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How We Manage Waste

As the leading environmental service and solutions company in North America, Waste Management provides comprehensive waste solutions to a varied customer base, including residential customers, small businesses, large corporations, manufacturing companies, universities and large public venues.

Over the past 30 years, our customers have asked us for disposal alternatives for the material we manage for them. We’ve taken this charge seriously and have created an array of service solutions—from consulting to residential and commercial recycling, to investments in new technologies that handle industrial material, to other beneficial uses such as composting and energy generation. Some ways we aim to meet our customers’ needs include:

Public-Sector Solutions. Our team of over 200 public-sector professionals are dedicated to working with municipalities across the country. With over 4,000 municipal contracts, Waste Management provides a comprehensive suite of environmental solutions that are woven into the fabric of the local communities we serve.

Direct Support of our Commercial Customers. Our commercial customers have differing service and sustainability needs, depending on state and local requirements and their customers’ expectations. Commercial customers range from restaurants and grocery stores to office buildings, retailers and event venues.

Industrial Customers and Sustainability Services. Waste Management serves the needs of all types of industrial customers by leveraging our expertise through over 400 trained consultants and service professionals who evaluate reduction and recycling service options and manage customers’ programs on site.

Our service solutions include:

  • Residential waste and recycling services
  • Temporary dumpster rental
  • Business waste and recycling services
  • Business waste compactors
  • Specialized waste streams
  • Sustainability consulting
  • Electronics recycling
  • Materials marketing

Where We Create Value, Together

Creating a circular economy—one where we get the most possible value out of every type of material—takes everyone’s help and happens in places you might not expect. See a few of the many ways Waste Management works with our stakeholders to create value out of waste:

1 At a Championship Golf Tournament

At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of the largest zero-waste events in the world, we divert waste from landfills and educate attendees on how they can do the same.

2 In the Compost Cart

Composting provides a sustainable alternative to landfills for the billions of pounds of food that are thrown away each year. The resulting organic matter is a valuable input for agriculture, landscaping and more.

3 In the Recycling Cart

We are dedicated to educating customers about the importance of recycling right—ensuring that everything that goes in the bin is fit for recycling. Encouraging good recycling practices allows us to operate more efficiently, which lowers the cost of recycling for everyone.

4 On the Front Lines of a Pandemic

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Waste Management continued residential collection without interruption—providing an essential service to customers while supplying critically needed recycled goods for manufacturing industries.

5 On Top of a Closed Landfill

It’s possible that you’ve visited a closed landfill without even knowing it. We closely monitor landfills after closure and support their conversion into golf courses, parks, wildlife habitat and more.

6 At Our Customers’ Businesses

Customers are looking for ways to operate more sustainably and reduce the waste they generate. Waste Management Sustainability Services (WMSS), our advisory services business, allows us to partner with customers to reduce their environmental impact.

7 Underneath a Landfill

At more than half of our landfills, Waste Management converts landfill gas into energy, which can be captured and beneficially used as an alternative to fossil fuel. In some cases, this fuel is used to power Waste Management’s own fleet.

8 At Our Landfill

Several of WM’s landfills host solar and wind farms, which generate renewable energy that is placed into the electricity grid reducing the use of fossil fuel.

How We Manage Waste

While many individuals and businesses are making strides to reduce waste, it remains an inevitable byproduct of everyday life. Waste Management’s role is to help customers dispose of the waste they generate in the most environmentally responsible and valuable ways possible. Most of the waste that is not reduced or reused is recycled, composted or sent to a landfill.

WASTE Reduction

Generating less waste in the first place is the most effective way to reduce environmental impact. Everyone can be a part of this waste solution. Waste Management works to encourage customers and consumers to be mindful of the amount of material they use and the subsequent waste produced.

Recycling

Recycling allows materials like paper, metal, glass and some plastics to be transformed into new goods. Advanced sorting and monitoring technology at 103 recycling facilities helps us do this with high levels of efficiency.

Organics

Organic materials such as food and yard waste can be beneficially reused as fertilizer and as a renewable source of energy. Waste Management has 40 facilities designed to handle this waste stream.

