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Contributing to CommunitiesEnvironmental Conservation

Waste Management owns a wide range of properties—large and small, urban and rural. At our larger properties, we make a concerted effort to enhance the natural value of the land by providing habitat for wildlife and offering educational opportunities and natural beauty to the surrounding community.

Waste Management partners with nonprofits, government agencies and other companies to create conservation strategies, including taking action to protect a specific animal or plant. One of the most important roles our land can play is being transformed into a home for wildlife, particularly endangered species that have experienced loss of native habitat.

WM teams across North America partner with Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), the authoritative conservation program for businesses, to convert nearly 18,000 acres of land to promote sustainability, wildlife preservation, biodiversity and environmental education.

Through this longtime partnership, we transform land—primarily closed landfills, and smaller buffer zones at transfer stations, recycling facilities and other facilities—into certified wildlife habitat. 79 WHC-certified programs vary in scope from individual species management to large-scale habitat restoration.

All projects are included in WHC’s Conservation Registry, an interactive database that maps conservation projects worldwide.

These sites are more than just habitat. They are vital educational spaces that bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to life to teach the next generation about good environmental stewardship. All acres are overseen by Waste Management employees who dedicate their time and expertise to ongoing management and education.

Grand Central Landfill, for example, has five employees who dedicate their free time to the habitat, volunteering an average of 300 hours a year. This team recently worked with a local federal bird identification group and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to install a new monarch garden. At Fairless Landfill, employees work closely with the Falls Township Senior Center to maintain their pollinator garden. As a result of teamwork across North America, our employees were recognized with WHC’s 2019 Employee Engagement Award, which is presented to a company whose commitment to conservation is evident through the involvement of its employees. We’re proud to report that our employees put in over 2,600 hours on 25 certified programs in 2019.

Through these sites, we teach the fundamentals of protecting habitat, natural ecosystems and biodiversity to neighbors who visit and spread the word about the importance of environmental responsibility. The programs also show visitors that landfills are safe, can be beautiful, and support their surrounding natural ecosystems.

Wildlife Habitat 2019 Site Highlights

The Bronx and Brooklyn, New York

For more than six years, frontline employees have maintained pollinator gardens at our Harlem River Yard and Varick transfer stations. While these areas have long served as peaceful refuges for native wildlife and insect species, they were recently opened up to nearby communities. In fact, the Harlem River Yard garden was expanded to include a new pollinator garden located by the main entrance to the facility on the South Bronx waterfront. This expansion was completed by Waste Management employees with help from Alive Structures, a Brooklyn-based minority- and women-owned landscape design firm, and workers from the HOPE Program, an environmental and social justice-focused workforce development organization, who planted a variety of native perennials, shrubs and grasses.

Through the project, the previously underutilized area was transformed into a thriving garden adjacent to a popular community gathering area on the South Bronx waterfront. The team is also evaluating the feasibility of installing a community meeting center and green roof at the Varick facility. In the East Williamsburg Industrial Zone where Varick is located, no such gathering place currently exists, so this project would meet an important community need.

Intergenerational Pollinator Partnership Project
Created 2014

66
species of pollinators
in 2019

100+
employees, families and
community partners involved

481
monarch butterflies
tagged and released

1 acre
of habitat and meadow

86
nectar-rich native plants

Emelle, Alabama

CWM Emelle Landfill is a great example of how Waste Management partners with employees and local entities to convert buffer property into wildlife area. At this particular site, Black Belt Prairie grasslands are home to white-tailed deer, Eastern wild turkey and feral hogs. The local team partners with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and the Alabama Cooperative Deer Management Assistance Program to monitor and track for white-tailed deer. In addition, the site provides food and shelter for native mourning doves to help the population withstand migration and changing seasons.

San Jose, California

Guadalupe Landfill sits on a combination of oak woodland, grassland, chaparral and riparian areas where employees actively manage and protect 411 acres for conservation. The team has also created native landscaping using drought-tolerant, deer-resistant vegetation in three plots across 2,000 square feet, surveyed by an expert from Creekside Science. Along Guadalupe Creek, employees and volunteers serve as environmental stewards. The site’s native landscape area is also home to an international, award-winning bug hotel designed and built by employees, using materials found on site.

Okeechobee, Florida

Over 2,000 of the 4,100-acres at Okeechobee Landfill are managed for wildlife, consisting of restored marsh and forested wetland habitat. Improved habitat conditions encourage animals to settle in the area, living among tree piles that provide critical shelter they may not receive elsewhere. We also work with a local wildlife rehabilitation center to introduce keystone species like bald eagles. Like many Waste Management WHC sites, Okeechobee Landfill provides enriching opportunities for students by sharing environmental conservation techniques with 4-H campers, and by offering a program that allows Scouts to earn Fish and Wildlife Management-related badges. Finally, site tours are conducted to educate community members about native vegetation, bat and bird boxes, and species reintroduction efforts. Educational programs like Okeechobee’s enrich communities by helping neighbors understand the value of conservation efforts, motivating them to change their daily habits to protect the planet, too.

Oakland County, Michigan

Many of our sites set up and run programs to support bat preservation, which opens up a unique opportunity to teach community members about the importance of a creature they typically avoid. While they may be scary to some, bats are one of the best natural indicators of health in our environment. Not only do they serve as pollinators and seed dispersers, they control insect populations by eating flies, moths and other insects. By serving as population controls, Bats help to protect plants, reducing the need for insecticides. To help students, families and friends understand bats’ role, we have sponsored the Leslie Nature Center’s attendance at the Orion Township Boo Bash for the past several years. At this event, nearly 250 individuals show up to trick or treat and learn about the importance of bats and other Halloween-y, nocturnal critters to our eco-system.

Other Beneficial Uses

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.

We also support 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, including mowing less often and planting native plants and grasses that provide habitats and foliage for bees and monarch butterflies. Today, Waste Management has more than 60 programs dedicated to protecting pollinators throughout North America. In addition, Waste Management leases more than 21,000 unused acres in the United States and Canada for productive use by farmers and ranchers.