Although conservation, reuse, recycling and composting have reduced municipal waste, most of the waste we generate still ends up in landfills. At present, there are more than three thousand landfills in the United States. Many are modern well-engineered facilities that are located, designed, operated, monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations. These regulations include: restrictions that require landfills to be located away from wetlands, wood plains and other restricted areas; clay reinforced liners; operating practices that reduce odor and control insects and rodents; and groundwater monitoring.
Waste Management provides solid waste collection services to millions of customers across North America, ranging in size from the single residential subscription to large national customers requiring comprehensive, one-source waste programs to serve hundreds of locations. With 25,000 collection and transfer vehicles, the company has the largest trucking fleet in the waste industry. The company uses advanced technology and disciplined programs to bring improved efficiency to the process of solid waste collection.
With most of the waste collected by Waste Management going to its own landfills, a supporting network of transfer stations provides an important link for efficient disposal. Waste Management has 366 strategically located transfer stations to consolidate, compact and load waste from collection vehicles into long-haul trailers, barge containers and rail cars for transport to landfills.
Waste Management operates the largest network of landfills in its industry, with 289 active sites managing the disposal of more than 115 million tons of waste per year. The company operates its sites according to standards of safety and environmental compliance that go beyond regulatory requirements. Waste Management is focused on solutions that impact the future of solid waste management, including bioreactor technology, which accelerates the decomposition of organic waste through the managed introduction of air and liquids into the waste mass. Currently, the company is conducting research at 10 landfills to confirm the environmental benefits of bioreactor technology as an alternative method for managing landfill waste.
As the largest recycler of municipal solid waste in North America, Waste Management processes more than five million tons of recyclable materials each year through its 138 material recovery facilities. Through the resources of Recycle America Alliance, a majority-owned subsidiary, WM provides cost-efficient, environmentally sound recycling programs for municipalities, businesses and households across the U.S. and Canada.
Waste Management's Wheelabrator Technologies subsidiary pioneered the use of municipal solid waste for fuel in the generation of electrical power in the U.S. more than 25 years ago. Since then, the company has processed more than 110 million tons of municipal solid waste into energy, saving more than 160 million barrels of oil while generating nearly 60 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Its 17 waste-to-energy plants have the capacity to process more than 24,250 tons of waste per day into electrical or steam energy. Together the plants generate an aggregate 690 megawatts of electric energy, enough to power 800,000 homes.
Landfill Gas Projects
For many years, Waste Management has worked with businesses, industries and public utilities across North America to develop beneficial-use projects from landfill gas. This gas is a reliable, renewable energy source that is produced naturally as waste decomposes in landfills. When collected, it can be used directly as medium Btu gas for industrial use or sold to gas-to-energy plants to fuel engine or turbine-driven generators that produce electricity. WM currently supplies landfill gas to 85 beneficial-use projects in 25 states. The company's 54 gas-to-electricity projects provide more than 200 megawatts of energy, enough to power 215,000 homes. The 31 projects that sell landfill gas as fuel to industrial users replace more than two million barrels of oil each year.
Anatomy of a Landfill