Goals & Progress

As we approach 2020, the target year for the sustainability goals we set in 2007, we are beginning the process of reflecting on how far we’ve come, where our goals need to be refined and where we need to go in order to lead change in sustainable materials management. Some goals will need to be reframed based on changes in our business strategy; others must be expanded to better convey the environmental benefits our services can provide. Here are some of our initial thoughts:

Recyclables Managed
(million tons)


Recycle 20 million
tons annually by 2020


We have focused our goal and reporting on expansion of our recycling services in terms of the weight of recyclables we manage. That metric, however, is proving to be less informative than it could be. With the change in recyclable materials generated by our customers, as discussed in Waste Solutions, a disconnect has emerged between weight-based metrics and the broader purpose of recycling in terms of environmental stewardship. With this report and going forward, we’re leading change by transitioning our recycling metrics to the measurement of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions avoidance and energy savings.

This change is consistent with the premise of the U.S. EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program (https://www.epa.gov/smm) and as further explored by the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition of which we have been the founding partner (https://www.michaeldbaker.com/portfolio-items/guidance-on-taking-a-life-cycle-perspective-to-sustainability/). Beginning with this report and in future ones, we will calculate GHG emissions avoided as well as energy-saving reductions associated with the commodities we handle through recycling, composting and conversion into energy or products. By evaluating recycling in the context of its impact on the environment rather than limiting it to climate change, we seek to be more transparent in communicating environmental benefits. Armed with insights on the potential for GHG reductions from specific materials management options, we have the opportunity to evaluate business strategy, community engagement and education in terms of how the greatest environmental benefit can be obtained at the most reasonable price.

On-Road Fleet Emissions Reductions1
[percent reduction in million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) emissions]



Reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and improve the efficiency of our on-road fleet vehicles by 15 percent by 2020

2007 emissions:

1.94 million

metric tons CO2e


Our 15 percent GHG reduction goal for our fleet has been achieved since 2011. Our reporting precision has grown over time as we joined U.S. EPA’s SmartWay Partnership, which provides a standard template to project the emissions of our waste collection fleet, including all on-road vehicles. Our on-road vehicles run on diesel, gasoline and natural gas [liquefied (LNG) and compressed (CNG)]. In reporting to SmartWay in 2015, we did not separate out our renewable natural gas (RNG) generated from our landfills or purchased and used in our on-road vehicles from our reporting on use of fossil-based natural gas. This did not highlight the GHG reductions we realized by using renewable fuel. Moving forward, we will clearly identify RNG and the GHG benefits it provides. We are pleased to report that we not only have continued to exceed our 15 percent efficiency goal, but our on-road fleet vehicle efficiency jumped to 24 percent in 2015. This performance reflects the dramatic impact that our transition to natural gas vehicles, both fossil-based and renewable, is having on our collection fleet.

Historically we have not focused attention on our progress in decreasing emissions from off-road vehicles, such as yellow iron. Starting in 2016, we will provide this information in a separate section to highlight the importance of the work we are doing to “green” these vehicles.

Waste-Based Energy Production2
(million households)


2 million

Produce enough waste-based energy to meet the annual energy needs of 2 million households

Renewable Energy

With the divestiture of Wheelabrator Technologies, we divested ownership of over half of our waste-based energy portfolio. We will continue to report on the number of homes powered by our renewable energy assets, chiefly landfill gas-to-energy facilities, but will reset the level to reflect our changed role in providing waste-to-energy. We are considering an additional new renewable fuel goal. Renewable natural gas (RNG) is created from biogas from landfills and anaerobic digesters. RNG used in natural gas vehicles reduces GHG emissions by 90 percent over the use of diesel fuel. Waste Management took the lead in piloting RNG production over a decade ago and is now seeing its widespread use across the country. Read more on in the Organics and Waste-Based Energy sections, Waste-Based Energy and Extracting Value From Organics, in Waste Solutions. In 2016, we are discussing adding a new goal for the use of renewable fuel in our natural gas fleet, relying on RNG generated at our own sites, as well as third-party, U.S. EPA-approved sites.

