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Mitigating Climate ChangeClimate Management

Climate change impacts Waste Management’s business in terms of both risks and opportunities. These considerations affect all aspects of our operations and services, goals and business strategy over both the short and long term. The most important risks and opportunities we face are:

Extreme Weather

Extreme weather associated with climate change—such as drought or water scarcity, flooding, extreme heat and rain events, and fire conditions—has the potential to threaten business continuity. These include physical risks, such as damage to our facilities and fleet, and potential disruption of service. Although we can’t always know when disaster will strike, we have prepared detailed, specific plans to ensure continuity of service or a return to service in the shortest time possible. Our services are an important means to assist our community.

Regulatory Changes

An increased focus on the impacts of climate change has led to an evolving landscape of regulations with the potential to impact our operations. As part of our efforts to mitigate these impacts and comply with emerging policies, we develop and deploy innovative technologies to reduce and prevent GHG emissions

Low-Emissions Goods & Services

Our customers have expressed a desire to reduce GHG emissions that cause climate change, and Waste Management has a unique opportunity to provide goods and services that meet these needs. For example:

  • WM collects, processes and markets recyclables for customers across North America. Manufacturing new products from recycled content reduces emissions by displacing the need for virgin resources.
  • Our portfolio includes 40 facilities that produce compost and mulch products used to improve soil structure and quality, providing valuable nutrients for farmers, landscapers and home gardeners. Replacing fossil fuel-based fertilizer with organic matter avoids GHG emissions associated with fertilizer.
  • WM engaged in landfill gas to energy production at 124 of our landfills in 2019. For 97 of these projects, the processed gas is used to fuel electricity generators. The electricity is then sold to public utilities, municipal utilities or power cooperatives. For 15 of these projects, the landfill gas is processed to pipeline-quality natural gas and then sold to natural gas suppliers. For 12 of these projects, the gas is used at the landfill or delivered by pipeline to industrial customers as a direct substitute for fossil fuels in industrial processes.
  • WM’s Carbon Blocker Fly Ash treatment system, installed directly at coal-fired power plants, converts fly ash with increased carbon levels into a cement replacement in concrete.
  • Finally, Waste Management Sustainability Services furthers this effort by helping customers achieve sustainability and climate change goals.

Low-Carbon Investments

Waste Management’s senior leadership team analyzes lower-carbon financial incentives as part of the annual assessment of our market business strategy and uses this information to inform capital allocation. Ongoing capital allocation to transition our collection fleet from diesel to natural gas vehicles as an example, supports our fleet emissions reduction goal. In terms of future investments, we focus on deploying lower-carbon technologies that are already commercialized and identifying geographic-area targets for our commercial recycling and green fuel projects

We report on physical and financial risks and opportunities in section C2 of our annual submission to CDP, and under “Risk Factors” in our Annual Report and Form 10-K, which is filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Periodically, the Board of Directors is briefed on potential regulatory and market responses to climate change that may have near- or longer-term impacts on our operations or the value of our services.

Climate-Related Goals

Goals regarding our fleet, recycling operations and generation of renewable energy will help us continue to respond appropriately to emerging opportunities and risks. Waste Management updated our goals in 2018 to align with the Paris Agreement to limit planetary warming to well below two degrees Celsius. We aim to reduce, avoid and offset four times the emissions we generate in our operations by 2038.

To keep our efforts on track, we refined our goals in 2019 with interim targets to reach by 2025. These new goals include purchasing 100% renewable energy at facilities that we control, developing solutions for measuring fugitive emissions at our landfills and expanding our use of renewable fuel to power our vehicle fleet. We further affirmed our commitment to climate action in 2019 by becoming a signatory to the “We Are Still In” coalition. Learn more about progress toward our goals.

These goals matter greatly to our customers. Waste Management’s customer base is increasingly aware of climate risks and wants to ensure that their products and materials will not have adverse impacts on the environment. As such, they are likely to choose suppliers who focus on solutions such as recycling, GHG reductions, support for renewable energy and long-term liability protection. Therefore, setting long-term goals related to climate change affects 100% of our business strategy.

2019 Emissions (metric tons CO2e)
Scope Canada U.S. Total
Scope 1 Canada: 762,276 U.S.: 14,862,356 Total: 15,624,632
Scope 2 Canada: 3,644 U.S.: 234,697 Total: 238,341
Scope 3 Canada: 237,145 U.S.: 2,974,520 Total: 3,211,665

Scope 1 includes emissions from Waste Management-owned and -operated facilities and vehicles running on fossil fuel, Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from purchased electricity and Scope 3 includes business travel, employee commuting, upstream and downstream leased assets, purchased goods and services, capital goods and investments.

GHG Emissions Impact
2018 2019
GHG Footprint (Metric Tons CO2E)
Landfill 2018: 14,536,271 2019: 13,965,549
Fleet 2018: 1,321,914 2019: 1,209,237
Electricity 2018: 246,091 2019: 238,341
Other Energy Use 2018: 413,959 2019: 449,846
Potential Avoided GHG Emissions (Metric Tons CO2E)
Renewable Energy Generation 2018: 2,560,000 2019: 2,329,196
Reuse and Recycling of Materials* 2018: 31,323,081 2019: 29,719,283
Carbon Permanently Sequestered 2018: 20,044,710 2019: 20,740,667

*Based on EPA WARM model using defaults

Climate Change Oversight

Our strategies on climate change are led from the top. Waste Management’s CEO and senior leadership team maintain a public dialogue on GHG emissions reductions from low-carbon services. Our public sector team works closely with our local communities, helping implement programs that support local sustainability priorities. In 2019, Waste Management established a dedicated sustainability team to research, track and report on sustainability issues related to climate change at the company. This team maintains knowledge of climate issues, providing Waste Management’s senior leaders and Board of Directors with information on key issues that may impact our business.

Carbon Intensity

Over the past 5 years, even as Waste Management’s business has grown, our carbon emissions per operating revenue has consistently fallen. This is the result of ongoing investments in emissions reduction technologies, including our fleet, our fuel, and at our landfills.

Carbon Intensity

Bar chart showing Waste Management's Carbon Intensity from 2015 through 2019

Carbon Intensity

Net Operating Revenue (in Millions):

Carbon Intensity (MTC02e):