Waste Management provides solid waste collection services to more than 21 million customers in North America – from households to public venues to large companies. All told, after recycling or diverting various materials for reuse, we safely manage the disposal of nearly 100 million tons of waste annually, including common municipal trash and highly specialized materials such as medical and industrial waste. To handle this volume, Waste Management operates the largest network of landfills in our industry and works hard to minimize the impact of those facilities on neighbors and the environment.
Modern landfills are the products of sophisticated engineering, providing both secure containment systems for the disposal of waste and the opportunity to capture value through the conversion of waste to energy. Waste Management’s modern landfills in the United States were developed under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which requires rigorous siting evaluation, site characterization and scientific engineering design, as well as a comprehensive permitting and regulatory approval process that includes public notification and comment. RCRA standards also require a range of measures to prevent environmental contamination, including the use of engineered liners and covers, collection and control systems for landfill gas, and collection and treatment systems for leachate (water that accumulates in and filters through waste).
Our modern sites are designed and operated to ensure that our landfills go beyond regulatory requirements. We continually monitor and work to improve the safety and environmental security of our disposal facilities, and are committed to reporting the results of these efforts. We strive to avoid conditions that cause concern for neighbors and communities, including odors and noise, regardless of whether those conditions are covered in our regulatory obligations. We also work with waste sector experts to understand what happens within landfills after they are closed. Studies have shown that modern municipal solid waste landfills tend to improve predictably over time, steadily producing less gas and less (and cleaner) leachate. Many of our landfills are designed and managed to ensure they can be used after closure for commerce, industry or even conversion into wildlife habitat or public parks.