Waste Management Tees Up Green at Phoenix Open

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.

The company also ramped up the amount of recycling and compacting equipment available at the event and introduced new solutions for the open, such as the solar-powered hospitality tent and use of greywater in the portable toilets. In addition, the company rolled out four compressed natural gas vehicles to haul material from the site. Waste Management uses CNG vehicles elsewhere in the country, but the trucks are the first for the company's operations in Arizona, said Quillard.

Solar-powered trash compactor and a recycling bin.Efforts to make the event more environmentally responsible also extend to signage. In partnership with Dixon Golf, which makes eco-friendly golf balls, Waste Management built a floating display (pictured at top) with more than 144,000 used golf balls. After the tournament, the logo that now floats atop the lake at the 18th hole will be dismantled and the balls will go to the Phoenix chapter of The First Tee, an organization that helps children build confidence through golf. The scrim -- the plastic fencing that dots the spectator area along the course -- is made from recycled material and can be recycled as well.

"We want to make this the greenest show on grass," said Waste Management Operations Manager Mike Bartell. "We're still working toward that and I think we've made some great progress."

Waste Management worked with the Thunderbirds for more than a decade before becoming the tournament's title sponsor. "We knew where they were going and what they were trying to accomplish," said McQuaid, the chairman of this year's event. The firm's more prominent role in the tournament and the drive to make the event greener have gone over well with fans, McQuaid added. "The community has embraced Waste Management."

Images courtesy of Waste Management.

More on recycling, waste management and other sustainability indicators is available in GreenBiz Group's State of Green Business Report 2011. Download the free report from GreenBiz.com