AT&T Pro-Am: Aiming at Zero Waste

Feb 14, 2013

The Offset Project's Abbie Beane sorts through a bag of compost looking for contamination.
A zero waste station at the AT&T Pro-Am
A compost pile at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District already includes compost from the Pro-Am.

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am wrapped up Sunday with a new winner, Pro Golfer Brant Snedeker, and perhaps a new record for diverting waste.

There was a time when the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am made its mark at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District landfill.   “I can remember six or seven years ago, before these aggressive waste reduction efforts started, there was a lot of waste. We’d see six, seven or eight dumpsters a day during the course of the event,” said Jeff Lindenthal, MRWMD’s Recycling Manager.  Now a lot of that trash never makes it to the landfill because of those aggressive waste reduction efforts that begin day one of the golf tournament.  It all started four years ago when the Pebble Beach Company and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation contracted the Offset Project to help make the Pro-Am a zero waste event.  “Our guests are drawn to Pebble Beach by the beautiful natural environment, and preservation of that environment is a real motivating factor,” said Thomas Quattlebaum , Pebble Beach’s Environmental Manager.

But it turns out, achieving zero waste is no small feat, especially for a multi-day event, that takes place on three golf courses, and draws thousands of spectators.  Despite being called “zero” waste, 90% diversion is considered the gold standard when it comes to zero waste.  That means 90% of the waste from an event is either composted, recycled or re-purposed.  Last year, the Pro-Am diverted 65% of its waste.  This year, the Offset Project tried to up that number by targeting larger items for re-use or recycling. They went after the rope that kept the spectators off the courses, the carpet rolled out in special event tents, cables left behind by broadcasters, and the green netting that lined temporary chain link fences.  “With some of those larger materials that we’re pulling out now, maybe we can get some true 75% to 80%,”said Abbie Bean, Director of Sustainability Programs for the Offset Project.

Small materials are also important to any zero waste effort, like event organizers purchasing compostable utensils and cups, and spectators using the zero waste stations.  The stations were set up at each concession stand and included three receptacles: one for  trash, one for recycling and one for compost. While each station had a volunteer to help spectators, items still ended up in the wrong receptacle.  So at the end of each day of the tournament, Beane and her crew sorted through the bags of compost looking for any contamination that could get the compost load rejected at the landfill.  “People would find it unbelievable that somebody literally, they threw something out, but there’s a person on the other end that literally has to unwrap the saran wrap from their sandwich, and someone’s actually opening that and pulling things out,” said Beane as she looked through a bag of compost. 

The diverted waste from this year’s Pro-Am is still being calculated. Next year, Beane hopes to get the Pro-Am closer to 90% diversion. “For next year what we’re looking at is identifying every single material that’s coming out of the event, and how they can be diverted from the waste stream,” said Beane.  The Offset Project has achieved 90% diversion with other local events.   At last year’s Big Sur International Marathon it reached 95%.