Top Sustainability Issues


Minimizing Waste

We live in a world where little can go to waste anymore. Waste Management recognizes that we must maximize our resource value and minimize waste. With this mission in mind, we have been reconsidering the nature of waste and recovering value from waste. Environmental sustainability is not only good for our planet but also helps businesses cut costs and improve their operations. The following are some sustainability issues to watch for in the coming years:

1. Water conservation: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 35 states will be facing water shortages by 2013. Since water uses up energy due to heating and pumping, water conservation will not only help save our water supply but also conserve energy and reduce our water footprint.

2. Renewable energy: When we speak of renewable energy, wind and solar power come to mind. However, many people do not realize that landfill gas is also a valuable source of renewable energy. Landfill gas is produced through the decomposition of waste and collected through extraction wells placed in the landfill. Landfill gas can be used in any facility that otherwise uses fossil fuel.

3. Sustainable building design: California has been leading the way in sustainable, green building and has a mandatory green building code. Last year, California passed a new building code, dubbed "CalGreen", which applies to all newly constructed residential and non-residential buildings.

CalGreen's goals are to reduce construction waste, make buildings more energy-efficient, and reduce the environmental impact of construction. It is important for construction companies to find a partner that can help them reduce their environmental impact and easily track statistics on recycling and diversion rates.

4. Food waste: Food waste is an often-overlooked issue but bears heavy costs to the global environment. The US generates over 34 million tons of food waste each year, most of which ends up in landfills and incinerators. Such waste leads to excess energy consumption and increased greenhouse gases.

Food waste can easily be reduced, reused, and recycled. Recycled food waste, or compost, has many environmental benefits such as improved soil health and structure as well as reduced need for supplemental water. A waste audit would help a company figure out where and when waste is generated; such information can then be used to reduce food waste and save money.

5. Recycling: Recycling turns waste into valuable resources. In 2009, about 34% of waste was recovered and recycled, preventing the release of approximately 178 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. This was the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road for a year!

We all have a duty to protect the environment and leave it better for the future generations. Waste Management is committed to this cause and will help you seize every opportunity to turn waste into a resource that benefits our communities and the environment, while helping you save money.

For more information, contact Waste Management Sustainability Services at 877-441-3046 or visit our website at wmsustainabilityservices.com.

About the Author

Waste Management

Waste Management, Inc. is North America's leading provider of integrated environmental solutions. We partner with our customers and communities to manage and reduce waste from collection to disposal while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy.

Our 45,000 employees are committed to Environmental Performance — our mission to maximize resource value, while minimizing environmental impact so that both our economy and our environment can thrive. Serving over 20 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers, Waste Management posted $12.52 billion of revenues in 2010.

Drawing on our resources and experience, we actively pursue projects and initiatives that benefit the waste industry, the communities we serve and the environment.

• Waste Management uses waste to create enough energy to power more than 1 million homes every year. By 2020, we expect to double that output, creating enough energy to power more than 2 million homes.

• As North America’s largest recycler, Waste Management managed more than 7 million tons of recyclable commodities in 2009. By the year 2020, we expect to increase the amount of material we manage to more than 20 million tons per year.

• By the end of 2009, Waste Management had 119 landfill-gas-to-energy projects producing 540 megawatts of power, the equivalent of powering approximately 400,000 homes.

• At the end of 2009, we had more than 800 natural gas-powered trucks in our fleet, with plans to add 200 more in 2010. During the year, we also used technology to reduce the fuel burn of every truck in our fleet. When fully implemented, this is expected to save 9 million gallons of fuel per year.

• Our wholly owned subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies owns or operates 16 waste-to-energy plants and five independent power production facilities in the U.S. that generate enough energy to power more than 900,000 homes.

• Through a joint venture with the Linde Group, we have built a plant that converts landfill gas into liquefied natural gas for use as fuel in our trucks. The facility is currently producing 13,000 gallons per day.

• At the end of 2009, we had a total of 73 WHC-certified sites. We also set a goal to have 25,000 acres dedicated solely to nature preservation by 2020, and we have nearly reached that goal: at year-end, we had 24,000 protected acres.

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