Sustainability Gains by Waste Reduction Process

Waste Management

12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action 14. Life Below Water

Overview

There are several innovations that have led Waste Management to have an impact on society and the environment while, in the meantime, helping their business. One of the most helpful innovations to Waste Management has been the practice of waste reduction. This is a practice of trying as best as they can to minimize the amount of waste starting at the beginning of the manufacturing process. They implemented this practice after realizing they could make a much greater impact on the environment if they moved up the processing chain to before the products were manufactured and helped companies at the forefront of the manufacturing process.

Authors

Lauren Spelich

Lauren Spelich

Hayley Borgia

Hayley Borgia

School

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

Professor

Nancy Landrum

Nancy Landrum

Innovation

With the waste reduction process, the company works with the customers to analyze the manufacturing process and what goes into the materials used. Every manufacturer makes choices when creating a process. Waste Management uses this waste reduction process to help its clients to make clean choices so they can try to divert as much waste as possible from landfills. By using recyclable materials and chemicals, manufacturers can help increase the amount of recyclables and decrease the amount of waste. This process of waste reduction contributes largely to the 12th SDG, “Responsible Consumption and Production.” This process allows Waste Management to help companies produce less waste and more recyclable materials.

Waste Management is using artificial intelligence to reduce waste and create a more efficient recycling process. Machines are able to process materials a lot faster than humans. This innovation is different from competitors because, instead of struggling to find people to constantly oversee the recycling process, they can rely on AI-driven robots to be equipped in using grippers and suction cups to pick up recyclable objects. The robots use cameras, sensors, and machine-learning software to recognize visual patterns associated with specific items. Waste Management will process more recycled tons per hour and provide cleaner recycled products. They have high hopes that AI can help solve the recycling crisis and distinguish themselves from the competition.

The waste reduction process extends even further with preserving natural resources. Not only does it help customers make cleaner choices with their inputs, the process also works to help companies use less material in general throughout their processes. By using less material, it therefore enables companies to have less waste and, almost as importantly, use less energy which contributes to lowering overall pollution.

Waste Management also uses a process called “Waste Management Sustainability Services" (WMSS) to help customers gain access to resources, technologies, and innovations that Waste Management has to offer. With WMSS, each customer is assigned their own team of Waste Management experts who help companies ensure that the programs they construct are executed to drive environmental, social, and economic value. This process has also contributed to helping Waste Management's overall impact with concerns to business, social, and environmental benefits.


Sustainability Gains by Waste Reduction Process

Inspiration

In 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest marine oil spill in history happened. Waste Management was one of the organizations involved in helping to clean up this disaster. They were in charge of the water affected on the borders of Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. The company used the bacteria Daramand. This bacterium was used to eat up the oil and break it down. A notable SDG the company contributed to with the helping of the oil spill clean up is the 14th one, “Life Below Water.” When Matt Hernedez started working with the company, he did not understand the impact Waste Management had on sustainability. Over his 18 years working there he has seen growth of efficiency in the environmental industry. Waste Management is the largest collector of recyclable materials from businesses and households in the United States and Canada. Waste Management is working to reduce the use of landfills and increase the act of recycling. They have worked with one of the largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the world to reduce their use of packaging. This customer now recycles 99% of their waste. This puts pressure on competitors of leading retail companies to do the same. Another form of pressure that Waste Management has put onto other companies is their use of natural gas trucks. Waste Management has the second most amount of trucks on the roads in the morning. They have created a way for their company to maximize the take in of energy from their landfills and use it to create renewable fuels to power their fleet of trucks. Matt believes that, by their company making changes like these, it can inspire other companies around the world to take the same type of initiative.

In 1893 a Dutch immigrant named Harm Huizenga began collecting trash for a small fee. By 1968 Huizenga's grandson Wayne had a vision alongside two other investors: Dean Buntrock and Larry Beck. Their vision was to properly manage waste. By the 1970s America was starting to have a more environmental mindset. Waste Management at the time had been disposing of waste in a responsible way but now they wanted to step up in being committed to creating a more sustainable environment. Waste Management became public in 1972. By 1982 they had become the world's largest disposal company generating more than a billion dollars in sales.


