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 greenhouse gas (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 steadily to lower-carbon fuels;
- Improving energy efficiency; increasing our use of renewable energy; and
- 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 tax-fee scenarios.
Our energy and GHG sustainability goals are deeply integrated into our business strategy and attempt to guard against the issues created by climate change, such as the need for adaptation to physical climate parameters and regulatory changes.
Our Industry’s Footprint
Overall, the waste sector is a very small contributor to U.S. GHG emissions, with emissions from landfills, wastewater treatment and composting accounting for just 1.9 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2012. Net methane emissions from landfills have decreased since 1990 as a result of a 21 percent decrease in the amount of decomposable materials such as paper and paperboard, food scraps and yard trimmings discarded in landfills, as well as increases in the amount of landfill gas collected and combusted1.
Waste Management’s GHG Footprint
We were the first major company in our industry to comprehensively assess the GHG footprint of all our facilities in North America over which we exercise ownership or operational control. Since 2004, we have participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and for the past seven years, we have updated our comprehensive carbon footprint and tracked our progress in reducing it. In 2014, we were recognized as leaders in reporting transparency on the CDP S&P 500 Climate Disclosure Leadership Index.
Our direct emissions have varied over time due to a variety of factors. The divestiture of Wheelabrator Technologies in late 2014, for example, reduced our direct emissions significantly. Importantly, in 2015, the GHG reduction services we offer our customers – recycling, landfill gas renewable natural gas projects, landfill gas-to-energy projects and carbon sequestration in landfill – helped them avoid over three times the GHG emissions generated all year by Waste Management2.
See our Operations Appendix for a closer look at our GHG footprint and a description of the methodology we use.
(Metric Tons CO2 Equivalents)
|Potential avoided GHG emissions from (Metric Tons CO2 Equivalents)|
|Renewable energy generation||5,635,643||4,587,712||1,040,041|
|Reuse and recycling of materials||31,613,385||35,901,171||33,777,090|
|Carbon permanently sequestered||16,126,208||16,836,940||17,683,620|
|metric tons CO2e|
(purchased goods and services; capital goods; fuel- and energy-related activities; business travel; employee commuting; downstream leased assets)
1Source: EPA, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, 1990-2014, EPA 430-R-16-002. (Washington, D.C.: EPA, April 2016).
2Note that if sequestration is not counted, we avoid twice the GHG emissions we generate in our operations.
3Due to our divestiture of Wheelabrator Technologies at the end of 2014, our process emissions have been adjusted. According to the GHG Protocol, emissions from Wheelabrator Technologies should be removed from all years, and we have done so here.
Leadership & Engagement
To face climate challenges head-on, we marry strategic business planning with lifecycle thinking, evaluating how GHG emissions can be eliminated or sharply reduced. We collaborate with the U.S. EPA to support its Sustainable Materials Management framework, which works to reduce climate change impacts through recycling and other waste diversion strategies. We also sponsor the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition, which focuses on how lifecycle thinking can improve the GHG-reduction performance of recycling.
Waste Management has been an early adopter of strategies to address climate change. We were a Climate Action Leader in the California Climate Action Registry, which was succeeded by the Climate Action Registry (CAR), for which we are a GHG offset developer. We were an early participant in CAR, having generated our first verified GHG offsets under the CAR protocols in 2011. In addition, we are an Emissions Performance Generator under the Alberta Environment GHG Reduction Program, where we elected to approach compliance for our one subject landfill facility aggressively – instead of paying an emissions fee or buying offsets, we installed a landfill gas collection system to reduce GHG emissions from the site. We also support mandatory carbon reporting and have worked extensively with U.S. EPA to enhance estimations of methane reductions in landfill cover. Finally, we are a member of the Business Council on Sustainable Energy, which is dedicated to implementing market-based approaches to reducing pollution and GHG emissions by providing a diverse, secure mix of energy resources, including renewable energy, for consumers and businesses.