Waste Management Tees Up Green at Phoenix Open

Sixty solar-powered trash compactors and a hospitality tent that gets its electricity from the sun. A dozen recycling kiosks that reward users with coupons, which can be traded for prizes. More than 1,200 Port-O-Lets that are refreshed with greywater from food service kitchens.

For a second year, Waste Management, the title sponsor of the Phoenix Open, brings a raft of environmental service innovations to the popular PGA tournament, which draws more than 400,000 attendees a year.

"It is the largest attended golf tournament in the world," said Mike McQuaid, chairman of the 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open Tournament and a member of the tournament's host association, the Thunderbirds.

It's an attribute that makes the annual weeklong event, which began Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., a prime venue to demonstrate the latest concepts and technology for waste management, according to the tournament's sponsor and  host. And in doing so, Waste Management also shows off its latest efforts to transform its business model.

A Greenopolis recycling kiosk.

"We're trying to change the business and change the industry," said Lynn Brown, the company's vice president for corporate communications. "We're focusing on three things: our customers, how to collect and process material from which we will extract value, and improving operating efficiency. Our CEO doesn't even call waste "waste" anymore, he calls it materials."

"The Phoenix Open is a great place to show customers what we do," Brown said. "The exhibits, equipment and systems in place there -- these are our proof points."

Last year, Waste Management's first in a six-year deal as title sponsor, tournament operators saved more than 311,220 gallons of water through the recycling and diversion of more than 62 percent (some 127 tons) of the rubbish collected at the event. This year, the recycling goal has been set at 65 percent, and the event sponsor and host say increased attendee engagement and education are the keys to hitting that target.

To that end, about 125 volunteer "recycling ambassadors" are on hand to help spectators learn which rubbish can be composted, what can be recycled, and what can go into the solar-powered trash compactors that hold five times as much material as a standard garbage receptacle, said Waste Management spokeswoman Melissa Quillard.