To be honest, I just thought my trash removal company simply took the trash I couldn’t recycle away and transported my recycling to the nearest facility. Other than being diligent about recycling household waste, bottles and cans, I didn’t know what the trash company did beyond collection. I had visions of my unrecyclable trash languishing for years somewhere in my state. Although I realize that the growing amount of trash in our country is still giant problem, I was happy to learn that Waste Management (WM) does far more than simply take trash to a dump.
The first sentence of Waste Management’s mission statement doesn’t even mention trash – it states that they are North America’s leading provider of integrated environmental solutions. It goes on to say that WM collaborates with their customers and communities to manage existing waste and work to reduce it through the collection and disposal process.
It’s more than a waste disposal company needs to do in order to do business, but WM goes further, saying that they work to recover valuable resources and create clean, renewable energy. WM lists several energy producing and conservation projects. One project uses waste to make enough energy to power 1 million homes each year (working toward doubling that number by 2020); 119 landfill-gas-to-energy initiatives produce enough energy to power approximately 400,000 homes; by the end of 2009 WM had 800 natural gas-powered trucks in their fleet with the goal making it 1000 by the end of 2010; and WM subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies owns or operates 16 waste-to-energy plants and five independent power production facilities in the U.S. that can power approximately 900,000 homes.
In addition to all their internal efforts toward recycling and renewable energy, Waste Management has also partnered with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to certify wildlife habitat programs and designate land as protected habitats. Formed in 1988, the Wildlife Habitat Council is comprised of corporations, organizations, and individuals that work with extensive landowners, specifically corporations, manage their unused land in an environmentally responsible manner.
In 2007, WM CEO David Steiner pledged WM to achieve 100 WHC-certified programs and 25,000 protected acres by 2020. By November 2010 – ten years early – WM and WHC announced that WM had surpassed its goal by certifying 103 wildlife habitat programs and preserving nearly 26,000 protected acres of land. In 2010 alone, WHC honored several WM locations, Forbes named WM as one of the 20 Most Responsible Companies of 2010, and WM also made the Ethisphere Institute’s World’s Most Ethical Companies list.
Waste Management has made impressive strides lessening the impact of our waste on the environment, transforming it into energy, and protecting the undeveloped land we have left. Continually setting new goals each year and meeting their WHC targets ten years early shows that WM takes its sustainability initiatives seriously. Now that the climate change issue is heating up and no federal or state guidelines have yet been set, businesses have been left to govern themselves. If and when any protocol is defined, WM looks like it is well on its way to meeting or exceeding them. Now, when I look at my trash I will imagine it being transformed into energy to power a home or run a truck.