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Hard-to-Handle Materials

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Homes and businesses are filled with ordinary items and materials that require extraordinary disposal, handling and recycling methods, due largely to their chemical composition. Paint, automotive products, swimming pool chemicals, household cleaners, flammable and combustible items, garden chemicals, batteries, consumer electronics and items containing mercury, such as fluorescent lamps, should not be placed in regular solid waste bins. Instead, we’ve developed several collection programs to help residential, commercial and industrial customers properly manage hard-to-handle materials.

lamps collected through Waste
Management’s LampTracker® service
infectious medical waste treated and sent
for secure disposal
1.15 million
fly ash beneficially reused
materials collected through the At Your Door Special Collection® service
including consumer electronics, latex paint, hazardous materials and batteries

At Your Door Special Collection® Service

Our At Your Door Special Collection® service provides easy and convenient collection of home-generated special materials for single and multiunit homes in several states where logistics and customer preference support the service. As part of our home collection service, each participating household with qualifying materials receives a collection kit with a containment bag and instruction sheet. In 2019, Waste Management collected over 2,300 tons of materials through the At Your Door Special Collection® service. Materials collected include consumer electronics, latex paint, hazardous materials and universal waste items, such as batteries.

In addition to at-home collection services, we also collect fluorescent lamps, batteries and sharps through containers placed at public locations, such as libraries, municipal buildings and community centers. Residents can simply place items in the collection containers.

Tracker Services

For commercial customers, Waste Management Tracker Services enables businesses to dispose of universal and special wastes through a simple, safe and compliant mail-back method. This comprehensive program includes recycling kits for fluorescent lamps and bulbs, lighting ballasts, batteries, electronics, aerosol cans, thermometers, thermostats and dental amalgam, as well as safe disposal kits for sharps, medical waste and prescription and over-the-counter drugs and smoke detectors. Containers, such as the patented Mercury VaporLok® packaging for fluorescent lamps, are specifically designed for safe storage and shipping via national carriers. Customers can obtain kits through our website and receive certificates that provide proof of recycling compliance via email. Waste Management Tracker also offers bulk or pallet pickup programs for larger volumes of universal and related waste for recycling.

Waste Management operates two lamp recycling facilities: one in Arizona and one in South Carolina. Mercury is processed at a third facility in Wisconsin. Traditional lamp volumes continue to decrease with the increase of LED lighting in the marketplace. In 2019, over 6,650 tons of materials were collected through Tracker products and services.


Electronic waste material (e-waste), such as old or broken computers, printers and mobile devices, is a topic of significant environmental concern. It is the fastest-growing waste segment in North America, with more than 3 million tons generated annually in the U.S. alone. Revenue from the e-waste management industry is expected to grow an annualized 5 percent to $19 billion by 2024. Waste Management delivers electronic recycling solutions that are convenient to use, cost-effective and environmentally responsible. Our electronics recycling services can meet an organization’s specific needs, with secure transport options from any point in the U.S. or Canada. We are supported by a comprehensive network of third-party processing centers certified and independently audited to the highest standards.

All processing partner locations are audited to meet e-Steward®, R2®/RIOS certification standards and are obliged to:

  • Prevent hazardous e-waste from entering municipal incinerators or landfills.
  • Prevent the exportation of e-waste to developing countries.
  • Provide for visible tracking of e-waste throughout the product recycling chain.

Products can be refurbished and resold for value or managed at the end of their useful life for commodity recovery. Commodities such as gold, silver, copper, plastic and others are recovered, while byproducts such as mercury, lead, barium and cadmium—the inherently hazardous byproducts of electronics—are carefully managed. In 2019, 6,555 tons of e-waste were collected for recycling.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Glass Management

CRT glass, used in “tube” televisions and monitors, was once recycled into new CRTs. Although new flat screen technology has eliminated the demand for the recycled CRT glass, older equipment containing CRTs still comprises a large percentage of electronics recovered by Waste Management transfer, landfill and MRF operations. Because of rising costs, negative economic incentives and shifts in CRT glass markets, some CRT processors and recyclers have chosen to store the glass indefinitely, rather than send it for recycling or disposal, which increases the risk of mismanagement and/or abandonment of CRTs. Waste Management has implemented robust management practices to track the end disposition of CRT glass, vetting all CRT processors and recyclers and tracking CRT volumes to end disposition. Some of the newer applications for recovery are non-leaded panel glass for base material and asphalt paving and funnel glass used in a glaze for tile manufacturing.

