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Reducing Single-Use Plastic on RAGBRAI….

I love the event each year but I do cringe at the use of all the single-use plastic water bottles and plasticware. You see it everywhere from the pass through towns to the roadside kids selling water. Of course, most of this will never find its way to a recycling center.

RAGBRAI, is anybody addressing the issue and seeing what can be done to help reduce?

I have several ideas but I assume the comments to this post will be better than mine.

6 Replies

garywilk, April 18, 2022 at 11:25 am

Almost all pass through towns have a water station set up. Most cases it it good water. I just always carry two water bottles and refill them as soon as I can just incase you get the one town with bad water. If possible, Al cans for soda and beer as the Al usually gets recycled. Thanks for the post and lets spread the word!!! Hopefully RAGBRAI can also pass the word to the towns. Having towns hand out scoops of ice for the water bottle with a donation would be another great way to raise money. I would give a few $$ for a few scoops of Ice.


Robert, April 18, 2022 at 9:45 pm

Unfortunately the water in parts of Iowa is not safe to drink. You may want to stick with Gatorade and bottled water. Recent studies show that even after municipal treatment water in some Iowa towns contains high levels of harmful chemicals. Well water on farms is especially risky. Drinking Iowa water during the week of RAGBRAI probably will not harm you, but drinking it over long periods of time may not be good for you.


Larry Klaaren, April 19, 2022 at 11:03 am

NPR did a study on recycling. Virtually all of our recyclables were purchased by China until a year or two ago. At this time there is a very small market or use for recyclables in the USA. Plastic is actually not truly recyclable. That was all a ruse to placate people. The product degrades very quickly and has very few uses.
At this time most recyclable materials are crushed and taken to the dump. In the Chicago suburb I live in, they have recently started putting them straight in the general garbage truck. The USA is hugely behind in this game. As an example, Israel is mining old garbage dumps and creating natural gas and reclaiming raw materials.

This reply was modified 2 years ago by Larry Klaaren.


Barry Schnoor, April 19, 2022 at 5:42 pm

I think Garywilk has the right idea. In the recycling triangle, it’s always reduce first. Reuse next, and finally recycle.

Since the original question was about reducing, let’s start there. Just don’t accept single use plastics. Refill your water bottles. Or if you buy bottled water, reuse THAT bottle. Consider buying a reusable plastic (or titanium) camping spork. Rhubarb pie has never tasted better! 450 miles across Iowa. 1 fork!

And yes to canned beer! Pack it in. Pack it out!

See y’all in July!


Rick21, April 21, 2022 at 8:12 am

In the interest of full disclosure, I rode Ragbrai for the first time last year, and it was only day one from Lemars to Sac City, very limited experience. The one thing that surprised me was the water issue. Cherokee was the only town I went through that I found a city provided free water point. After searching and asking people in Aurelia and Alta, somebody took the time to explain to me the lack of free water. I was told that Ragbrai is a fundraiser for local organizations so if towns provide free water, they are taking money out of the local organization’s hands. So, if you want water, and of course we all do, you have no choice but to buy a bottle of water and pour it into your bike’s water bottle and now you are left with a plastic bottle to dispose of. Unless you are that rare person who can ride 77 miles in 90 degree heat without needing to refill your water bottles, generating unwanted waste is unavoidable, unfortunately.


garywilk, April 21, 2022 at 8:56 am

I have been riding for several years and never had a town that did not supply water, although I did not get water in every town. You may need to ask more than one person because there are many that do not know about the watering holes. Some towns you may need to ask 3 or 4 people before you find someone that knows where it is. It seems like they usually have it set up going out of town and sometimes even a block off of the route. I know the towns do use RAGBRAI as a fundraiser so please support them in other ways. Again, if someone would sell scoops of ice, that would be a great idea.


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