The best way to avoid waste and its associated environmental impacts is to reduce the production of materials that become waste in the first place.
Recycling and composting play an important role in how we manage material, but generating less waste offers the greatest environmental benefit of all. While waste reduction is a function of consumer and business behavior, and largely out of Waste Management’s control, we regularly work with customers and communities to help them find ways to reduce waste at the source.
Helping Customers Reduce Waste
For example, Waste Management Sustainability Services (WMSS), our advisory services business, enables us to work with customers to analyze supply chain choices, like the way procurement strategy impacts the way waste is managed, and make recommendations to improve environmental impact and reduce waste generated. WMSS’s offerings include remote and on-site support and data solutions to help customers make sense of their waste streams. Working with a wide range of sectors—automotive, chemical, manufacturing and the petrochemical industry—WMSS has helped our industrial customers save millions of dollars through a variety of waste reduction and recycling efforts, strategic material sourcing and optimized logistics.
Another way we help reduce waste generation is by focusing on food. Preventing food waste upstream benefits the environment in terms of emissions reduction and helps communities in need by providing nutrition that would otherwise go unused. The U.S. EPA, states, local governments and the environmental service sector have increasingly focused on how to avoid food waste. We are working with stakeholders on new ways to avoid emissions by reducing the amount of food discarded.
Reducing Waste in Our Own Business
While Waste Management’s primary responsibility is to handle waste generated by our customers, we also work to reduce the waste that is generated within our operations and supply chain. One example of these efforts is our procurement of retread tires. When the tire tread on a Waste Management vehicle wears down, it is sent to a certified tire retreading dealer. The tire is carefully cleaned and repaired, then chemically cured with a fresh tread, built to Waste Management’s specifications, that allows it to function like new. Retread tires contain about 75 percent post-consumer content, which avoids the resource extraction, water consumption, air pollution and CO2 emissions associated with manufacturing new tires. Waste Management tires are retreaded twice on average, and we purchased more than 145,000 retread tires in 2019 alone.
Sustainable Sports and Entertainment
The Sustainable Sports and Entertainment division of WMSS offers a nationwide network of environmental professionals to help advance teams, venues and organizations along the path toward sustainability. Stadiums, events and conferences are complex systems that require comprehensive management to bring new life to discarded materials and reduce environmental impacts. Environmental stewardship offers venues and events the opportunity to affect social change, develop meaningful ways to engage local communities, grow brand affinity and ultimately advance the purpose of sport.
While the pinnacle of our sustainable event work is the Waste Management Phoenix Open, we have invested in supporting numerous clients with sustainable event management advisory services for over a decade. Working with stadiums, tournaments and meetings of all sizes, we create positive impacts that last long after an event ends.
Across multiple events in 2019, our Sustainable Sports and Entertainment Team helped:
Divert almost 2,500 tons of waste from landfills, including 516 tons of organic materials and 1,468 tons of recyclable material
Divert 16 tons of food and almost 34 tons of other material through donations
Avoid 4,582 MtCO2e through waste diversion programs
Initiate comprehensive environmental impact baselines for sporting events with over 6.3 million attendees
Achieve zero waste at eight events, three of which received zero waste validations
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Our relationship with MetLife Stadium includes material management and sustainability initiatives. Waste Management developed operational adjustments and engaged employees through videos and in-person training sessions that significantly increased baled recyclables and diversion of food waste. To expand on the materials management focus, we are helping with additional environmental impact tracking, game-day educational activations and building out public reporting about the stadium’s sustainability programs.
New York Road Runners
This is a model for sports and entertainment organizations with complicated footprints. Waste Management provided a comprehensive baseline analysis, data collection and management, a third-party certification review, product life cycle analyses and the development of a long-term sustainability plan. This project involved benchmarking NYRR’s environmental impacts at their three facilities and weekly races, including the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon.
Waste Management and GreenBiz have coordinated on zero waste events since 2015, including three major events in 2019. Over the years, Waste Management has developed attendee engagement videos, supported material requirements for venues and vendors, and led behind-the-scenes zero waste tours to pull back the curtain on how to implement thoughtful materials management programs.
Building Value Together 10 Years of the Greenest Show on Grass
The Waste Management Phoenix Open
For the past decade, Waste Management has been title sponsor of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the most attended PGA TOUR tournament and largest third-party-certified zero waste event in the world. We have consistently used this spotlight to engage with stakeholders on environmental issues, to shift business and consumer behaviors toward thoughtful product design and materials management, and to raise the bar for sustainable sports globally. In advance of the 2020 tournament, we were pleased to join the United Nations Sports for Climate Action initiative, which is helping to mobilize the sports community in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. WMPO will embrace and advance the principles established by the Sports for Climate Action Framework, including promoting environmental responsibility, reducing climate impact, educating participants around climate action, promoting sustainable and responsible consumption, and advocating for climate action.
A growing number of people and brands are eager to be part of this purpose-driven platform. In 2020, Waste Management engaged with fans, sustainability experts, brands, online and social audiences and others to work together toward a sustainable tomorrow.
In 2020, we focused on the importance of recycling right for hundreds of thousands of people on the course and millions of viewers at home. Our messaging was simple and focused on contamination reduction: keep liquid, food waste and plastic bags out of recycling.
For fans on the course, the Green Scene area featured redesigned bins for recycling and compost, and games that required participants to recycle right to win.
All participating brands, vendors and sponsors agree to sustainability requirements that guarantee we remain a zero waste event. Beyond ensuring that waste is not generated at the event, we prioritize brands that use post-consumer recycled content. For example:
Sportswear company Loudmouth’s 2020 WMPO Party Pants included 50% REPREVE recycled fibers made from plastic bottles.
Packaging provider Pratt Industries made recycling and compost bins from recycled cardboard that had previously been used during the tournament.
Refresh Glass, an Arizona-based glassware company, collected wine bottles and turned them into custom-engraved glasses.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open takes a broad view of waste, seeking to reduce material consumption, water and greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon-neutral event purchases 100% renewable electricity from Arizona Public Service and seeks third-party certification for our zero waste initiatives. See our Waste Management Phoenix Open Sustainability Report for details and watch our Behind-the-Scenes Sustainability Tour to see our initiatives in action.