An environmental group has said that huge numbers of paper cups were discarded at Sunday’s Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, as runners were informed too late about cup refill locations.

This year, race organisers handed out 30,000 reusable plastic cups to runners before the event. However, many attendees did not use them, and chose to drink from paper cups provided instead.

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon
Paper cups on the ground at Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

The Green Earth, a group which has been monitoring environmental efforts of the marathon over the past three years, said there were five locations for full marathon runners to get water refills, of which two were shared with half marathon runners. However, the organiser only put up a notice on Facebook hours before the event stating that runners can bring their own cups.

“Information on the number and location of water refill stations was scarce and was dispatched too late. Runners could barely receive the information and prepare, making the 30,000 reusable cups useless,” The Green Earth said.

Thousands of paper cups were used and thrown away as a result.

Recycling effort

The Green Earth said runners this year had a better understanding of waste issues, and there were slight improvements concerning the number of cups thrown onto the ground.

However, guidelines for recycling cups at water refill stations were still unclear, and paper cups were often mixed with food packaging and waste, making it more difficult to recycle the cups, the group said.

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon
Reusable plastic cup provided by Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

The group added that many countries have started to refuse to accept waste paper cups for recycling, including mainland China. “The organiser should improve instructions on cleaning and recycling,” it said.

Run the World, a Facebook page of runners, said many runners would prefer not to use their own cup and getting water at water refill stations is very time-consuming.

It said there was no help at some stations, and runners would have had to stop running to get water into their own bottles: “It would not be realistic to tell runners to give up the fight for their personal best – even if it is just a difference of seconds – to bring their own bottles,” it said.


Posted by 馬拉松 看世界 /Run the World on Saturday, 16 February 2019

The organiser said in response that water ladles were available at water refill stations, and used paper cups were collected by recyclers.

It said it will review the arrangements and hope to improve them.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.