Energy &
GHG Footprint

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.

GHG Footprint

  2013 2014 2015
GHG Footprint
(Metric Tons CO2 Equivalents)
Process3 17,662,765 17,286,709 14,329,849
Transportation 1,745,919 1,737,741 1,733,174
Energy Use 355,015 435,633 438,771
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

2015 Emissions

  metric tons CO2e
  Canada U.S. Total
Scope 1 953,619 15,203,048 16,156,667
Scope 2 13,946 220,055 236,273
Scope 3
(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.

Energy Conservation Initiatives Used in Facilities

  • Deploying wind- and solar-driven landfill gas control devices and leachate extraction pumps
  • Producing landfill gas on-site for use in nearby facilities
  • Using waste heat to power other devices on-site to evaporate leachate and heat buildings
  • Utilizing variable frequency drives to reduce electricity use, reducing our parasitic load and increasing the amount of renewable energy we deliver to the grid
  • Conducting energy efficiency audits to identify potential energy savings

Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy

Waste Management is both a major supplier and a user of renewable energy, increasingly utilizing sources such as wind, solar, waste heat and landfill gas to power our facilities. Read more in our Waste-Based Energy and Water Conservation sections. Since our energy use costs are generally equal to about 3 percent of our total revenues, we also encourage energy efficiency and conservation initiatives throughout our company.

In 2015, we hosted the generation of 289,000 MWh of energy from wind, avoiding 111,000 MtCO2e. 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. With the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey-based electric utility Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), we hosted the installation of a 12.9323 megawatt-dc solar farm at the L&D Landfill and a 10.1 MW facility at the closed Parklands Landfill. As one of the largest land-based solar farms in the United States, this 41,720-panel, 53-acre solar farm is now actively supplying enough energy to power 2,000 average-size New Jersey homes. In 2016, we will build upon our successes in New Jersey by working with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and two strategic partners, Citizens Energy Corporation and Southern Sky Renewable Energy, to redevelop four closed landfills, resulting in an additional 17 megawatts of solar power.