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Its Always the Truck

Waste Management Inc. Of Florida

By Steve Hicks

If you engage a Waste Management (WM) associate, you’ll find that the conversation quickly goes to the trucks. Their nationwide fleet of more than 32,000 collection and support vehicles is one of the most visible symbols of the company. WM has redefined what we used to call a “garbage truck” into the icon of a modern utility and steward of our environment. Amy Boyson, WM Florida’s community affairs manager points to both sides of WM sustainability strategy: what WM has done, and what businesses can do to address their own sustainability.

In 2007, WM made a commitment to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and improve the efficiency of their on-road fleet vehicles by 15 percent by 2020. To achieve this goal, they began transitioning to cleaner vehicles and fuels, as well as minimizing the number of miles their trucks travel each day. That goal has not only been met but exceeded, and is currently at 24 percent. Here’s how.

WM’s commitment to Florida’s environment

As a leading provider of comprehensive waste management and environmental solutions, Waste Management not only works to pick up today’s trash and recycling but is helping to build a more sound and sustainable future as well. One of WM’s primary strategies for reducing emissions is to transition their fleet of 18,500 collection vehicles from diesel to cleaner-burning natural gas. Today, they have more than 5,000 natural gas collection trucks nationwide, which makes them the largest private vocational heavy duty fleet user of natural gas in the nation.

“In Florida, Waste Management has 262 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, of which 82 are servicing residential and business customers in the Central Florida area,” Boyson said. “By 2019, the company will have more than 500 CNG vehicles throughout Florida.”

So why is CNG better than diesel? For every diesel truck replaced with natural gas, WM reduces use of diesel fuel by an average of 8,000 gallons annually and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 22 metric tons per year. That equates to a 21 percent GHG emissions reduction per truck. CNG-fueled trucks are also much quieter than traditional diesel-powered trucks, a considerable benefit to the residential neighborhoods we service, she said.

Reducing Truck Miles

Another key strategy for reducing emissions from the WM fleet involves using new technologies to reduce the miles trucks need to travel. Their Service Delivery Optimization initiative helps streamline collection routes for the fleet, cutting the amount of fuel they need and lowering their carbon footprint.

WM found that marrying technology and logistics management processes, in addition to the the skill of their drivers, allows them to cover routes more efficiently. In the past, paper tickets were used for routing and service issues, but new on-board computing systems are more flexible and comprehensive in serving customers. “We have onboard tablets for all of our vehicles in Florida,” Boyson said. “Drivers receive routing information via the online tablet and can respond to service issues. We are able to provide superior service to customers to be more efficient.”

Various cities in Central Florida, including Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Indian Harbour Beach, Palm Bay, Satellite Beach and Kissimmee, are helping this effort by utilizing WM solar powered trash compactors in high-traffic public areas. “The bins, which compact garbage using power generated from built-in solar panels, can hold five times as much garbage as traditional bins,” said Boyson. When the unit reaches capacity, sensors trigger an internal compactor that flattens the contents, compressing 180 gallons of waste into easy-to-collect bags. A wireless system then signals that the unit is ready to be picked up. This cuts the need for trash pickup by up to 80 percent, which can reduce collection costs, fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Want to learn more?

Waste Management offers at least six years of past sustainability reports at: www.wm.com/sustainability/index.jsp

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