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Better Operations

Carbon Footprint
& Strategy

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.

We have a long track record of leadership in climate-related disclosure, having participated in the CDP (formerly the Climate Disclosure Program) climate reporting for more than a decade. For the past two years, we have been named to the CDP Climate A list, considered the world’s most comprehensive rating of companies leading on environmental action. See Appendix for more detail on the CDP and methodology.

Our GHG Footprint

2017 Emissions (metric tons CO2e)

  CANADA U.S. TOTAL
Scope 1 776,646 14,913,347 15,689,993
Scope 2 12,119 232,709 244,828
Scope 3 725,693 7,939,892 8,665,585

Scope 1 includes emissions from Waste Management-owned and -operated facilities and vehicles, Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from purchased electricity, and Scope 3 includes purchased goods and services; capital goods; fuel- and energy-related activities; business travel; employee commuting; downstream leased assets.

GHG Emissions Impact

  2016 2017
GHG Footprint (Metric Tons CO2e)
Process 13,603,232 13,681,187
Transportation 1,696,067 1,597,312
Energy Use 585,822 656,322
Potential Avoided GHG Emissions (Metric Tons CO2e)
Renewable Energy Generation 2,252,035 2,420,864
Reuse and Recycling of Materials 32,571,862 32,588,647
Carbon Permanently Sequestered 18,536,528 19,481,205
Waste-Based Energy Benefits
Tons of Coal Equivalent 2,540,000 2,480,000
Waste-Based Energy
Production (million households)
470,000 460,000
Resource Savings Achieved through Recycling*
Households Powered Equivalent 1.7 million 1.6 million
Cars Taken Off Road Equivalent 6.9 million 6.9 million

*Based on EPA WARM model using defaults

Climate Strategy

We incorporate climate change considerations into all aspects of our business strategy. Among the climate change considerations influencing strategy are:

Emergency Preparedness

Weather events can threaten business continuity. We have refined our disaster response plans for disposal facilities, using FEMA flood maps to expand the list of locations with supplemental electrical generating capacity. We also have re-evaluated where emergency equipment should be placed and where we should pre-position fuel and disaster supplies.

Regulatory Changes

We monitor developments that may affect our operations or our customers’ and engage with a broad array of stakeholders, including federal, state and provincial governments, to recommend approaches that produce meaningful GHG reductions at reasonable cost.

Green Business Opportunities

WMSS, recycling, renewable energy production and carbon sequestration in landfills are all carbon-reducing services that we provide to customers. We monitor customer advocacy and goals based upon the Paris Agreement for market trends affecting our renewable energy portfolio, recognizing that our multinational customers are shaping their procurement strategies on factors beyond U.S.-driven climate policy.

Cross-disciplinary teams continuously monitor our customers’ needs to reduce carbon, as well as regulatory development and lower-carbon financial incentives. The latter are analyzed by Senior Leadership as part of our market business strategy annual assessment and used in capital allocation. Ongoing capital allocation for natural gas trucks, as an example, supports our forward-looking, science-based goal to reduce emissions associated with our fleet by 45 percent by 2038, against a 2010 baseline.

Recycling and GHG Reduction Tools

Our priority is to improve the sustainability of recycling economics by providing tools for our customers to understand the GHG reductions achieved through recycling, thus motivating them to procure services needed to improve recycling quality. Efforts to improve the quality and quantity of recycling are aligned with our science-based goal to increase avoided emissions by 38 percent by 2028, against a 2010 baseline. Recycling will play a critical role in helping to achieve that goal.

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.

Innovation & Technology

Climate change also influences our long-term strategy, including the development and incorporation of new technologies. We are focused on deployment of lower-carbon technologies that are already commercialized and identifying geographic-area targets for our commercial recycling and green fuel projects over a five-year time frame; for projects seeking to create products from renewable feed stock, our time frame extends to 15 years. Examples of development priorities include:

  • Expanding existing and identifying new beneficial use projects to manage methane at our landfills.
  • Developing high-BTU projects that convert landfill gas to renewable transportation fuels for use in our heavy-duty trucks and for sale to third parties.
  • Investing in innovations to convert waste materials into energy and other low-carbon products while perfecting the technical processes, logistics and match of products to market demand. Read more about our waste-based energy generation here.
  • Furthering our renewable energy production through investment in companies that are developing sustainable energy technologies. Learn more about waste-based energy production on here.

CEO-Level Stakeholder Engagement

Our strategy to enable four times as many GHG emissions reductions as we generate is led from the top. Waste Management’s CEO maintains a public dialogue on GHG emissions reduction as recycling’s key benefit and advocates maximizing recovery of targeted commodities, such as cardboard or aluminum cans, that provide the most GHG benefit. Our public-sector team is closely engrained in our local communities, helping implement programs that support local community sustainability priorities. Our consulting arm, Waste Management Sustainability Services, also furthers this effort by helping customers achieve sustainability and climate change goals through “zero waste” services for large events, plus a full range of recycling, waste reduction, renewable energy, water conservation and environmental education services for large corporate customers.

Sustainable Materials Management Engagement

For the past three years, we have advocated across stakeholder groups for GHG emissions reduction to be the focus of federal, state and local government and private sector recycling goals rather than focusing merely on the weight of materials recycled. We are especially engaged with stakeholders on ways to increase the productivity and economic sustainability of recycling. That’s why we helped form the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition on recycling, headed by a former U.S. EPA assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response. We also dedicated the entire afternoon of our 2018 Waste Management Sustainability Forum to a workshop on Sustainable Materials Management. At the Forum, we engaged over 100 stakeholders in a dialogue around using life cycle thinking to prioritize materials management programs in communities and at businesses across North America.

Educating our customers — as well as communities, schools, nonprofit organizations, other businesses and their leaders — about recycling benefits and best practices has been critical to effecting transformational change. Learn more about our education efforts on here.

We also work with designers and the manufacturing industry to avoid or reduce raw material processing, and to include recycled materials in their products. We utilize our materials recovery facility infrastructure, as well as our consulting group, to teach designers and manufacturers about the recycling process. Waste Management’s recycling activities result in a wide variety of GHG reductions that otherwise very likely would not occur.