Golf goes green: Food recycling program begins at Farmers Insurance Open

One of the largest events of the year, the Farmers Insurance Open, is leaving its mark on San Diego.

The event attracts international attention. But the crowds, the golfers and all of the publicity also generate a sizable amount of waste during this four-day event at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

“We’re feeding about 4,000 people a day for hospitality; for the general public it’s between 10,000 to 15,000 people per day,” said Andy Smith of Levy Prom Golf LLC, the event’s caterers.

In years past, all of the food waste from those meals, and the trash left on site, went straight to the landfill. But this year, the City’s Environmental Services Department is testing out a pilot project, encouraging food scraps recycling in the temporary kitchens set up at the course.

Kitchen staff are trained on what can get recycled, proper handling and disposal. Environmental Services provided a training for catering employees. Smith says his company has done similar recycling at other golf events around the country.

Waste Management is contracted to transport the food waste to The Greenery at Miramar Landfill, where it will be broken down into high-quality compost the City provides to the public. Environmental Specialist Julie Sands Tyne says it’s the first time the City has done a food waste recycling program for an event this large.

“My role in this is to work with that special event organizer, to help them divert as much waste as possible that they are generating at their event,” said Tyne.

It’s not just about spreading the word about recycling, the City will be required to comply with a new state law AB 1826, which takes effect in April.

“In a nutshell, it requires organics diversion from commercial properties,” said Tyne. “Instead of filling up the landfill it gets turned into compost that can be used in your backyard.”

From the backyard, to the golf course, this pilot project is demonstrating the City’s commitment to sustainability.

“I hope it moves on and gets better, it doesn’t matter if it’s San Diego or another City,” said Smith. “This [type of recycling] is what we need to do.”