Waste Warrior Diaries - Noosa Ultra Trail

Ashley Sinclair
Plastic Free Noosa Youth Ambassador

Noosa Ultra Trail - 2024

Waste Warrior Diaries

As I arrived at the Noosa Ultra Trail event, I could see energetic crowds across the field and hear the music pumping, despite it being quite early on a Saturday morning. My old runners squelched through the mud as I walked towards the commotion, not really sure what to expect from this unique event. Despite the seemingly continuous rain leading up the event, the blue skies and sunshine on the morning of the event proved a promising omen for the successful day that unfolded.

This was my second event as a Waste Warrior, meaning I had a bit of experience with how events are run and what my role involves. That being said, I also know that every event is different and you never know what the day will hold. I arrived at the grounds in the early morning, and spent some time with Delphine (legendary Waste Warrior volunteer), who I had the honour of working with at the Noosa Festival of Surfing. We organised the waste station and established a rough plan for the day, checking important details including confirming the food and drink stalls were using compostable items, and where we could put the bin stations for the public to use. Delph and I were later joined by Jen and Casey, who carried on with the incredible efforts to divert and sort waste as the event precinct got busier throughout the day.

The Noosa Ultra Trail is an event with six trail options ranging from 15 km to 100 km within the Noosa Biosphere Trail network, which have all been developed to showcase the beauty of the hinterland region of Noosa. This year, the event saw over 1,000 competitors running, walking, (and even swimming, thanks to the plentiful rain) the trails, before being cheered across the finish line by friends and family.

Our focus for this event was the area around the finish line, as the competitors and supporters celebrated with plentiful food and drinks. The large volume of people in this space naturally resulted in large amounts of waste, but the incredible efforts of the vendors, partners and attendees ensured that the waste strategies were successful and the event had minimal impact on the environment. We set up the waste stations (composting, containers for change, recycling, and landfill) around the event, and each bin was rotated and sorted throughout the day. It was great to see that over the course of the day, more and more people were taking time to consider which bin was correct and sort their waste accordingly.

After consultation with Plastic Free Noosa, the key initiatives that were taken to reduce the waste from this event included not selling single-use plastic water bottles, collecting containers for change recyclables, utilising a cardboard recycling skip, having vendors only using commercially compostable cups, and having informative bin covers which assist event goers to choose the correct waste stream. In addition, containers for change were collected at the start lines, and the trails were swept at the end of the event to take down tape markers and pick up any rubbish.

It was great to see all of these initiatives being put into place and to understand the impact of these efforts first hand, as I worked with the team to sort the waste correctly and learn along the way. Whether it was filling multiple bags of ‘containers for change’ cans and bottles, or being able to help someone sort their coffee cups and food containers, there was a lot to learn and put into action as we worked to divert as much waste from landfill as possible and minimise contamination.

After volunteering with Delph at Noosa Ultra Trail, she shared some reflections on her experience as a fellow Waste Warrior. “I chose to volunteer as a waste warrior because I believe it makes a real difference. At the event I learned that what we produce is also what becomes waste, so producing less waste would mean less to be managed. My favourite part of the experience [at Noosa Ultra Trail] was the energy of the event… the finish line and the cheers!”, she said.

Naturally, each event presents its unique challenges as we work to divert waste, sort it correctly, and engage with event vendors and attendees to encourage correct disposal of waste. Delph stated, “The most challenging part of diverting waste is the weight of composting bins (this particular event mainly had coffee grounds and watermelon). If the venue had a big compost location, no one would have to transport that weight anywhere.” Identifying the challenges we encounter, especially at newer events such as this, assists Plastic Free Noosa to work with the event organisers and partners to make further progress for future events!

This was such an amazing (and very muddy) experience, as we worked as a team to reduce the environmental impact of the event as much as possible, with plenty of laughter and things to learn along the way. Join us at the upcoming events as a Waste Warrior, or find out more about making your event a Plastic Free Champion!

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