash off the road and imploring participants not to throw their trash on the ground.

hong kong marathon
Photo: The Green Earth.

“But after she finished sweeping, it would be all over the ground again,” the NGO wrote.

The organisers urged participants to adopt green practices on its website, including encouraging them to bring their own water in reusable bottles, and make use of paper cups at water stations along the route. It said that the cups would be collected for recycling afterwards.

The organiser added that it initiated a number of measures for a greener marathon, including the use of recycling bins at start and finish areas and at each water station; using an electric car as the lead car; and providing pack bags for runners made of bio-degradable materials.

hong kong marathon
Photo: The Green Earth.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Business Environment Council (BEC) released new guidelines aimed at reducing trash generated at major events in December. The annual marathon was one of the major events that will test the guidelines, which include asking organisers to sort waste, provide appropriate collection bins for recyclables, and conduct waste audits.

However, the guidelines are not mandatory and there is no punishment for event organisers who do not follow them.

The organising committee told HKFP that it was dedicated to promoting a more environmentally-friendly race.

“With the newly launched ‘Green Event Guidebook’ by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Business Environment Council (BEC) in late 2017, the Organiser has been working very closely with EPD, BEC and stakeholders from various sectors to enhance relevant waste management including waste deduction, clean recycling, education, and the communication with runners in order to raise their awareness on green environment.”

It said that it increased recycling bins for water bottles and banana peels at designated areas by over 40 per cent and used more prominent signage to boost the recycling rate. The organisers added that leftovers from the event were sent to companies and charitable organisations for recycling.

They referred HKFP’s question on reducing paper cups to “the responsible party,” which has not yet responded.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.