Waste Management Inc. is nearly two-thirds of the way to meeting its 2020 sustainability goal of almost tripling the amount of recyclable material it manages annually, according to the company’s 2012 sustainability report.
In 2011, the company managed 12.9 million tons of recyclable material. This is 61 percent more than its 2007 baseline year total and up from 8.5 million tons in 2009, which is the next most recent year for which the report provides data. The company’s target for 2020 is to manage 20 million tons of recyclable material, according to the report.
WM opened or acquired a net 14 new materials processing plants in 2011, including three single-stream recycling plants. The company saw significant growth in organics collection and processing, which reached 2.5 million tons in 2011 — compared to no organic material reported in 2007. In total the company purchased nearly 1 million tons of new materials processing capacity in 2011: three-quarters for recycling plants and acquisitions and one-quarter for organics recycling, the report says.
In 2012 and beyond, WM expects the amount of material handled to grow even faster as it expands its single-stream recycling capacity, builds infrastructure to collect and process organic materials, and invests in new ways to unlock more value from organic waste, the report says.
The company also made progress toward its waste-based energy production goal. In 2009, the company produced enough energy from waste to power 1.07 million households. In 2011, this figure increased nine percent to 1.17 million households – the equivalent of almost 23.5 million barrels of oil or nearly 6.1 million tons of coal. By 2020, WM hopes to power 2 million homes from its waste-based energy program.
There are two main ways WM creates energy from waste: by recovering the energy in trash through “waste-to-energy” combustion and by harvesting landfill gas as a combustible fuel. According to to the US Department of Energy, in 2011 the company produced eight times more renewable energy than the US solar industry.
WM’s wholly owned subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies is partnering with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to develop a WTE facility in Frederick County, Md., that is projected to process an average of 1,500 tons per day of post-recycling solid waste. At that rate, the facility would generate about 51 MW of electricity, providing enough energy to power an estimated 45,000 homes, the report says.