Peachtree Road Race 'upcycles' materials into holiday gifts

You can now own a piece of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

To commemorate the 50th running of the world's largest 10K, the Atlanta Track Club decided to take a hard look at the waste created by their events and how to improve their sustainability efforts.

"We wanted to use this landmark, celebratory year of the Peachtree to do something special in the community," explained Rich Kenah, executive director.  

The organization decided to "upcycle" the estimated 100,000 plastic water bottles discarded after the race into benches.

"It was important, of course, that it got recycled, but thinking bigger picture, what is a gift that we could give back to the community?  What's a legacy that we could leave?  Peachtree already means so much to this city and it's just another way of us taking our presence there and giving a present back to the community," said Natalie Cabanas, a member of the track club's Sustainability Committee.  

The track club established a "Green Team" of volunteers to help guide race participants where to recycle.  

"We wanted to think about how many people are actually recycling their bottles on-site versus how many are actually walking away with them," said Cabanas.  "Where are the highest places and points that they might throw their bottle away and then how are we ensuring that they're tossing their bottle not necessarily in a trash can, but in a recycling bin?"  

Some of those volunteers, Cabanas explained, even rescued plastic bottles from trash cans.  

The 50th running of the race required special signage, which could not be reused.  So to avoid throwing those banners away, they partnered with re:loom, a local organization that helps employ people in need, to turn those signs into tote bags.

"Peachtree is local.  We're from Atlanta.  We decided to go with a local Atlanta non-profit to help us make these bags," Cabanas said.

Now, for a donation of $1500 or $2,000, anyone can own one of the upcycled benches.  The tote bags go for a $100 donation.

"As we look forward, we're going to look to continue efforts around sustainability and greening.  It won't always be benches or bags, but we look forward to finding other ways to use the plastic and the paper that we divert out of area landfills, said Kenah.

For more on how to donate, visit the Atlanta Track Club's website.