Waste Management's Climate Action Contribution
About Waste Management's Climate Efforts
In 2017, the services that Waste Management provided offset the emissions of our own operations by three times. Waste Management’s new goal, a jump from three times to four, will require us to decrease the emissions from our operations while increasing the emissions-reduction services we provide for ourselves and our customers.
• Fleet and fuel: Waste Management will emit fewer emissions through our operations by transitioning from diesel to alternative fuel vehicles in 90 percent of our entire fleet. We will use renewable fuel in over 90 percent of our vehicles. Our goal of emitting fewer emissions requires an investment in a Near Zero fleet. Over 90 percent of our fleet purchases are ”NZVs” (Near Zero Vehicles), which will allow us to reduce emissions associated with our fleet 45 percent by 2038, against a 2010 baseline.
• Facilities: Waste Management will continue to improve energy efficiency at our facilities, reducing our own emissions throughout our systems.
• Production of renewable energy: Waste Management will avoid emissions by capturing methane at our landfills for use by third parties as renewable electricity and renewable fuel.
• Recycling: Waste Management will increase avoided emissions by recycling materials for the greatest environmental benefits.
We are transforming our business model to seize opportunities to compete in tomorrow’s climate-constrained world. Each day, our customers look for our help to reduce their GHG emissions, and this is also a strategic imperative for our business. We continue to expand the productivity of our recycling operations and explore the many options to reduce our footprint. This includes:
› Producing low-carbon fuels from waste.
› Transitioning our fleet to renewable natural gas vehicles.
› Improving the energy efficiency of our facilities.
› Increasing our use of renewable energy.
› Expanding the productivity of our recycling operations, with an emphasis on increasing the recycling of those materials that provide the greatest GHG reduction benefit.
› Providing climate-related sustainability consulting services to customers who want to improve tracking, reduce their carbon footprints, and/or prepare for potential carbon cap-and-trade or carbon tax scenarios.
LOW-CARBON FUEL PRODUCTION
As trash decomposes it produces gas, which is roughly half carbon dioxide and half methane. At our landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facilities, we capture this methane and use it beneficially as an alternative to fossil fuel to power homes and provide fuel for industrial uses and commercial vehicles, including our own. The U.S. EPA endorses landfill gas as a renewable energy resource, putting it in the same category as wind, solar and geothermal resources.
Today, Waste Management is the largest LFGTE developer and operator in North America, with projects generating the equivalent of nearly 4.5 million megawatt-hours per year, enough energy to power 460,000 homes, or the equivalent of replacing nearly 2.5 million tons of coal annually. In 2017, approximately 55 percent of landfill gas collected at Waste Management-owned and -operated facilities was used for beneficial use projects, and we did not directly incinerate waste for energy recovery.
We look for capacity to generate renewable energy throughout the organization. For example, in 2017, we hosted the generation of 100 MWh of energy from wind, and we will host up to 54 megawatts of landfill-based solar farms by the end of 2018. We continue to look for opportunities to use solar electricity in support of U.S. EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land initiative, which encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.
Additional innovations and investments to enhance renewable energy production at our landfills include:
• Technologies to convert materials into ultra-low-sulfur diesel and other transportation fuels and petroleum products
• Small-scale gasification to convert solid biomass feedstock as well as other combustible feedstocks into a high hydrogen and carbon monoxide-rich synthetic gas
• Thermal chemical conversion of waste materials into advanced biofuels such as ethanol, as well as renewable chemicals
• Accelerated high solids aerobic and anaerobic digestion to produce renewable energy from organics
• Conversion of landfill gas into renewable natural gas used to power vehicles, generate electricity at our landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facilities, generate power off-site, or use as a heating fuel; and
• Conversion of biomass into organic salts that can be converted into a high-octane gasoline that can then be blended directly into a refiner’s fuel pool, avoiding many of the blending and logistics challenges presented by ethanol.
REDUCING GHGs FROM OUR FLEET
With a vision to create a near-zero emissions collection fleet, we’re now working toward a science-based target to reduce emissions associated with our fleet 45 percent by 2038, against a 2010 baseline, and from 2010 through 2017 we have reduced fleet emissions 28 percent.
• Investing ~$400 million/year in the cleanest near-zero-emissions trucks available
• 6,536 natural gas vehicles in operation, the largest the largest heavy-duty natural gas truck fleet of its kind in North America
• 80% of new purchases are natural gas vehicles, which emit nearly zero particulate emissions, cut GHG emissions by 15 percent and are quieter than diesel trucks.
