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Phoenix Strengthens Composting Tech Ahead of Super Bowl

Phoenix Public Works has added new technology to its composting facility to divert waste from the landfill to expand capacity in preparation for the Super Bowl and other events happening this weekend.

Phoenix, AZ skyline at night with mountains and sunset in background.
credit: City of Phoenix
With the Super Bowl around the corner, Phoenix Public Works is preparing for the crowds with new composting technology.

From the hiring of the city’s first innovation officer to the Phoenix Fire Department’s launching of a drone program, the city has taken strides to advance technology in recent years and this is the latest. Government agencies are increasingly aiming to reach zero waste, Phoenix among them.

Phoenix Public Works has a goal to achieve a zero waste Super Bowl this year. As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, “zero waste” means diverting at least 90 percent of waste away from the landfill.

For Phoenix, this work dates back several years to around 2015, when the city set ambitious goals to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill, according to Eduardo Rodriguez, deputy director of Phoenix Public Works.

And although the city worked to go green the last time the Super Bowl was held at the University of Phoenix’s stadium in Glendale, Ariz., in 2015, Mayor Kate Gallego said in an announcement that this year, the city has goals to “go to the next level” for Super Bowl LVII.

In April 2017, the city built a composting facility that can process about 55,000 tons of green organics material, but the city wanted to do even more, and Rodriguez said it always came back to food waste.

In September 2022, the city’s compost processor, WeCare Denali, procured a food depackager. The city has been testing this equipment prior to the weekend ahead, which will serve as a greater test due to the hundreds of thousands of people expected to come to the city.

The depackager is a large machine capable of processing about 15 tons per hour, and they can take organic material even when it is in packaging and separate the material. Afterwards, the food waste is mixed with green waste, which all breaks down to clean compost.

“So, this allows us to bring in more material that otherwise we could not take before, because if we did, we would have to manually sort it out.” Rodriguez stated. “With that being said, we’re very excited, too, with the Super Bowl coming in because the NFL has very ambitious goals to be as zero waste as possible.”

In addition to the Super Bowl, and the associated Super Bowl Experience in downtown Phoenix, the city will also be hosting the WM Phoenix Open that same weekend, which is a tournament on the PGA tour. With over a million people expected to attend, the new technology is expanding the food waste management capacity of Phoenix Public Works at a crucial time.

Everything that goes through the facility is weighed, so the city will be able to get data on the actual tonnage following the events.

The city is also using zero-waste ambassadors to spread awareness about this effort. The ambassadors are volunteers tasked with helping to educate the public and showcase that this new program is available and how it works, that way, material that could be recycled or composted will not be otherwise disposed of.

If determined to be effective, the city may expand the use of this equipment to allow other organizations, such as local nonprofits and even entities like the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to process their materials and further minimize waste.

“If we’re able to get more people involved and excited about this, that’s really what we’re striving for — and, just trying to divert as much more waste as we can.”
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.