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All Aboard the Green Machine: Waste Management Cleans Up

Posted At: April 9, 2008 12:35 PM
by Chelsea Worley

Close your eyes and, just for a minute, think about trash. Yes, trash. Like the kind you see overflowing out of those big, ugly bins on the side of the street. What kind of images came to mind? Did you see dirty, overflowing landfills and trash falling off large barges into the ocean? Or did you imagine a picturesque hillside covered with tiny, red and yellow flowers with the boughs of giant, glorious trees swaying to-and-fro with the wind? I’m safely willing to bet that the second scenario didn’t come to mind.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that when most people think about garbage, they only see the negative, but good news, people, there’s finally a company that’s trying to do something to change that. Waste Management, the largest waste disposal corporation in the country, has over the past year been in the process of a major image overhaul, this time showing some love to the environment. Like many other corporations, WM has jumped on the green bandwagon and since this decision to “go green,” it’s seen gradual change in what people think about trash and litter.

So, what is the company doing, you might ask? It’s slightly complicated, but simple. WM has committed itself to several environmental initiatives, and laid out an intricate plan that is to be completed by the year 2020. The plan consists of tactics to attain increased production amounts of waste-based energy, increased volumes of recyclable materials and investment goals of up to $500 million to increase fleet fuel efficiency and to cut down on fleet emissions and to increase the number of facilities for wildlife habitation.

To achieve these goals, WM has implemented several different programs, all of which are explained in detail at WM’s new Web site First, the company harnesses the decomposition of organic waste to produce methane gas, a viable energy source and alternative fuel option. Second, it burns solid waste to generate steam, which is then routed to a generator to produce electricity. Third, it has single-stream recycling, which allows the consumer to dispose of paper, plastics, metals and glass in the same bin, and eCycling, which allows consumers to recycle their electronic waste instead of sending it to pile up at a hazardous landfill. Finally, after it closes up a landfill, the company reuses the area to build athletic fields, parks, golf courses, shooting ranges and airplane fields to the benefit of the surrounding communities.

In addition to incorporating new goals, WM is also reinventing its image by going green. First, the company had all its trucks painted green; some even had environmental logos and teasers painted on their sides. Also, as previously stated, a new Web site was launched with its entire content devoted to eco-friendly efforts. And, finally over the past few months, WM has been reaching out to kids, trying to get the idea of “thinking green” out to the younger generations. At the beginning of this year, WM unveiled an elaborate exhibit at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center. The “Think Green” display promotes and encourages environmental responsibility.

According to WM Community and Municipal Relations Manager Terry White, “Response has shown that more people are beginning to think of Waste Management as an environmental services company and not just a garbage company. Over the past two to three years, positive consumer comments have continued to increase throughout the public.” Also, when asked about consumer online response, White stated, “There have been increased consumer inquiries made through e-mail regarding information about recycling programs and locations.” All sounds very positive.

Even though a real measurement of effectiveness for Waste Management’s efforts cannot be made until the “Think Green” initiatives reach completion, I’m sure that if WM keeps on the green track, it will successfully continue to reverse the way consumers think about trash.


Waste Management (2008). Retrieved March 31, 2008, from  

Think Green (2008). Retrieved March 31, 2008, from    

“Cleaning up a trashy image: Waste Management boards the green bandwagon as it strives to recreate itself.” Daily Dog (2008). Retrieved March 31, 2008, from

E-mail Terry White

What do you think about major companies ‘going green’?

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