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This weekend the fan-favorite “Waste Management Phoenix Open” golf tournament took place in Arizona. The unofficial start of the season this golf tournament is unique in many ways:

  1. Crowds Can Get Rowdy
  2. A Golf Stadium?
  3. Zero Waste!

Banana Costumes and Beer

Normally golf crowds respect the concentration it takes for a golfer to hit a golf ball, silence is crucial when attending a golf match. Not so at the Waste Management Phoenix Open – this tournament has become known as the only tournament where the golf fans are more like baseball fans. “Rowdy” begins to describe them; outrageous, loud, expressive are fitting descriptions. At this tournament, you may have an entire section of fans wearing banana costumes!

The 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is legendary. Ever since Tiger Woods hit his hole in 1 there in 1997 (The crowd went, well “bananas”, throwing beer cans onto the course and celebrating like a home run. )

Golf Stadiums? Yes, a Golf Stadium

The golf tournament has grown over the decades and so did the stands around the 16th hole. Now with Waste Management as the tournament sponsor, there is a stadium that can house 20,000 people around one golf hole on the course. The people in the stands are there all day, eating, and drinking, and drinking alot!

The Waste Management Phoenix Invitational is Zero Waste!

This is huge! The golf tournament is not trying to be, not thinking about, not planning for zero waste but Waste Management has pulled off a completely zero waste golf tournament, and one of the biggest rowdiest of golf tournaments at that.

Large crowds have HUGE environmental impacts. The trash created, water consumed, energy consumption for lights and food vendors needed to feed the crowds, and other wastes from hundreds of thousands of people create a great strain on the environment.

Most organizations who host large crowds are so pressed and stretched in dealing with the large crowd that sustainability and environmental impact are often afterthoughts if considered at all. Simply cleaning up the area is such a big chore for most large event organizers that they can not fathom being Zero Waste.

Waste Management (WM) leading the way in “Zero Waste” events.

That a golf tournament of this size can be zero waste is an unbelievable achievement and presents so many possible potential roadmaps for other organizations to follow in the future.

How Did Waste Management Do It?

It is not a copout to say that it would be impossible to describe how Waste Management pulled of a Zero Waste event of this size as their effort and approach has been comprehensive and built over time.

The links below provide by Waste Management explain their comprehensive approach, how they handled the numerous waste and energy creation issues that large gatherings present. Please visit the terrific resources they made to easily see what they did, and what their results were. Many easy to use infographics make it quick intake.




Anchored in Recycling

The Waste Management feat of achieving zero waste at the Phoenix Invitational implements successfully recycling to anchor zero waste.

62% of the waste generated was recycled.

Successful recycling is not easy as it involves people recycling correctly and for the recyclers to make it as easy as they can for people to do so. It also involves coordination with all of the vendors who use plates, cups, cans, etc to use recyclable or compostable materials.


Paper plates, wet cardboard, food waste create the best soil in the world if composted. At the same time, food waste in our landfills creates dangerous gasses; food waste is best out of the landfill and in the compost pile where it becomes soil to grow food for people and animals.


Materials built for the tournament that were taken down were donated. When the builder knows they are going to take down and donate they will do so that keeps the materials intact while demolishing. This ensures the materials are in good condition or whole when donating to reuse centers.


Anything that can be reused, like signage will be stored and reused. This reduces next year’s energy consumption and costs. Forward-thinking can save money!

Comprehensive Analysis

The major win for Waste Management is the comprehensive analysis they have worked through to understand what energy goes into a gathering of this size. They break down energy use from travel for volunteers, travel for the players, officials, and calculate the carbon emissions their event causes. Waste Management then offsets that carbon use by investing in wind power and donating to environmental initiatives.

What Waste Management has done here is 3 fold:

  1. Proven that large events can be Zero Waste.
  2. Provided a road map for other organizations to follow to make their own large gatherings Zero Waste.
  3. Demonstrated that we can live in a modern society with golf tournaments, concerts, etc, and be closely aligned to the environment we exist in, even becoming zero waste.

In conclusion, we greatly commend Waste Management for its work and commitment to a sustainable future. We hope other organizations such as:

  • Concerts
  • Marathons
  • Political rallies
  • Theater
  • Fire Fighting Camps
  • Professional sports
  • Stadiums and Coliseums
  • Race tracks and others

take what Waste Management has set forth and make their own events ZERO WASTE.