Waste management can be defined as the generation, prevention, characterisation, monitoring, treatment, handling, reuse and residual disposition of solid wastes. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity and the process is generally undertaken to reduce the effect waste has on health, the environment and/or aesthetics.
Historically, we have simply dumped our waste onto the landscape, or into it by excavating massive craters for landfill. This not only scars the landscape, visually and physically, but is an appalling form of land use, which generates health and vermin problems and results in the creation of toxins, leachate and greenhouse gases. These and many other negative issues damage the environment and have a detrimental effect on human health.
Many materials that end up as waste contain toxic substances. Over time, these toxins leach into our soil and groundwater, and become environmental hazards for years to come. Leachate is the liquid formed when waste breaks down in the landfill and when water filters through that waste. This liquid is highly toxic and can pollute the land, ground water and water ways. When organic material such as food scraps and green waste are put into landfill, it is generally compacted and covered. This removes the oxygen and causes it to break down in an anaerobic process. Eventually this releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Clearly, waste has to be dealt with, but we all need to be doing our utmost to minimise the amount of such material we send to landfill, not just on health and environmental grounds, but also in order to adhere to increasingly stringent governmental regulations governing waste disposal and to minimise the escalating cost of disposing waste in this manner.
So, what can management teams at golf facilities do to contribute to one of society’s big environmental issues?
On the golf course, the most obvious waste product is grass clippings, but there are many other forms of organic waste and other sources of a variety of waste materials as well. Bunker renovation and other course development programmes will generate waste soils and vegetative material. Managing habitat for wildlife can result in the removal of part of, or whole trees and other scrub. Oil from machinery maintenance, pesticide residues after spraying, containers and packaging from supplies of materials, food waste from canteens, and other forms of waste are created by everyday course management practises and all golf course managers need to know the safest and cleanest means of dealing with them.“
Avoiding, reducing and reusing waste are all measures that can be accomplished on site
Ideally, we would avoid the generation of waste altogether. However, in the real world, this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, and so it is much more realistic to find ways of reducing the amount we produce instead. Reviewing all of our practices and implementing changes in the way we work can result in reductions, including very simple things such as reducing the area of frequently mown turf or investing in new technology such as electric mowers. That is an area worth investigating.
Reuse of materials that we might otherwise dispose of is another desirable course of action. This may simply involve utilising sands and soils from work around the course and redeploying these materials in other constructions jobs.
Avoiding, reducing and re-using waste are all measures that can be accomplished on site, and all these have the added benefit of decreasing fuel costs and other costs involved with employing someone to uplift waste so that it can be dealt with elsewhere.
If you can’t avoid, reduce or re-use waste then look into the possibility of sending material for recycling. Many of the materials that are currently disposed of can be turned into something else. On the course, this applies to grass clippings, other vegetative waste and food waste from canteens and kitchens, all of which can all be composted. Aerobic digestion is a new process which treats organic waste with a microbial soup which can reduce its volume by 95%, and produce by-products such as heat and clean water. Most of us will be familiar with the glass, metal, paper and plastic recycling schemes operated by local government, and many other waste materials can also be recycled because most materials have some recyclable capability.
If recycling is not feasible, then the recovery of specific elements within that waste is an alternative. There are companies which specialise in this activity, for example extracting metals from waste materials which can then be re-used in manufacturing components.
Effective waste treatment refers to the activities required to ensure that waste has the least practicable impact on the environment. In many countries various forms of waste treatment are required by law. For golf courses, the obvious example is pesticide residues from spraying and in used containers.
Disposal of waste is, of course, the last resort. If all of us review our practices and devise a waste management strategy which focuses on avoidance, reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery rather than disposal, then we will significantly decrease the amount of waste that goes to landfill. The ideal scenario is zero waste to landfill and there are already golf facilities which have achieved this goal.
An efficient, effective waste management strategy can provide time and cost savings:
- By reducing the mowing of the out-of-play areas by 15%, Golfpark Nuolen has saved €2-3,000 annually.
- The Broken Sound club in the USA invested in a Central Composting Facility, to turn all available biodegradable waste into sterilized organic mulch. This is spread on the fairways and used in the landscape beds. $12,000 was saved on fertiliser expenditure in year one and the money invested in the composting facility will be recouped within 4-5 years.
- Hill Side Golf & Country Club in Finland (that country’s first private golf club) introduced a more efficient rough maintenance plan which achieved cost savings of €3,500 in 2012. 392 fewer hours were spent mowing rough while fuel and machinery use was reduced.
- Dundonald Links in Scotland has saved tens of thousands of pounds through the implementation of a variety of waste management initiatives.
The direct financial savings can be enhanced through marketing and promotional opportunities.
Becoming efficient at waste handling and management requires education and training of staff and customers, and thorough planning and implementation. However, positive action on this important issue will be good for our environment and for your business.