Empowering Customer GHG Reductions

The ENSPIRESM platform created by Waste Management Sustainability Services allows customers to calculate and set goals for GHG reductions from waste reduction, reuse and recycling. We are evaluating how we can measure and demonstrate the productivity of this part of our business. This new goal is consistent with our overall approach of serving customers by reducing their carbon footprint — and doing so with clear tracking and ambitious metrics.

Wildlife Habitat Sites and Programs

Waste Management attained its 2020 goals for Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) programs and protected acreage in 2010 and maintained it through 2015. Since 2015, we and our WHC partner have begun to refresh our thinking on habitat projects and their fundamental purpose: to conserve habitat, enrich individual communities and advance environmental stewardship. This mindset is consistent with our business goal of being a trusted community partner. As time goes by and our portfolio of large land-based facilities, such as landfills, does not expand to the extent it has in years past, while our development of alternatives to land-based waste management increases, we need to think more broadly about stewardship. Our materiality review in 2016 identified impact on local environment and local engagement as among the most important issues for us. In 2017, we will be discussing new metrics to capture how we are engaging with local communities in the service of environmental stewardship and education, as well as how our programs at our facilities can help address the crisis of pollinator depletion.

Number of Acres Protected


25,000 acres

Protect 25,000 acres by 2020 households

Number of Wildlife Habitat Programs*



Establish 100 wildlife habitat programs at Waste Management sites by 2020

* Numbers reflect both “Lands for Learning”
projects and specific habitat sites.

1 Note that we have determined that in prior years, the fleet emissions tracking inadvertently included some off-road diesel and aviation emissions as well as the on-road emissions that were intended to be the universe for this metric. In addition, the data came from fuel logs, which have been reviewed against tax credit logs to enhance accuracy. Since we are adding diversity to our fuel types, especially with the use of renewable natural gas, we are refining our reporting to distinguish among kinds of fuel. The prior years’ numbers have been reviewed for consistent reporting and are restated here. The restatement uses U.S. EPA SmartWay methodology for its calculations.
2 Total includes landfill gas-to-energy, waste-to-energy, solar, waste-based fuel and steam.
3 Reflects the impact of the divestiture of Wheelabrator.

Sustainability Key
Performance Indicators1

See full infographic

GHG Footprint
(million metric tons CO2 equivalent)



Energy Use4

Potential Avoided GHG Emissions5
(million metric tons CO2 equivalent)

Renewable Energy Generation

Recycling of Materials7

Carbon Permanently Sequestered8

Waste-Based Energy Benefits

Tons of Coal Equivalent9

Waste-Based Energy Production
(million households)

Resource Savings Achieved Through Recycling

Household Equivalent
(in millions)

Cars Off Road
(in millions)

Percent of Waste Management Modern Landfill Liners Failing to Prevent Off-Site Contaminated Groundwater10, 11


2011 – 2015

Safety Performance

Total Recordable Injury Rate
(incidents per 100 employees)

Vehicle Accident Recordable Rate
(driver hours without a vehicle
accident, in thousands)


Charitable Giving
(in millions)

  1 Since 2013, we have used the modified 100-year global warming potentials (GWPs) promulgated by the U.S. EPA. Pertinent to our carbon footprint, U.S. EPA revised the GWP for methane from 21 to 25 and the GWP for nitrous oxide from 310 to 298.

  2 We have corrected our 2012 process number to include power generation and refrigerants used at sites included in previous years’ calculations but exempted by the EPA’s GHG reporting rule. We are including these units for consistency over time, amending last year’s reporting number.

