In a world where people are constantly wasting materials, energy, water, and food, there are some extraordinary companies that strive to make a difference by reducing their footprint on Earth. By no surprise, one company that does this is Waste Management. Waste Management is a leading provider of waste management services in the United States. They provide services like trash collection/disposal and renewable energy generation. They are the current sponsor of the Phoenix Open, a PGA Tour golf tournament played every year in Phoenix, Arizona. For the past three years, zero waste from the tournament has been sent to a landfill. This fact is impressive because the Phoenix Open is the largest tournament in terms of weekly (6 days) attendance. Last year, over 650,000 people attended giving a total attendance of 1,838,167 for the past three years. This event is the largest verified zero waste event in the world.
The picture shows where all the tournament’s waste went. They were able to achieve their goal several different ways. One of the biggest ways is that there are no trash cans on the golf course, only recycling and composting bins. Vendors sign a Zero Waste Challenge Participation Agreement which only allows the vendors to use materials that are locally recyclable, compostable, or reusable. Waste Management also educates the fans on proper recycling. Over 200 volunteers are trained to help educate the fans. The on-course signage displaying vendors and tournament sponsors are reused year after year until they are no longer usable; then they are recycled. Not only does the tournament divert waste like plastics, they also divert their food waste. Over 30,000 pounds of unused, perishable food is donated locally to a food bank.
Not only does Waste Management divert all the tournament’s waste, they also take measures to conserve water and use electricity from renewable resources. In 2015, the Phoenix Open used approximately 47,340 gallons of fresh water, which was 28,980 fewer gallons than 2014. Most of the water consumed was in sales of bottled water (24,996 gallons). Hand sanitizing stations and portable toilets are used in place of traditional sinks and toilets to conserve water. In terms of renewable energy, solar power is used to power Waste Management’s hospitality tent and 100% of the electricity used by the tournament has been provided by renewable energy since 2011.
With over 1,838,167 people being waste free for a golf tournament, why are we not able to reduce the amount of waste we use in our daily lives? This challenge is done on a small scale when compared to the United States or even individual states, but could be implemented with larger venues like the Phoenix Open, NFL games, NCAA games, and many other sports and concerts. If more communities and smaller cities implemented plans to achieve zero waste, our planet would be much cleaner. Currently, no cities are zero waste, but several are on their way. An example would be Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2014, they were able to divert 68.4% and have a goal to reach zero waste by 2030. Their population as of 2016 was 164,207 people, which makes it the 4th largest city in the state. Fort Collins shows that most waste can be diverted, so why not strive to be like them? Do you think local governments should implement laws and policies to achieve the goal of zero waste? If not, how could the goal of zero waste be achieved throughout the United States?