As the clock counts down to the unique quartet of events that make up the FNB Drak Adventure Weekend in Underberg on 1 and 2 February, the event organisers have moved boldly to align themselves with the latest global guidelines for sustainability and environmentally-friendly event management practices.

The guideline entitled Plastic Game Plan for Sport details specific suggestions to event organisers, athletes, clubs and federations to ensure they make events as environmentally-friendly as possible and contribute in some way to confronting the challenges facing the planet.

As a grouping of three sporting events in the pristine countryside that borders on the Ukahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site – the N3TC Drak Challenge in partnership with FNB canoe marathon, the Euro Steel Drak Descent MTB race, and the Euro Steel Run The Rivers trail run – the organisers have put into place a sweeping series of initiatives ensure that their events are as ‘green’ as practically possible.

All three events have eliminated the use of plastic sachets, cups and containers and encourage their athletes to carry collapsible portable cups during their events, which they can fill from containers of water or milk at seconding tables, where it is made available in steel containers. The cups that will be available at the water tables will be compostable paper cups.

Course marking also aims to totally eliminate plastic signage and tape, and uses a combination of GPS tracking and essential material flags that are collected after the event and re-used.

Event organisers have embraced ideas like handing out each athletes event t-shirts or garments without any plastic packaging, and even the trail runners race numbers are made from bio-degradable materials.

The umbrella events that pulls the three athletic events together, the FNB Drak Music Experience concert at the Underberg Country Club on the Saturday night has joined in the campaign.

Vendors and service providers have committed to eliminating single-use plastics, straws and polystyrene, using bio-degradable cardboard and bamboo alternatives. Even the event goodie bags are made from paper and recycled waste.

At all three events and the social gathering for the concert at the Underberg Country Club, bins will be provided to enable waste to be sorted into recyclable categories of glass and paper, separate from other waste types.

The initiative has received the backing of the Litterboom Project, whose champion Cam Service will be running the trail run on the weekend. This pioneering project covers five rivers in Durban, with plans to expand to others major rivers.

“We want to engage with everyone about better waste management practices and work towards eliminating single-use plastics,” said Service.

“It is exciting to see the various plans to rid these three events and the concert of single-use plastics. We want to get to a stage where we can enjoy this weekend in a beautiful part of the country free of any single-use plastics, or as close to that as possible,” he added.

The Canyon Canoe Club spend time during the dry winter months removing a wide variety of plastic waste and debris that has found its way into the Mzimkhulu River.

The Sani Spoors team preparing the MTB and trail run courses is experimenting with a pioneering new permanent conveyor belt strip, combined with paving of the cattle paths to combat soil erosion.

All three events have very successfully eradicated alien Black Wattle and bramble infestations in the Mzimkhulu valley and run year-round programmes to ensure that wattle removed does not regrow in the valleys.

The IOC document provides broad guidelines under the six Rs : Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Replace, Recycle and Remind to help organisers and participants at sporting events to make a contribution to combating the plastic waste challenge facing the planet.