• For every diesel truck we replace with natural gas, we reduce our use of diesel fuel by an average of 8,000 gallons per year along with a reduction of 14 metric tons of GHG emissions annually.
• We have financed, constructed and operate 107 natural gas fueling stations across North America, with 29 of these also open to the public
• We currently fuel over a third of our natural gas fleet with renewable natural gas (RNG) produced from landfill biogas at three of our own facilities plus third-party producers.
• 100 percent of our natural gas fleet in California, Oregon and Washington runs on RNG, which reduces GHG emissions by 70 percent compared to diesel.
AVOIDING GHGs THROUGH SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS MANAGEMENT
Our greatest contribution to making a positive impact on the environment comes from waste reduction services and recycling. Fully 60% of our emissions reduction contribution is tied to our recycling activities alone, and by recycling the right things well, we have the opportunity to reduce GHG emissions by over 80%. Significantly reducing GHG emissions is both achievable and essential to ensure our operations have a positive and lasting impact on the environment and the communities we serve.
The method by which customers choose to manage waste materials has a direct impact on the amount of GHG emissions generated. According to the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), for example, three times the life cycle emissions are generated when mixed recyclable material is disposed rather than recycled. Consider that in 2017, Waste Management avoided the generation of 32,588,647 MTCO2e life cycle emissions by recycling materials or repurposing them to generate renewable energy and create compost rather than disposing them.
Waste Management has several key partnerships, including The Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works closely with cities, counties and states to implement effective programs; Keep America Beautiful, which works with local communities to help teach the fundamentals of recycling to a broad consumer base; and Industry Associations that include the National Waste and Recycling Association (NW&RA), the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). Our national partnerships on recycling are important means to educate legislators, regulators and the public about ways public policy can maximize the environmental benefits latent in recycling or impede progress in this area, and to advance the sustainability of recycling over the long term by serving as resources on recycling technology, end markets, and life cycle analyses. Local partnerships are equally important, and we participate actively with groups around the country.
FOOD WASTE AND REDUCING GHGS
One-third of food goes uneaten across the globe. Wasted food can add billions of tons of GHG emissions to the atmosphere. In the U.S. alone, more than 60 million tons of food is wasted each year, and displaced food carries a price tag of well over $160 million. The EPA estimates more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, making up 22 percent of the disposed stream. Organic materials — primarily discarded food and yard trimmings — comprise approximately 30 percent of the waste stream.
Waste Management partners with organizations to divert food waste from landfills and to prevent food from entering the waste stream to begin with.
As part of a recent California state grant award, Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc. (WMAC) received funding to purchase equipment for organics processing and to support Alameda County Community Food Bank’s (ACCFB) food rescue efforts. The project is expected to improve Oakland’s total waste diversion from 8 percent to 52 percent by diverting 41,540 additional tons per year (TPY) of organics and 26,208 TPY of recycling. The organics diversion alone will avoid 14,459 MT CO2e per year. And, by 2027, the project will have diverted 305,434 tons of organic waste from the landfill and reduced GHG emissions by 106,495 MT CO2e.
To support projects such as these, WM has the largest organics recycling infrastructure, including
• 40 composting and mulching facilities, 13 of which can accept food waste
• 4 CORe® organic recycling processes that take food waste from restaurants, schools, food processing plants and grocery stores, screen it to remove contaminants, and blend the waste into an engineered slurry that dramatically increases the production of biogas in anaerobic digesters and is used to create renewable energy.
Preventing food waste upstream, before it becomes waste, benefits both the environment in terms of emissions reduction and communities in need. We work with U.S. EPA and stakeholders on new ways to avoid emissions from discarded food by reducing the amount discarded. For example, as part of its overall commitment to the City of Oakland, Waste Management has partnered with Alameda County, the City of Oakland, ACCFB and Stop Waste for food recovery in the county. Founded in 1985, ACCFB has become the hub of a vast collection and distribution network that provides food for 240 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County — distributing more than 25 million meals last year. The funding will support the Food Bank in bringing five additional stores into its network and will match these stores with local ACCFB network agencies. Collection of food from the five additional stores will result in approximately 175,000 meals per year for local populations in need, while diverting 50 TPY in 2018 and 100 TPY from 2019 onward.
While our “last generation” natural gas engine cuts smog-producing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 50 percent compared to the cleanest diesels, our 2017 near- zero-emission natural gas engine (ISL-G “NZ”) is the cleanest heavy-duty machine ever certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Waste Management helped pioneer this engine with Cummins, and it now provides a 95 percent reduction in NOx emissions compared to the current NOx standard and a 93 percent reduction in NOx compared to the latest diesel engine technology. Additionally, the new engine is already certified at 16 percent below the current GHG emission standard and is 12 percent below the 2027 standard.
