26000

Vehicles

comprise Waste Management's fleet, the largest trucking fleet in the waste industry

34%

Alternative Fuel

8,924 of the vehicles in WM's fleet (34%) run on alternative fuel like biogas

107

Metric Tons of GHG Emissions

were avoided through WM's operations in 2018 and 2019

View Our Analysis

The Path to Drawdown: Landfill Gas

Although carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas that’s often talked about, methane has 34 times the greenhouse effect of CO2 over the course of a century. And the biggest source of methane are landfills, accounting for 12% of total global methane emissions.

Methane comes from the organic matter in landfills like food scraps, yard trimmings, junk wood, and wastepaper. Their decomposition produces biogas, a roughly equal mix of carbon dioxide, methane, and small amounts of other gases.

As diets change, waste is reduced, and recycling and composting grow, we’re hopeful that landfill waste as a whole will diminish. But for now, as the modern way of life continues and organic matter in landfills continues to decompose, landfills and landfill methane emissions keep growing.

The way to manage this is landfill methane capture - the process of capturing methane generated from anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste in landfills and incinerating the captured biogas to generate electricity. This solution has double benefits: it captures methane from landfills that’s far worse for global warming, and it replaces conventional electricity-generating technologies like coal, oil, and natural gas power plants.

Currently, enough methane is captured to generate 33.1 TWh of electricity, or 0.13% of total electricity generated worldwide. In the best-case scenario for 2050, landfills wouldn’t exist, and integration and waste feedstock availability would mean a net greenhouse gas sequestration, rather than emission. In a less ideal scenario, 70% of the world’s landfills will have adopted methane capture, and they help reduce 2.2 gigatons of CO2e between 2020 and 2050

What We Want to See Improve

Capture Methane at All Landfill Sites

As of the end of 2020, Waste Management owned or operated 268 landfills. Of these, they captured methane at 146 sites (p. 7), or ~54%. We urge Waste Management to scale their methane capture operations to 100% of their landfill sites.

Reduce Absolute Emissions

Waste Management is right to be proud of reducing their carbon intensity (p. 54) (CO2e emissions per dollar of revenue) over the last five years. But at the same time, their absolute total emissions have gone up by 8.45% - over 372,000 metric tons - in the last four years. That’s the same amount of emissions that 81,401 passenger cars emit in one year. This is unacceptable, and we urge Waste Management to begin cutting their absolute emissions as soon as possible.

Include Emissions Reductions in Supplier Code of Conduct

We applaud Waste Management’s detailed supplier code of conduct, which spells out their expectations for the consultants, contractors and suppliers they partner with. But nowhere in this code of conduct does Waste Management mention carbon footprint. While Waste Management’s overall scope 3 emissions have steadily declined, emissions from their supply chain have increased over the last four years. This should be cause of concern, and we urge Waste Management pressure their suppliers and partners to cut their own emissions as soon as possible.

Related Methane Digester Stocks in the Climate Index

View All Climate Index Stocks →

Allocated Company Description

4.27%

Waste Management, Inc. (WM)

Waste Management collects waste and recyclable materials across North America and converts landfill gas to energy - a solution to methane emissions

2.26%

Waste Connections (WCN)

WCN collects waste and captures methane from a majority of their landfills. It’s a key alternative to methane emissions

0.28%

Casella Waste Systems (CWST)

Casella’s solid waste service converts methane from landfills into energy. It’s a much lower-emission alternative than releasing methane into the air

0.05%

Village Farms International, Inc. (VFF)

VFF captures methane from landfills, converts it into electricity, and sells it to a utility company. Methane capture is a key solution to reduce emissions

0.02%

Renovare Environmental, Inc. (RENO)

Renovare Environmental enables organizations to divert organic waste from landfill and instead turn it into fertilizer and fuel. They help reduce methane emissions

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