Waste Management Sets Baseline for Environmental Plans
Waste Management’s landfills account for about 15 percent of all landfills in the U.S., and that land is full of plenty of trash that can provide energy in two ways, in the form of landfill-gas-to-energy or waste-to-energy.
Through the 16 waste-to-energy plants that subsidiary Wheelabrator operates and Waste Management’s 100 landfill gas projects, the company produces enough energy to power about 1 million homes. By 2020, Waste Management wants to double that figure. It’s already planning an additional 60 landfill gas projects by 2012, and by the end of that year wants landfill gas projects at all locations possible.
Secondly, Waste Management wants to nearly triple the amount of material it recycles. Currently it handles 8 million tons a year, and wants to up that to 20 million tons by 2020. The company’s WM Recycle America subsidiary will focus on single-stream recycling facilities and technology, both to improve participation in recycling programs as well as provide more recyclable materials.
Introducing single-stream recycling, on average, increases the recovery of recyclables by 30 percent, according to Waste Management. The company plans to invest in new facilities in new markets to capture the highest volume of recyclables, while also being careful to develop an infrastructure that requires minimum transportation. It will also invest in advanced technologies to allow facilities to handle more material per year.
On the subject of transportation, Waste Management aims to increase its fleet efficiency by 15 and reduce emissions by 15 percent by 2020. A 15 percent reduction in fuel use would eliminate the need for 350 million gallons of gas and the emission of 3.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. To get there, Waste Management will spend an average of $450 million a year on improving its fleet and heavy equipment with new technologies and alternative fuels.
Lastly, landfills aren’t just big open piles of trash, and Waste Management has strived over the years to provide property at its landfills for community uses (such as environmental education centers and golf courses) and to also protect habitats. Its landfills currently include 17,000 acres of protected wetlands and wildlife habitats (certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council) at 24 sites, and by 2020 it aims to increase that to 25,000 acres at 100 landfills.
By GreenBiz Staff