We also have the largest fleet of hybrid bulldozers in the industry, operating 42 Caterpillar D7E’s at 39 different landfill locations across the country. The D7E’s rate of hourly fuel consumption is on average six gallons less than the D8 tractors it replaces, translating into annual savings of nearly one half million gallons of diesel fuel.
Wheel loaders are another electric hybrid machine we are exploring. In conjunction with Volvo Construction Equipment, we hosted two field tests for Volvo’s prototype LX1 electric hybrid wheel loader at our Redwood Landfill and Moreno Valley Transfer Station, both in California. Data was collected on the wheel loader’s fuel efficiency and GHG reduction against a conventional machine. The LX1 achieved approximately a 50 percent and 45 percent fuel efficiency improvement on average, at the Redwood and Moreno Valley sites respectively.
LAND USE AND ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION
Waste Management owns a wide range of properties — large and small, urban and rural. At our larger properties, in the substantial areas that we set aside as buffer zones, we make a concerted effort to enhance the natural value of the land by providing habitat for wildlife and offering educational opportunities and natural beauty to the surrounding community.
One of our key partners in protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat is the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a nonprofit organization recognized as the authoritative conservation program for businesses. Our long-standing partnership with WHC has resulted in the creation of 90 WHC-certified projects at Waste Management sites. Through project certification, the WHC recognizes commendable wildlife habitat management and community environmental education programs. Together, these properties encompass nearly 20,000 acres created, enhanced or protected for wildlife across North America. The projects often feature a community environmental education component.
Our projects are included in the WHC’s Conservation Registry, an interactive database that maps conservation, restoration and wildlife habitat-enhancement projects worldwide, allowing us to better understand the impact of our conservation programs. We continue to expand certified sites to include small urban habitats at transfer stations, recycling facilities and other smaller Waste Management facilities.
Beyond the wildlife habitats certified at our active and closed facilities, we lease our unused property for productive use by farmers and ranchers. As of 2017, more than 22,300 acres in the United States and Canada were used for this purpose.
We work with WHC on collaborative efforts among nonprofits, government agencies and companies to create conservation strategies. For example, the Corporate Pollinator Ecosystem Project (C-PEP) brings together companies with the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development to identify pollinator habitats on corporate land and ultimately help revive declining pollinator populations. We have more than 50 programs dedicated to protecting pollinators throughout North America.
We also support the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act). If passed, the law would facilitate efforts by states to use more pollinator-friendly highway landscaping practices, including reducing mowing and planting native plants and grasses that provide habitats and foliage for bees and monarch butterflies and bees.
We incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education into most of our wildlife habitat programs to demonstrate the value of biodiversity to children and instill the importance of being good environmental stewards.
SOLAR ENERGY AT CLOSED LANDFILLS
Our large geographic footprint of landfills and their proximity to existing infrastructure can make them ideal locations for large-scale solar installations, aligned with U.S. EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land initiative. First launched in 2008, this innovative federal program has resulted in nearly 253 installations on contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites, with a cumulative installed capacity of just over 1,397 megawatts nationwide. Currently, we lease seven closed landfills for solar development.
Climate Action Commitments
Current Climate Actions Waste Management Is Taking:
Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Emissions
Companies making this commitment are taking action to reduce ‘short-lived climate pollutants’ (SLCPs) – including methane, black carbon, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – vital to significantly reducing near-term global warming and improving public health.
Click learn more for additional information.
Undertaking this commitment aligns with the work of the US Climate Alliance, which is prioritizing this challenge. Feel free to elaborate on your work towards reduction, along with your other efforts, in the "Other Commitments" field below.
Areas For Collaboration
We are interested in collaborating on the following:
- Developing in measurement and monitoring systems to target efforts and track progress
Waste Management is North America’s largest residential recycler and a renewable energy provider. We recover the naturally occurring gas inside landfills to generate electricity, called landfill-gas-to-energy. Waste Management’s fleet of natural gas trucks is the largest heavy-duty truck fleet of its kind in North America. With the largest network of recycling facilities, transfer stations and landfills in the industry, our entire business can adapt to meet the needs of every distinct customer segment.
As North America’s leading provider of comprehensive waste management services, our mission is to maximize resource value while minimizing impact in order to further both economic and environmental sustainability for all of our stakeholders.