Our Vision for Sustainable Waste Management
Further reduce GHG emissions and recover more materials for the circular economy
Energy from Waste (EfW) is an important part of an overall sustainable waste management approach, recognized in the European Union and U.S. EPA waste management hierarchies as preferable to landfilling for those materials remaining after waste reduction, reuse and recycling efforts have been exhausted. After recycling takes place, EfW facilities recover energy from remaining waste materials in an environmentally sound manner. While doing so, EfW facilities reduce our need for fossil-based energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to landfilling. According to U.S. EPA life-cycle emission analysis, EfW facilities reduce the amount of CO2e in the atmosphere by approximately one ton for every ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) combusted.
However, we believe there is more that we can do. Our current materials management goals are centered around recovering more value from the waste resource, whether it be by recovering more energy at existing EfW facilities, constructing new best-in-class EfW facilities with even lower emission profiles, continuing our expansion of recycling services to our commercial or industrial clients, or continuing to mine our ash for valuable resources like metals and aggregates. Doing so will help us further reduce GHG emissions and recover more materials to put back into the economy.
Set a science-based target and implementation plan by 2022 to help prevent the most significant impacts of global climate change
To forestall the most severe impacts of climate change, scientists have concluded that we need to keep global temperature rise well below 2.0 degrees Celsius. Within the waste management sector, this will take transformative change. Fully implanting the waste management hierarchy globally will be a major step forward—achieving the recycling and energy recovery rates of leaders in Europe will reduce GHG emissions by one billion metric tonnes of carbon equivalents per year by 2050.
One key component will be drastically reducing, if not outright eliminating, landfilling. Landfilling is the world’s third-largest source of anthropogenic methane, a potent GHG over 80 times as strong as CO2 over a 20-year timeframe. Waste reduction, recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion will all play important roles; however, there will always be a need to manage the residual waste remaining after aggressively implementing source reduction, material reuse and recycling. This is where energy recovery augmented with novel materials management technologies will likely continue to play a key role.
Making energy recovery facilities more efficient, reducing their size and the complexity of resources needed for their construction, integrating them into microgrids and combined heat and power systems, and mining combustion ash for all usable materials are imperatives for the future. Our work today already puts us in a leadership position in many of these areas; however, we recognize that the extent of the challenge presented will require even more innovation. It is for this reason that we continue to evaluate evolving technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration, that may help reduce the carbon footprint of energy recovery even further in the future, while minimizing other environmental impacts.
As part of our vision for protecting tomorrow, we have established a new sustainability goal to set a science-based target in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures.