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 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.
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.
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.