Waste Management Phoenix Open

The PGA TOUR’s Biggest Event Is
Also the Greenest

The goal is ambitious: host more than a half million spectators at a week-long athletic event while producing zero waste. For this event, “waste” is not just solid waste, but it includes wasted natural resources such as water, energy and carbon. Using internationally recognized methodologies and frameworks from ISO 20121 Sustainable Event Management and the Global Reporting Initiative, we continuously achieve outstanding success that is verified by third parties.

UL Environment has verified our claims with their Zero Waste to Landfill Operations with 10 percent incineration with energy recovery validation. We received the Council for Responsible Sport’s highest level of certification for our sustainability initiatives: Evergreen. For the last six years and the next nine years, the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO) in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a platform to showcase best practices and innovation in sustainable sport, which easily transfer to our customers’ businesses and even their personal lives.

In 2013 we established a zero waste challenge for WMPO. It has been the first sporting event of its kind to reach such an ambitious sustainability objective – earning the description “The Greenest Show on Grass.” In 2015, for the third consecutive year, we achieved our “zero waste” goal, diverting all 444 tons of waste material from landfill to recycling, composting, energy generation and charitable donations. In 2015 we continued to improve on all of our sustainability initiatives as we moved from Council for Responsible Sport Gold Certification to Evergreen – the largest event to achieve this level of certification and also the only golf tournament.

Zero-waste success requires a well-thought-out, holistic approach to every aspect of tournament operations – from the deployment of signage to the management of food and beverage operations to the collection and environmentally responsible handling of waste materials. In place of trash receptacles, more than 6,000 recycling and composting bins were deployed throughout the course. Once they were removed from the event site, waste streams were carefully scrutinized, with materials sorted using state-of-the-art optical sensing equipment. After sorting, recyclables were baled and food-related waste was sent to a nearby compost facility. More than 30,000 pounds of unused perishable food was donated to local nonprofits. We are committed to transparency and third-party review, and our zero-waste results were validated by two outside parties: UL and the Council for Responsible Sport. UL’s report noted that in 2015 the WMPO continued to improve on its methods of diversion while achieving “Zero Waste to Landfill Operations with 10 percent incineration with energy recovery.” Indeed, in 2015 use of waste-to-energy was 9.1 percent.

In addition to waste diversion, water conservation is another critical priority at the WMPO, which is located in a Southwest desert community where water is considered a scarce resource. At the 2015 event, fresh water usage was reduced by almost 29,000 gallons compared with the previous year. An initiative to reuse graywater from cooking and cleaning in portable toilets collected a record 6,100 gallons for reuse. We have also launched the WMPO Water Campaign with the nonprofit organization Change the Course (changethecourse.us), a first-of-its-kind water sustainability campaign that supports water flow restoration projects in Northern Arizona’s Verde River and other rivers that extend from the Colorado River Basin. Using social media, the WMPO encouraged tournament attendees and followers to pledge to conserve water in their daily lives. One pledge equates to restoring 1,000 gallons of water back into the Colorado River Basin. To date, WMPO has supported the restoration of more than 35 million gallons.

Change the Course also benefits monetarily from WMPO through our fundraising partnership with the Thunderbirds, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce committee that hosts the event. In honor of the Open’s unofficial status as the greenest tournament on the PGA TOUR, each person who wears green on the Saturday of the Open triggers a donation to local recycling and environmental organizations. In 2015, the WMPO raised a record $9 million to benefit projects such as Change the Course and other local causes. In total, Waste Management and the Thunderbirds have raised more than $36 million since our sponsorship began in 2010.

As title sponsor, our goal is to set a high standard by operating a large, high-profile event waste-free – but our ambitions go even further. We utilize WMPO as an opportunity to share ideas with consumers, suppliers and corporate partners to showcase the approaches they can use to reduce their own environmental impacts – 24/7/365. Vendor meetings are held and guidelines distributed to explain what types of materials can be used at the event. Nearly 200 volunteers received training in 2015 to help spectators properly dispose of their waste. A key point of communications emphasis to attendees was to exercise the opportunity to recycle RIGHT. Printed reminders and hands-on assistance by volunteers helped reinforce the message to avoid contamination when recycling waste materials.

Concurrent with the tournament, we host the Waste Management Executive Sustainability Forum, a high-level discussion that attracts senior business executives and leaders from government as well as NGOs. The Forum provides an opportunity to create an open dialogue concerning sustainability principles, best practices and effective strategies to achieve bottom-line results. In 2015 the Forum saw a 23 percent increase in attendance over the previous year and reached almost 31,000 viewers through online engagement.

Our efforts – and those of our partners, spectators and other stakeholders – to operate the 2015 WMPO at a high level of environmental performance are described in the WMPO Sustainability Assessment Report, utilizing the GRI reporting framework, available at http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/pdfs/2016WMPOSustainabilityReportUpdate.pdf.

The PGA TOUR’s Largest —
and Greenest — Golf Tournament

See full infographic

Water restored to the Colorado River Basin and Verde River through the WMPO
Water Campaign

35 million gals.

Fencing, carpet, turf and banners donated for reuse

25,000 lbs.

Unused food donated to
local nonprofits

30,000 lbs.

Recovered waste per attendee

1.8 lbs.

  • Recycled
  • Waste-to-Energy
  • Composted
  • Donated

Electricity supplied from renewable sources




Total GHG emissions avoided from recycling, composting and waste-to-energy

350 metric tons

Total charitable donations

>$9 million

Metered water used per attendee

11 oz.

Graywater re-used in
portable toilets

6,100 gals.