Through our work on life cycle thinking we have gained renewed appreciation for the first “R” in the waste hierarchy: “Reduction.” While recycling plays an important role in how we manage material, reducing waste offers the greatest environmental benefit of all.
Waste Management has partnered with the City of Federal Way in Washingnton state for years, to help feed those in need. In 2017, Waste Management drivers collected 12,300 pounds of food — a new record and a shining testament to the giving spirit that makes Federal Way so great.
We work with customers to look beyond diverting waste from landfill to actually eliminating waste to begin with. We analyze choices in procurement, deliveries and packaging and make supply chain recommendations to improve their overall environmental impact and reduce on-site waste. And we implement the recommendations as well. For example, in 2017 our Sustainability Services (WMSS) team worked within customers’ supply chains to implement and expand a returnable parts program that eliminates or vastly reduces single-use parts, along with a launderable wipes program that meets hazardous waste exclusions and reduces waste.
Food Waste Reduction
U.S. EPA, states, local governments and the environmental service sector have increasingly focused on how to avoid food waste and properly manage the food that is ultimately wasted, particularly in terms of capturing its energy resource and avoiding generation of GHGs when disposed. With increased attention to the large quantities and various ways of managing food waste, customers have asked for additional ways to handle source-separated food at its end of life, through composting or anaerobic digestion. The company has responded through its compost and mulching facility network of 40 facilities, 13 of which can accept food waste, and our growing CORe® network — four facilities, with more under development.
Preventing food waste upstream, before it becomes waste, benefits both the environment in terms of emissions reduction and communities in need. We are working with U.S. EPA and stakeholders on new ways to avoid emissions from discarded food by reducing the amount discarded.
As part of a recent California state grant award, Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc. (WMAC) received funding to purchase equipment for organics processing and to support Alameda County Community Food Bank’s (ACCFB) food rescue efforts.
Designed to capture organic wastes not already diverted from landfills through existing Source Separated Organics (SSO) collection programs — and conceived through a meticulous multiyear due diligence process — the facility will dramatically improve organics diversion.
The new processing facility complements the existing three-bin SSO program and is designed to capture organics that remain in the MSW stream. The project is expected to improve Oakland’s total waste diversion from 8 percent to 52 percent by diverting 41,540 additional tons per year (TPY) of organics and 26,208 TPY of recycling. The organics diversion alone will avoid 14,459 MT CO2e per year. And, by 2027, the project will have diverted 305,434 tons of organic waste from the landfill and reduced GHG emissions by 106,495 MT CO2e.
As part of its overall commitment to the City of Oakland, Waste Management has partnered with Alameda County, the City of Oakland, ACCFB and Stop Waste for food recovery in the county. Founded in 1985, ACCFB has become the hub of a vast collection and distribution network that provides food for 240 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County — distributing more than 25 million meals last year. The funding will support the Food Bank in bringing five additional stores into its network and will match these stores with local ACCFB network agencies. Collection of food from the five additional stores will result in approximately 175,000 meals per year for local populations in need, while diverting 50 TPY in 2018 and 100 TPY from 2019 onward.
WMSS identified alternative processes so that one customer could eliminate a specific type of plastic bag from their manufacturing process. The result of removing this one item from their waste stream was savings in labor, $214,000 per year for both materials and disposal, and avoiding the life cycle GHGs associated with the product.
A few years ago, we assumed waste/recycling operations for a new customer in the U.S. They had relocated their engine manufacturing operations from the Midwest to the South. During our review of facility operations and waste and recycling practices, we discovered that significant quantities of plastic contaminated with oil were being discarded. The WMSS team discovered that the engine blocks were shipped from the foundry wrapped in plastic and, once received, were submersed in rust preventative and preservative oils. We learned this practice was in effect from when the manufacturing plant was located in the Midwest and the engine blocks were shipped long distances to a high-moisture climate with exposure to both rain and snow. In effect, it was a case of “we’ve always done it this way.”
After the relocation, the engine blocks were shipped only a few miles and within a dry climate. We engaged multiple stakeholders, including the facility engineering team and convinced them that there was no need to use rust preventatives or preservative oils. This resulted in substantial savings to the facility by eliminating the use of the expensive oils and their subsequent disposal. Since the plastic wrap was no longer contaminated with oil, it could now be recycled instead of disposed.
“Hunger Hero” Status in Oregon
Waste Management has partnered with the Oregon Food Bank to fight hunger, advance zero waste and strengthen emergency preparedness since 2014. That’s why the food bank honored Waste Management with its prestigious “Hunger Hero of the Year” award.
Oregon Food Bank is the hub for a statewide network of 21 regional food banks and more than 950 hunger-relief agencies. The food bank is based in Portland, Oregon, which is also a world-class sustainability leader and among Waste Management’s most progressive city partners when it comes to innovative approaches to waste reduction.
“At both the City of Portland and the Oregon Food Bank, bold leadership is resulting in important initiatives that synch up with community values,” said Mary Evans, director of Public Sector Solutions for WM-PNW/BC. “For Waste Management, our partnership with the city has helped us see the value of investing in the Oregon Food Bank — to help those in need, bolster emergency preparedness and advance zero waste across the food bank’s statewide network.”
Waste Management first launched its relationship with the Oregon Food Bank in 2014 with a $200,000 donation, funding an emergency generator for the central warehouse and a back-up fueling system. Together, the emergency generator and the back-up fuel system provide critical emergency support when storms hit and the power fails. The generator keeps food cold and fresh; the fuel system ensures trucks can deliver critical food supplies even when the power fails
Portland became the largest U.S. city to initiate every-other-week garbage collection as it added weekly pickup for compost and yard debris in 2011. The city’s goal was to incentivize curbside composting while keeping overall rates the same. And the city achieved this goal, with Waste Management as a partner. Read more here.