  3 We have changed our methodology for calculating fleet efficiency to conform to U.S. EPA’s most recent (2013) SmartWay Truck Tool. In order to evaluate relative emissions and progress toward our 2020 transport emissions reduction goal, we have recalculated our 2007 baseline for collection vehicles and our 2011–2013 emissions using the 2013 tool. In addition, we have changed our database for making these SmartWay calculations from our prior reliance on fuel logs to the use of records compiled for tax credit and fee purposes. The tax documentation reflects fuel purchased in a year, including some insignificant amounts of fuel stored rather than used in a given year. We believe the corporate tax records are more complete than the facility-specific fuel logs. The transition to these records accounts for part of the increase in emissions from 2012 to 2013. Note that our transportation emissions reported here include those from both our collection fleet and our non-collection “yellow iron” (i.e., off-road equipment such as forklifts and excavators) used on site. A small amount of fuel in this category is used for nontransportation purposes (e.g., running emergency generators or barbeque grills on site), but we do not subtract these from our transportation totals.

  4 We are in transition in the way we track electricity data. In 2013, we hired a third party to assist in developing and reporting electricity data, making use of the enterprise accounting system’s coding of accounts paid. We believe that this accounting system is more accurate than our previous estimation, which used a representative sample of Waste Management operations to project entity-wide emissions. We believe our previous estimations, in fact, erred on the high side. The dramatic reduction in energy use in 2013 is thus likely due in large part to overestimation in prior years rather than a true reduction from previous emissions. In 2014, we will continue to refine our procedures for calculating energy use, with a goal of developing a more comprehensive energy conservation program.

  5 We are reporting these data to inform our customers and the public about the potential GHG reduction benefits associated with carbon storage in landfills, our renewable energy production and the value of the recyclable materials we collect and process. We are not presuming to characterize how emerging regulatory programs will allocate credit for these avoided emissions, so we do not claim these GHG reduction benefits as our own nor attempt to deduct these reductions from our carbon footprint.

  6 Increases in productivity in 2013 were primarily the result of running our waste-to-energy plants at higher capacity and including energy generated from wind projects in our calculations.

  7 The GHG savings figures for 2011 and 2012 were based upon estimates made using the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) Environmental Benefits Calculator. Consistent with our efforts to align our reporting more closely with current U.S. EPA methods where possible, we have converted our estimates of the benefits of recycling to those developed using U.S. EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), which reports benefits in MTCO2e (the measure consistent with the other units reported in this chart). Our 2011 and 2012 emissions remain those calculated using the NRC model, but they have been converted to MTCO2e for purposes of comparison. (Note that our 2012 report erroneously stated the recycling savings were already expressed as MTCO2e.) Also note that U.S. EPA has yet to include updated GWP numbers in its WARM software. In our calculations, we assume that, by recycling, we divert materials from the average landfill nationally, not solely from our modern landfills with landfill gas-to-energy capacity. If instead our recycling were to divert materials only from our own modern landfills, the emissions reductions achieved by recycling would only be 31,613,385 in 2013. Note also that the increase in emissions reductions realized by recycling does not correspond arithmetically to the increase in total tons recycled. That is because paper recycling achieves very high emissions reductions, and the relative proportion of paper in the recycling stream is declining as consumers shift from paper-based information to electronics (e.g., from newspapers to e-readers).

  8 For a discussion of the protocols that govern this calculation of carbon storage or sequestration, see pg 109 of the Appendix.

  9 Tons of coal equivalent is calculated based on the equivalent number of households that could be powered by Waste Management energy production. Note that standard industry assumptions about household energy use differ for the waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy sectors: Standard waste-to-energy reporting is 1,000 households per installed megawatt, while the household conversion for landfill gas-to-energy is based upon U.S. Energy Information Administration data that is updated yearly. We have not included the energy value of our wind projects in this entry because there is no sector conversion template comparable to that for waste to energy and landfill gas-to-energy.

10 Modern landfills are post-1993 and are permitted under 40 CFR Part 258 Subtitle D. Off-site contamination is regulatory corrective action required to address off-site impacts to groundwater.

11 WM modern landfill liners continue to perform as designed, not allowing leakage through the liner that required corrective action to clean up groundwater under neighboring priorities. We have also received questions asking whether the metric refers to potential landfill leaking or a more general facility reference, and have clarified.

12 The Vehicle Accident Recordable Rate for 2011 was restated to account for resolutions of vehicle accident investigations that were made following the publication of our 2012 report.