Greening the Green: An Inside Look at the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s Waste Solutions

By Wes Muir

Ironically, golf is not an easy sport to make “green.” Maintaining a golf course and hosting a PGA tournament, particularly in a desert, requires vast resources.  However, recent technology in the waste management industry is helping to curb the challenges the Waste Management Phoenix Open has faced in the past.

Reflective of the increasingly prominent role that corporate sponsors play – focused on organically integrating their product or service expertise – Waste Management’s backing of the Phoenix Open was not just about branded signage and logos; it was about environmental impact and education. That’s how the PGA Tour aimed to make its highest-attended tournament, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the most sustainable one, too. The event focused on sustainable event management in the following four major areas:

  • recycling and recovering waste,
  • using renewable energy,
  • reusing water, and
  • educating attendees about important environmental initiatives.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open ramped up the amount of recycling and compacting equipment available to enable spectators to properly dispose of their waste, and to meet the recycling goal of 65% diversion at this year’s tournament. To incentivize spectators to recycle on-site, the course hosted a dozen recycling kiosks that reward users with coupons that could be traded for prizes from local Phoenix businesses.

In addition to recycling bins, Waste Management placed solar trash compactors throughout the course to collect plastic, paper, and organic food waste. In order to save space, the device used a sensor to signal the can to compact trash once it received a certain amount of materials. Fully powered by the sun, the trash compactors eliminated waste collection by five times, which in turn, saved a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with pickups.

Let’s translate this into numbers.  This year’s event saved more than 180 cubic yards of landfill space. Enough paper and cardboard was recycled to save more than 170 trees and 1,770 gallons of oil, and enough scrap metal was recycled to save more than 1100 kilowatt hours of electricity.  Furthermore, these environmental tactics saved more than 123,000 gallons of water during this week-long event.

But again, recycling efforts were just one component of this broader initiative.  The VIP hospitality suite on the 18th hole, dubbed the “Sun Pod,” was the first-ever on the PGA Tour to use solar power for electricity.  Renewable energy for the rest of the tournament, including solar, wind, geothermal, biogas and biomass, was purchased by Arizona Public Services (APS). In addition to these clean energy efforts, four of the waste transport trucks, used to haul waste from the tournament, were powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), a fuel that burns cleaner than diesel for reduced emissions.

Another first for the PGA Tour was the use of greywater – water commonly found in sinks, showers, and washing machines – to conserve the Arizona desert’s precious water supply. When planning this year’s tournament, locals asked that water conservation be one of their top eco-concerns addressed; which is not surprising in an area where the average rainfall is a mere 8 inches per year.  This year’s tournament collected greywater from the kitchens and hospitality suites, and carefully treated and piped it into more than 1,200 Port-O-Lets or portable rest rooms around the grounds, serving as a good example of how this technology has the potential to revolutionize event logistics and our nation’s water supply.

According to Earth911, these environmental tactics have begun to change the golf industry at-large, and by educating event attendees, their impact could last much longer than the week-long tournament. To do so, the Waste Management Phoenix Open planted 125 “Recycling Ambassadors” throughout the course, in order to give spectators an opportunity learn more about which materials can be recycled, and how to properly do so.  Through one-site demonstrations, spectators learned which materials can be composted, what can be recycled, and what can go into the solar-powered trash compactors.

Together, these sustainable solutions enabled the tournament to appeal golf enthusiasts and environmentalists alike.  At the end of the week, while Mark Wilson took home the trophy, the technologies and sustainable solutions used at the Waste Management Phoenix Open scored a “win” off the course, as well.