They say the golf tournament is always greenest when it’s sponsored by a waste industry giant. What do you get when you mix Mark Wahlberg, Phil Mickelson, 600,000 golf fans and a team of recycling ambassadors in green smocks? The 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Since 2010 Waste Management has been the title sponsor of the Phoenix Open golf tournament, a weeklong event that attracts fans from far and wide to watch their favorite pros — and amateurs like Wahlberg, Michael Phelps and Bo Jackson — compete at the TPC Scottsdale golf course. With each year that passes, the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO) has not only grown its attendance, but has also spread a passionate message of waste diversion and sustainability. This message has been so well received that WMPO has achieved five consecutive years of being a "zero waste" event, making it the largest sporting event of its kind to reach 100% waste diversion from landfill. Yet, when there are half a million fans at an event, how does WMPO reach such a goal? According to the company's External Communications Manager Janette Micelli, it takes a lot of planning and committed participation from everyone involved. This includes the event's host The Thunderbirds, which is a special events committee developed by the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. "It really is a team effort," Micelli told Waste Dive. "It starts with the sponsors, the vendors, all of the people serving food and drinks out here. It's all of us together that are making it a zero waste event. It's attributable to, 'What's possible when you ignore the word impossible?' " To the WMPO team, becoming the greenest show on grass was far from impossible. And with a variety of educational tactics, reuse strategies and the elimination of trash bins across the course, the team is making sure to reach zero waste again this year. Educating fans on 'zero waste' "You just have to flat out ignore things to not be educated here." In order to inform the massive crowds on "zero waste" and how to attain it, WMPO has relied on just about every tactic in the book: media advertising, bus ads, signs and even zero waste "stations" placed throughout the event. "You just have to flat out ignore things to not be educated here," Micelli laughed. The stations, which are actually converted roll-off containers, allow fans to stand inside and learn about waste diversion through a "spin the wheel" type of game displaying a range of items. If the fan correctly guesses whether the item is recyclable or compostable, they receive a prize — of course, one that is practical like sunscreen, or sustainable like recycled content pencils. WMPO depends on a volunteer team of "recycling ambassadors" to help run zero waste stations, interact with fans and answer all waste-related questions. This year, dedicated Waste Management staff and representatives from Keep Phoenix Beautiful and Keep Scottsdale Beautiful will assist the ambassadors to properly and effectively relay the message of sustainability.
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