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Community Engagement

Environmental
Conservation

For more than two decades, WM has enhanced and protected nearly 20,000 acres for wildlife in partnership with Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), the authoritative conservation program for businesses.

Through this partnership of 20+ years, we transform land—primarily closed landfills and smaller buffer zones at transfer stations, recycling facilities and other facilities—into certified wildlife habitat. We currently promote sustainability, wildlife preservation, biodiversity and environmental education at 75 WHC-certified sites across North America.

Why Habitat Protection Matters

These sites are also vital educational spaces that bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to life to teach the next generation about environmental stewardship. All acres are overseen by WM employees and volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to ongoing management and education. Through these sites, we teach the fundamentals of protecting habitat, natural ecosystems and biodiversity to neighbors and students who visit and spread the word about the importance of environmental responsibility. The programs also show visitors how landfills support their surrounding natural ecosystems. WHC recognized our corporate commitment to biodiversity and conservation education by awarding us their 2021 Corporate Conservation Leadership Award.

In addition to WHC programs, we also support the preservation of habitat for beneficial pollinators via the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act), a law to facilitate states’ efforts to use more pollinator-friendly highway landscaping practices. Today, WM has 63 programs dedicated to protecting pollinators throughout North America. This includes a program at Fairless Landfill in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, which is a WHC-certified hub for six community partners focused on pollinator protection. What began in 2013 with eight employees has grown to reach 2,093 employees, families, friends, students, teachers and community members. The program has retained certifications from the National Wildlife Federation, Monarch Watch, North American Butterfly Association and as a Pennsylvania State University pollinator garden. In addition, the program recently earned the 2021 Landscaped Project Award, Pollinator Project Award and Awareness and Engagement Award from WHC, and was named the Pennsbury School District Business Partner of the Year.

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Gold- and Silver-certified Wildlife Habitat Council programs

In addition to habitat conservation programs, our land serves other environmentally helpful purposes. As sections of our landfills close, the land can take on new life for a variety of beneficial purposes, such as recreation or solar farms. WM also leases more than 21,000 unused acres in the United States and Canada for productive use by farmers and ranchers.

Wildlife Habitat 2020 Site Highlights

Our 75 WHC-certified programs vary in scope from individual species management to large-scale habitat restoration. All projects are included in WHC’s Conservation Index, an interactive database that maps conservation projects worldwide. Here are a few WM sites that are making a difference for local wildlife and neighbors.

Click a location to learn more.

1

Plainfield Township, Pennsylvania

Grand Central Landfill is home to 210 acres of grassland habitat, walking trails and an environmental education center that offers programs on conservation, renewable energy, recycling, wildlife management and more. When the pandemic displaced local Girl Scout troops from their regular meeting locations, Grand Central offered its Environmental Education Center as a meeting place. The surrounding area was a perfect space for Scouts to learn about nature and take on projects such as planting a pollinator garden. Local conservation experts also led socially distanced summer butterfly walks to help guests better understand the life cycle of monarch butterflies. Thanks to their efforts, the Grand Central Team earned the Environmental Partnership award from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

2

Ottawa, Ontario

The West Carleton Environmental Centre is in the Carp River watershed, whose slow-moving, fresh waters provide habitat for the painted turtle and native and migratory birds. A WHC-certified site since 2006, the facility installed sunning logs and basking structures to provide protection and comfort for the painted turtles, their offspring and other wildlife. Turtle crossing signs across the site remind humans to watch out for any turtles. West Carleton’s most recent conservation work earned WHC’s 2020 Reptiles & Amphibians Project Award.

3

Morgan Hill, California

One could easily visit Kirby Canyon without realizing it was a landfill. Hidden in central California’s rolling hills, over 700 acres are set aside for landfill activities and 250 acres are habitat for the federally protected Bay checkerspot butterfly and several rare nectar plants. To encourage the reestablishment of the butterfly population, the team has worked with the Creekside Center for Earth Observation in the past to provide larvae to introduce to other sites. Hard work by the WM team keeps the grasslands and the butterfly protected against invasive species and non-native animals. WHC recognized the site’s conservation projects with a Gold Certification and their 2020 Grasslands Project Award.

4

Okeechobee, Florida

The Okeechobee Landfill is home to a 2,000-acre certified wildlife site where educational landfill tours, featuring visits to our pollinator garden, bat houses and barn owl boxes, promote awareness of wildlife habitats. Beyond the garden, the Okeechobee team partners with Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, a local nonprofit committed to the rescue, rehabilitation and return of recovered animals to their natural habitat. Last year, in one month’s time, 10 raccoons, eight opossums and four skunks were released and now call Okeechobee home.

5

Keenesburg, Colorado

Grassland bird populations and their habitat are in decline across much of the U.S. This makes Buffalo Ridge Landfill’s 4,460-acre short grass prairie a vital habitat for grassland birds like the lesser prairie chicken. Antelope, coyotes, the swift fox and the Massasauga rattlesnake also depend on grasslands as their primary habitat. Working to help protect various species, the site constructed brush and rock piles to provide cover for smaller animals and built perches as a refuge for grassland songbirds such as Colorado’s state bird, the lark bunting. The facility regularly offers tours so residents can learn how we create habitats for Colorado’s native species.

Celebrating Earth Day with Sustainability Pledges

Annual Earth Day celebrations generate awareness and excitement around our commitment to sustainability. Linked to WM’s Commitments & Values programs, for Earth Day 2021, WM committed to planting a tree for every pledge received from an employee committing to live sustainably. More than 22,000 employee pledges were collected in the lead-up to Earth Day, including pledges to plant pollinator gardens at home, change to LED lightbulbs, conserve water and opt for reusable bags. At a Four Corners facility, team members created a tree out of paper and cardboard where team members could post their pledges and inspire others to join in. In honor of the impact the pledges will make, our Pledge to Plant campaign committed to planting 50,000 trees via the National Forest Foundation and Tree Canada. Seedlings will be planted in California and Colorado, where they will help regenerate areas affected by wildfires, and in Georgia, where they will support native species habitat restoration and insect and disease recovery.

Beyond making pledges, WM employees celebrated Earth Day by helping beautify their communities:

  • Team members in Conroe, Texas, participated in a park cleanup, gathering 4,500 pounds of trash that was collected in Bagsters.
  • Employees in western Pennsylvania partnered with a local artist to create virtual art projects with reusable materials.
  • A team in Florida went on the local news to share how recycling right gives materials a second life.
  • In New York Harbor, GMA team members joined the Billion Oyster Project in collecting oyster shells from Governor’s Island to rebuild reefs in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

WM team members help protect pollinators via 63 programs, including one at Fairless Landfill, a WHC-certified hub for six community partners focused on pollinator protection.