Students compost, recycle toward a waste-free Krispy Kreme Challenge

On Feb. 8, approximately 8,000 people will embark on a road race like none other – running five miles and eating a dozen hot glazed doughnuts in less than an hour – at the 10th annual Krispy Kreme Challenge.

But what you may not know about this ultimate test of physical fitness and gastrointestinal fortitude is that the NC State students who organize the race every year ensure that it’s a zero-waste event, meaning little waste from the event ends up in local landfills. Since 2011, students have recycled or composted 10,924 pounds of discarded material

With the help of NC State’s Waste Reduction and Recycling office, paper cups and doughnut boxes that racers drop along the race route are composted. Reusable coolers are used instead of Styrofoam coolers. Any of the 96,000 doughnuts left uneaten are donated or composted. Even shrink wrap is recycled.

“When you have 8,000 runners, you have mountains of stuff leftover. You want to make sure as much as possible goes to compost and recycling,” said engineering student Chris Cooper, who leads the zero waste effort at this year’s race.

The race began incorporating zero waste initiatives in 2011. With the Challenge’s ultimate goal to help the community – it donates all race proceeds to North Carolina Children’s Hospital – the effort to become zero waste was a natural next step.

“We want to have a minimal impact on the community especially because we’re trying to do something good for the community. We don’t want to end up doing something bad by leaving all this trash behind us,” said Sarah Guess, a biomedical engineering student who led the effort to become zero waste.

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