The Waste Management Phoenix Open has achieved a one-of-a-kind standing on the PGA Tour.
Not for the record-setting crowds or the love-it-or-loathe-it party atmosphere at the rowdy 16th hole. No, what makes the tournament especially unique — in all of sports — is that despite drawing more than a half million fans, the event has produced zero waste. For four years running. Whether through recycling, composting, re-using or converting to energy, none of the more than 1,700 tons of waste generated at the tournament since 2012 has ended up in a landfill.
Long known as the “Greatest Show on Grass,” the PGA Tour stop at TPC Scottsdale more recently has been the “Greenest Show on Grass.” And talk about leveraging a sponsorship. Waste Management has done that as well as just about any sponsor on the PGA Tour since taking over naming rights in 2010.
There are no garbage cans on the course during tournament week. Instead, there are 4,000 compost and recycling containers, and 60 solar powered compactors. A clean-up crew of about 1,500 is overseen by approximately 100 WM managers from around the country, working day and night shifts to make sure 100% of materials is diverted from landfills. A year ago, when the weekly attendance of 618,365 set a PGA Tour record, there were more than 500 tons of waste. The breakdown: 46% was recycled, 38% composted, 10% waste-to-energy and 6% was donated.
Vendors sign contracts that say they can only bring in recyclable, compostable or re-usable materials.
There’s a robust program, led by vendors, that promotes the donation of unused food from the tournament. Last year, that amounted to over 18,000 pounds of food to local non-profits. Other donated items include the mesh fencing, carpet and turf used throughout and around the course. Last year, over 42,000 pounds of that was donated, to be re-used by three area organizations.
The signs around the course are also designed to be re-used and then recycled at the end of their life span. Fans might not take notice, but there are no years on the tournament signs, so 87% of last year’s signage is in use once again this week.
More eye-catching are the on-course water features made from recycled golf materials – one from 750,000 plastic tees and another from 144,000 golf balls. Those are as hard to miss as the distinctive pause at the top of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama’s swing.
— Waste Management (@WasteManagement) February 7, 2016
“We’re trying to translate to people that if we can do it here, you can certainly do it at your homes, businesses and within your communities,” says Janette Micelli, Waste Management’s Corporate Communications manager. “’Learn it here, live it everywhere’ is one of our tag phrases.”
In addition to promoting fan education, the Waste Management folks are helping other tournaments go green as well.
The Council for Responsible Sport, an Oregon-based non-profit that promotes sustainability in sport, recently named the WM Management Phoenix Open as just the third sporting event in the world to achieve its highest status (Inspire). As a result, tournament operators will work with the Golf Environment Organization (GEO) to pilot a new sustainability standard for golf events.
“It looks beyond waste. It really does take into account the economic and social impact as well as the environment impact,” says Michele Grossman, Managing Principal for Waste Management Sustainability Services. “It helps event organizers and inspires us to think beyond what we already know and do.”
Much of the attention this week at the Phoenix Open will undoubtedly be focused at the raucous par-3 16th hole, which is surrounded by a 20,000-seat grandstand. There will be jeers and cheers, and perhaps even another deluge of aluminum beer bottles after a hole-in-one, as we saw after Francesco Molinari’s ace in 2015 (see above). But at the end of the day, you won’t find a mess. Not on the ground and certainly not in a landfill thanks to the Greenest Show on Grass.