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MeterHero Sponsored Series

The ROI of Sustainability

Waste Management Helps Businesses Turn Waste into Opportunity

By Joi Sears

This article is part of a series on “The ROI of Sustainability,” written with the support of MeterHero. MeterHero helps companies and organizations offset their water and energy footprints through consumer engagement. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.

Waste Management is changing the game when it comes to zero-waste-to-landfill. As the largest environmental solutions provider in North America, serving more than 20 million customers, Waste Management is easily becoming a frontrunner in the environmental sustainability movement.

It’s much bigger than just trash collection. Waste Management is essentially a one-stop shop, providing all inclusive, sustainable disposal solutions to some of the world’s leading businesses and industries. The company’s sustainability services merge consulting and operational expertise to help businesses move forward on their path toward sustainable success.

From working alongside Whole Foods to develop a composting solution that turns food waste into fertilizer, to creating comprehensive recycling programs for colleges and universities, Waste Management seizes every opportunity to turn waste into a resource that benefits our communities and the environment.

The business case for zero waste

Waste Management sustainability services is proof that sustainability pays. Since 2003, the company has delivered more than 157 million in direct cost-savings to customers. The company works across all industries to turn waste, a traditional cost center, into solutions that benefit businesses, their customers and the environment.

The Waste Management team works with companies to strategize and implement sustainability initiatives that reduce cost, improve efficiencies and reduce waste.

To be truly effective, Waste Management goes on-site. Project managers provide onsite and comprehensive programs that offer significant environmental, economic and social returns. Their services range from helping businesses reach zero-waste-to-landfill, to helping companies really understand what happens to their products and packaging throughout every point in the supply chain and tell their sustainability story by tracking business, operational and environmental metrics.

By looking at points of intervention throughout the manufacturing, distribution and recycling processes, Waste Management consultants are able to develop diversion strategies that not only have a positive impact on the planet, but also save money.

“We work right alongside a company’s employees to identify ways of diverting waste upstream," Tom Carpenter, director of growth and development for Waste Management Sustainability Services, told TriplePundit. "Whether it’s saving on operational costs, finding beneficial reuse items or working with manufacturers to close the loop, our consultants are able to find concrete ways to drive savings for customers.”

The company, which originally found its footing in the automotive industry, helps General Motors generate $1 billion in byproducts each year. “It’s all about finding value in every product that is used,” Carpenter explained. “This translates to the bottom-line dollar that we’ve helped companies save every year."

Case study: The Phoenix Open

A great example of how Waste Management has embraced the zero-waste-to-landfill challenge is the Phoenix Open. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is the best-attended golf tournament in the world. It takes place each year in Scottsdale, Arizona, and welcomes more than 500,000 fans annually. The largest golf event across the nation, the total economic impact grossed over $268 million last year.

Since 2013, Waste Management has diverted 100 percent of the tournament waste from landfills. What started off as a goal that many considered impossible turned into an overwhelming success. One hundred percent of all waste went to recycling, composting and waste-to-energy facilities. In simple terms: Seven days, 563,000 fans, zero waste.

The Waste Management team implemented many initiatives to reach their zero-waste goal. First and foremost, no trash cans were permitted at the event. They were replaced by 6,000 recycling and compost bins positioned throughout the course. In addition to this, there were 60 solar-powered compactors, each holding five times that of a traditional bin.

The event featured numerous recycling stations in high-traffic areas which were staffed with “recycling ambassadors” who could answer questions about how to recycle and compost. All power for the tournament was provided by renewable energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal, biogas and biomass. The event also featured a solar-powered hospitality tent where guests could sit back, relax and enjoy a renewable future.

As a part of Waste Management’s “grey water” initiative, drain water was rerouted from the kitchens, laundries and hospitality areas for use in the portable restrooms, saving thousands of gallons of fresh water. The company used four compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks to transport the waste and recycled materials collected during the tournament. These clean-burning CNG trucks emit 95 percent less particulate matter and 90 percent less carbon monoxide than comparable diesel-fueled vehicles.

Additionally, the Waste Management Sustainability Services team worked diligently with vendors to track inventories, inputs and outputs and to source recyclable and compostable materials. Approximately 10,000 pounds of unused food was donated to a local nonprofit, and reusable tote bags were made from used tournament vinyl and mesh banners.

The tournament also featured significant community impact: Through charitable giving, community stakeholder engagement, and the involvement of students and underrepresented groups, the Waste Management Phoenix Open was able to impact the lives of citizens in the surrounding community.

In 2014, over $7 million was generated in charitable donations. Donations were given to local organizations that supplied volunteers to work in the Zero Waste Stations, and free tournament entry was offered to law enforcement, emergency and military personnel.

A future without waste

Waste Management is essentially imagining a future without waste. This is a future where products are designed to generate little to no waste in the first place, everything can be recycled or reused, and organic materials are transformed into energy. Things are no longer simply thrown away, but productively recaptured for new use. What if waste as we know it completely disappeared?

Waste Management is taking giant steps toward this future. The company is committed to developing innovative solutions that are helping communities and organizations achieve their green goals, including zero waste. Across the board, Waste Management is creating new ways of turning waste into opportunity.

“People talk about the triple bottom line of environmentalism,” explained Waste Management CEO David Steiner. “I have a different triple bottom line. I have three little boys, and I want to pass the planet down to them better than we inherited it.”

Image credits: Waste Management

Joi Sears headshot

Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.

Read more stories by Joi Sears