Overall impact

Waste Management is most proud of their impact on society and the planet by educating people. Many people, even today, still do not know which materials are recyclable and which are not. It is estimated that twenty-five percent of materials put in recycle bins are not actually recyclable. This is where Waste Management’s campaign, “Recycle Often, Recycle Right” comes into play and helps consumers understand what can and cannot be recycled. The main way their campaign educates people is through their toolkit. This toolkit includes brochures, posters, ads, radio clips, blog posts, videos and more, used to help spread the message. This is a national campaign and it joins with partners such as The Recycling Partnership, AMERIPEN, and the National Waste and Recycling Association to help spread their message and continue educating people, especially youth, on what can and cannot be recycled. By focusing on the youth and in specific grades K-12, Waste Management believes they can make the greatest impact so the upcoming generations follow suit in making our Earth a cleaner and more sustainable place.

By creating this campaign, Waste Management experiences short-term effects and predicts long-term effects. Some of the short-term effects include reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills and creating energy to use in homes. Energy is created by Waste Management’s collection and composting of food waste. When food waste decomposes, it can be used in a variety of different ways. A major way Waste Management uses food waste is to convert it into a main component of natural gas that people can eventually use as a source of fuel. In the long term, Waste Management predicts that this source of education will have a positive impact on the ozone layer and also help create a close loop situation. By educating the public and helping them recycle things the right way, the components of these recyclable products can go back to manufacturers so they can use these same resources again to help make the materials for products.


Business benefit

Through business practices and the “Recycle Often, Recycle Right” campaign, Waste Management business benefits. Waste Management is forcing businesses to rethink who they are and what impacts they want to have on society. In order for businesses to reduce their waste and have a positive impact, they need to use processes that are recycling-friendly. Since they are traveling upstream to the source of where the waste is coming from, they are able to analyze all of the processes and help identify ways not only to make an environmental impact, but also potential ways to save money. Businesses can build recycling programs into their business model and can create cost avoidance and potentially free-up funding for other sustainable activities if they are knowledgeable and informed about how they can do so. Waste Management helps play this part in a lot of businesses. Waste Management and organizations like Waste Management are slowly forcing change in all elements of society.

In addition to these business practices and the “Recycle Often, Recycle Right” campaign, WMSS plays a huge part in customers' successes with concerns to business benefits. Waste Management has a goal of providing ten percent of any given customer's revenues back to customers as cost savings for contracts of less than five years and six percent for contracts of more than five years. In 2017, out of 97 customer facilities under WMSS service engagements, Waste Management was able to present a $14.8 million in cost savings on $181.7 million in revenue. This is not new to Waste Management: 2017 marked the 14th consecutive year that WMSS delivered more than $10 million per year in cost savings. To break down what type of solutions WMSS was using to produce this cost savings, 22% was from strategic sourcing, 47% was from process improvement, 9% from optimized logistics, and 22% from recycling/reusing. Overall, it is fairly evident that WMSS is making an impact not only on the environment, but helping businesses save money as well.


Social and environmental benefit

As being the largest collector of recycled materials from businesses in both the United States and Canada, Waste Management has been able to benefit both society and the environment in fairly large ways. By giving attention to the major cities in the United States and making sure that green processes are being upheld, they are improving the quality of life of citizens daily. From a social impact perspective, their recycling techniques and education platforms help ensure the reduction of waste and energy pollution. If they can continue to reduce the amount of energy pollution across these two nations, it will create a significant amount of less air pollution and benefit the health of the citizens on a very large scale. By reducing the amount of waste, they are aiding the United States to move towards a more circular economy system where resources can be used over and over again. Using robots during the recycling process has gained new momentum for Waste Management since China rocked the global recycling industry in early 2018 by halting imports of the world's contaminated mixed paper and plastic waste. From their AI that helps capture recyclable materials from ending up in landfills, to the process of waste reduction and moving upstream to help companies use more environmentally friendly materials, Waste Management is without a doubt doing their part to make our Earth a healthier and more sustainable place.

Interview

Matt Hernedez, Industrial Sales Representative

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Waste Management

Waste Management

Country Wide, US

Business Website: www.wm.com

Year Founded: 1968

Number of Employees: 10000+

As the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services, Waste Management serves municipal, commercial, industrial and residential customers throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, the company provides integrated waste management services consisting of collection, landfill, transfer, waste-to-energy and in-plant services, recycling and other related services.