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Tires on the Green: How Golf Recycles

A manicured golf course may be the last place you’d expect to find old tires, let alone the end products of sewage treatment. But in fact, greens and fairways are a great place to recycle a variety of castoffs.

Researchers at UW-Madison’s O.J. Noer turfgrass facility have shown that putting a layer of shredded tires under a golf green can help keep fertilizers out of groundwater.

Golf courses can recycle effluent, too. Some golf courses in the Southwest are using effluent wastewater to irrigate turf, which has benefits for both turf and groundwater. “Right now, nutrients in effluent are discharged into surface water,” says CALS soil scientist Doug Soldat, who has been testing wastewater irrigation to see how suitable it is for Wisconsin’s conditions. “Plants have the opportunity to take out the nitrogen and phosphorus, and they’re very efficient at cleaning that up.” In fact, CALS was involved in this work as early as the 1920s, when Oyvind Juul Noer, the namesake of CALS’ modern turfgrass facility, pioneered technology to manufacture fertilizer from sewage sludge. The product of that research, marketed under the name Milorganite, has been used on U.S. golf courses since 1925.

Even course sites can be recycled. Several new golf developments have sprouted in land that can’t be used for much else, including former industrial sites, abandoned strip mines and gravel pits.