Landfills

Landfills receive waste that is not recycled or composted. As materials break down in the landfill, they produce gas that can be processed into a renewable energy source. Closed landfills can also be used for a variety of beneficial purposes such as solar farms or recreation space.

Hard-to-Handle Materials

The exception to these three major waste streams is hard-to-handle materials that cannot be processed through traditional solid waste streams, due largely to their chemical composition. Waste Management has developed several programs to help residential and business customers dispose of these materials properly. Learn more about our hard-to-handle materials initiatives.

Building Value Together
Waste Management
Division Delivers
Industry-Changing Solutions
Through Collaboration

What ideas will most transform the waste industry? New markets for recycled materials? New technologies to capture landfill gas? New ways to keep workers safe?

While we have witnessed significant technological advances in recent years, it’s very likely that the most disruptive waste solutions are yet to be invented. Waste Management is continuing to accelerate the pace of change. We’ve done so for many years by investing externally in early-stage companies focused on developing new technologies and solutions. We are also driving change within our own walls by identifying and scaling game-changing solutions quickly and effectively.

Corporate Development & Innovation (CD&I) uses a disciplined and strategic approach to focus on investments connected to our core business. CD&I makes targeted direct investments and shepherds concepts from ideation through development and licensing to help our business grow and expand its beneficial impact on customers and the environment.

Innovating Through Customer Feedback

CD&I spurs innovation through our internal Technology, Innovation and Strategic Alliances (TISA) group, which works with Waste Management’s largest customers to gather their voices and better anticipate and meet their needs. For the past three years, TISA has led the Waste Management Innovation Lab, an interactive event that gives a select group of customers the opportunity to collaborate to solve their biggest challenges. During the multiday, facilitated collaboration, Waste Management shares intelligence on current trends and technologies impacting our industry, steering the group toward productive conversations and action-oriented outcomes.

Between 2018 and 2020, 55 individuals from over 40 different companies have participated, representing a wide array of industries, including major retailers, food and beverage distributors, hoteliers and resort operators, manufacturing facilities, transportation and commercial real estate companies.

Innovation

Waste Management will stay at the forefront of emerging technology and innovative processes by promoting innovation among employees, customers and community members. A new Business Accelerator Lab will be a “maker space” where employees can discuss and pilot new ideas, such as improved ways to maintain our trucks or address safety issues.

Our Innovation work is also producing results through collaboration with other businesses. For example, alongside equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, we are piloting the use of remote-operated bulldozers and compactors at Waste Management’s Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site Landfill in Colorado. The machines are controlled from a command station located close to the landfill, and we may eventually use this station to operate equipment at a second landfill 85 miles away. Removing the operator from the cab of these machines has multiple benefits, including increased efficiency, employee safety and lower costs. It also allows us to expand our potential labor pool to include mobility-impaired candidates who would not otherwise be able to operate heavy equipment.

Venturing

Beyond exploring possible solutions within our company, we are scouting out disruptive ideas in other businesses and even other industries. Waste Management has committed a total of $16 million to four externally managed venture funds that give us exposure to potentially disruptive technologies that we might not discover on our own. These funds are focused on clean energy, water efficiency, industrial technology and process innovation. In addition, we have made 12 direct investments in solutions that span collection, recycling, product manufacturing, gasification and landfill gas.

CD&I also conducts informal reviews of hundreds of companies to identify potential breakthrough technologies and processes. One example of an area of opportunity for Waste Management is the creation of solutions for post-consumer textile waste.

Incubation

There is a universe of opportunity for Waste Management to help start up new companies, with the goal of eventually licensing the technology that is created. We are currently focused on markets that solve customer problems and have the potential to grow quickly, such as wastewater, biosolid management, plastics and packaging solutions.

One ambitious new investment is Continuus Materials, which developed Everboard, a roof covering made from hard to recycle paper and plastics. Continuus is finalizing the development of its first commercial manufacturing plant, which may be co-located at Waste Management’s Fairless Landfill in Philadelphia. When fully operational, the plant will divert approximately 320 tons of materials per day from landfills to convert them into new building products.