53

Landfill Gas Recovery Systems

owned or operated by Waste Connections

32.5

Billion Standard Cubic Feet

of landfill gas is converted annually at Waste Connections facilities

11.7%

of Waste Connections’ routed trucks run on alternative fuel


The Path to Drawdown: Landfill Gas

Although CO2 is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, 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 some 12% of total global methane emissions.

Methane comes from the organic matter in landfills like food scraps, yard trimmings, junk wood, and waste paper. The decomposition of this waste 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. The benefits of this solution are twofold: 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, the methane that’s captured is enough 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

About

Waste Connections (stock ticker: WCN) is an integrated waste services company that provides waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services, primarily of solid waste. Headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas and Waughan, Ontario, they’re the third largest waste management company in North America.

WCN's Role in Drawdown

Waste Connections provides waste collection services to residential, commercial, municipal, industrial and E&P customers. Their integrated service starts with collecting waste, transferring it to landfill sites of various types, and recycling what can be recycled.

As of the end of 2020, they owned or operated 66 municipal solid waste landfills (p. 8), 12 landfills that only accept waste by-products from oil and natural gas exploration and production, 13 non-municipal solid waste landfills, which only accept construction and demolition, industrial and other non-putrescible waste, and one development stage landfill. They deploy gas recovery systems at 51 of their landfills to collect methane, which is used to generate electricity for local households, fuel local industrial power plants or power alternative fueled vehicles. In some cases, landfill gas generated at their landfills qualifies as a renewable fuel for which renewable fuel credits may be available.

In 2018 and 2019, Waste Connections recovered 24.2 billion and 32.5 billion (p. 51) Standard Cubic Feet of landfill gas, respectively. That’s equivalent to sequestering emissions from 288,491 - 387,436 passenger cars for one year.

WCN: What We Like

In addition to their facilities helping avoid a significant amount of GHG emissions (646,668 and 848838 metric tons of CO2e (p. 49) avoided in 2018 and 2019, respectively), Waste Connections has set several targets (p. 15) to enhance their sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint. They intend to hit these targets by the year 2033, with 2018 as the base year:

  • To increase offsets to GHG emissions by at least 50%
  • To increase biogas recovery by at least 40%
  • Increase resources recovered by at least 50%
  • Process at least 50% of leachate on-site

 

WCN: What We Want to See Improve

Stop Accepting Waste From Fossil Fuel Companies


Waste Connections serves oil and natural gas exploration and production companies (p. 10) by treating, recovering, and disposing of their waste. These services enable the survival of the fossil fuel industry, which goes against Waste Connections’ purported sustainability commitments. We urge them to stop providing these services to gas and oil companies.

Reduce Absolute GHG Emissions


We applaud Waste Connections for setting clear and concrete sustainability goals and setting aside a budget of $500 million (p. 12) to achieve these targets. But we want them to go further by reducing their absolute GHG emissions. Their total emissions have grown by ~28.9% between 2017 and 2019. In absolute terms, that’s an increase of 507,000 metric tons of CO2e, the equivalent to carbon emissions from 61,055 homes’ energy use in one year. We urge them to begin reducing their emission, instead of simply increasing offset or reducing their carbon intensity.

Adopt Zero-Emission Vehicles Faster


As part of their effort to increase offsets to emissions by 50%, Waste Connections anticipates (p. 17) taking delivery of fully electric collection trucks for beta testing. We cannot urge this initiative strongly enough and call on Waste Connections to adopt electric vehicles and vehicles that run purely off their captured methane as soon as possible.

Other Landfill Methane Capture Stocks in the Climate Index

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