Appliance Recycling

Waste Management manages national retail and regional residential programs for the recycling of white goods. This includes refrigerators, freezers, stoves, washers, dryers, microwave ovens, ranges, water coolers, air conditioner units and other residential appliances.

Waste Management-approved vendors use special equipment to evacuate or remove freon from refrigerators, freezers and other appliances. Oils from compressors are also evacuated and recycled. If appliances contain capacitors and/or mercury-containing devises, they are removed and recycled through approved and authorized vendors. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered and generally processed with automotive and industrial metals and delivered to end-markets for conversion into new products. In 2019, 20,221 tons of appliances were collected for recycling through this dedicated program.

Healthcare Industry Waste

The healthcare industry generates difficult-to-treat wastes, including infectious, pathological, trace chemotherapy and wasted pharmaceuticals. Waste Management works with the healthcare industry to reduce infectious medical waste and to provide facility-specific advice on means to increase recycling and ensure protective disposal of these diverse waste streams.

Focused on protecting people and the environment from potential impacts of regulated medical wastes, in 2019, Waste Management worked with over 500 health care customers, 45 hospitals and more than 1,300 smaller locations. Through these agreements, Waste Management:

  • Managed nearly 24 million pounds of infectious waste and over 1.5 million pounds of sharps
  • Treated over 17 million pounds of infectious medical waste, sending the noninfectious residue for secure disposal at secure landfill facilities
  • Disinfected and securely disposed of 1 million pounds of sharp objects, such as needles and lancets
  • Used state-of-the-art high-temperature thermal technology to destroy over 6.9 million pounds of these highly complex waste streams
  • Helped hospitals collectively achieve an industry-leading diversion rate of 19.6 percent, and regulated medical waste generation rate of 6.2 percent, below the industry average of 10 percent

Our PharmEcology business unit has implemented pharmaceutical waste management programs that have diverted over 4,100 tons of pharmaceuticals from entering waterways. In addition, PharmEcology is working nationally with hospital pharmacy and drug supply chain companies, associations and professional journals to inform the industry of U.S. EPA regulations that have mandated new requirements for the management of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals. The most far-reaching of these mandates is the national prohibition against using the sewer system for any hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, including hazardous waste-controlled substances, by all healthcare facilities and reverse distributors, which took effect August 21, 2019. PharmEcology will assist pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to understand and operationalize the new Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendment to the P075 Listing for Nicotine; the new Management Standards also took effect federally and in some states on August 21, 2019 and will be adopted by all states, at some level, over the next two years.

The PharmEcology Waste Wizard® is an online pharmaceutical database that is updated weekly and provides specifics on the categorization of pharmaceutical hazardous waste. It includes state-specific guidance and hazardous drug handling guidance per the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) General Chapter <800> to healthcare subscribers and consultation clients. The USP <800> hazardous drug handling standards became effective nationally on December 1, 2019. They focus on protecting patients, healthcare personnel and the environment when handling hazardous drugs from receipt through wastage. PharmEcology clients receive guidance on personal protective equipment and engineering controls based on their specific drugs, dosage forms and types of manipulation to help minimize the risk of exposure.

Coal Ash Recycling

Air pollution regulations require particulates such as fly ash, a coal combustion byproduct to be captured rather than emitted. Power plants use activated carbon injection (ACI) systems to remove mercury from flue gases, which is then recaptured in the electrostatic precipitators or bag houses. This process prevents mercury from escaping the smokestack into the atmosphere, resulting in fly ash with elevated carbon levels.

Fly ash can be used as a cement replacement in concrete production instead of being disposed as waste. However, increased carbon levels from the methods used to remove mercury from flue gases negatively affect the durability of concrete. Our patented Carbon Blocker fly ash treatment system is widely used by utilities to improve the quality of fly ash, making it suitable for recycling in concrete product applications. With more ACI systems in use today, fly ash recycling is a growing business for us. Since we acquired this proprietary technology in 2012, revenues have quadrupled, and in 2019 we beneficially used 1,149,000 tons of fly ash, with 994,214 metric tons of carbon dioxide (MTCO2e) avoided.