Comrades Marathon to recycle IV bags into shoes

The Comrades Marathon, African's longest single-day road race at around 90km, is the world oldest and largest ultramarathon. This year, 25,000 runners will take to the streets of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The Comrades Marathon, which will see 25,000 runners take to the streets of South Africa on 9 June, is by its nature waste-intensive, but organisers have a plan to help reduce that this year.

With the medical tents using thousands of IV bags to hydrate runners during and after the 89km (55 miles) Ultramarathon, which can take up to 11 hours to complete, that's a lot of plastic going into a waste bin.

The Comrades Marathon Association [CMA], in conjunction with pharmaceutical company Adcock Ingram and healthcare group Netcare, will take the non-hazardous PVC bags and recycle them... into school shoes.

South Africa, a country that requires children to wear uniforms and specific shoes, has a high poverty rate, with many children going without school shoes as the winter months hit.

This out-the-box initiative, called My Walk, is a first for the race, Comrades Medical Convenor, Dr Jeremy Boulter said on IOL: "This is so well aligned with the CMA's strategic focus of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

"We are pleased to be partnering with Adcock Ingram and Netcare to give renewed impetus to recycling initiatives and reduce our carbon footprint one day at a time".

The My Walk initiative is not only a Comrades one though, says Colin Sheen, Managing Director, Adcock Ingram Critical Care: "Through the partnership, My Walk was able to recover more than 14,000 kilograms (31,000 pounds) of used non-contaminated and non-hazardous IV bags from participating Netcare hospitals during the course of 2018.

"Although this project is still in its infancy, it is gaining a tremendous amount of support, and we are grateful to the Comrades Marathon team for affording us this opportunity to 'Walk' together with them on their journey.

Aside from children being shod, the project also aims to create jobs in a country with a 27.6% unemployment rate, the organisers added.

The idea is in line with various other international endurance events, with the London Marathon recently trialing edible seaweed water capsules instead of bottles, and the Boston Marathon using electric cars for officials to patrol the race.