It may yet be a while before the federal government is able to pass legislation addressing climate change and carbon emissions. But while congressmen squabble with each other and the executive branch, local governments and the private sector are getting things done — and the solid waste industry is right in the forefront.
At the start of November, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) kicked off its two-day Mayors Climate Protection Summit by announcing the formation of the Climate Protection Council. Houston-based Waste Management (WM) joins six other organizations on the council, which will work with USCM on green projects across the country.
The formation of the council comes after WM announced a wide-ranging environmental initiative. The project will include efforts to, by 2020, increase the fuel efficiency of its fleet by 15 percent and its fleet emissions by 15 percent. The company also is seeking to double its waste-based energy production and increase by approximately 12 million tons the amount of recyclables it manages. (For more information on this initiative, see p. 14.)
Earlier this year, the Energy Security Leadership Council, of which David Steiner, CEO of WM, is a member, released its recommendations on how the United States can significantly reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The report, which can be downloaded at www.secureenergy.org, urged that the fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks be strengthened annually and advocated an increase in the supply of biofuels.
But, the efforts in this area are not confined to WM. For example, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) recently launched its Energy-Climate-Waste Challenge, in which SWANA members pledge to undertake environmentally friendly activities. (For more information, visit www.swana.org.)
This past spring, Norcal Waste Systems announced that its fleets serving San Francisco will run exclusively on liquefied natural gas or B20, a blended fuel that consists of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum. Among other examples, Allied Waste Industries' subsidiary in San Mateo County, Calif., will converts its 225-truck fleet to B20 by the end of the year.
In Atlanta, where this magazine is produced, we have seen how a childish reluctance to face reality has placed the city on the brink of an unprecedented water supply crisis. (If you see the Waste Age staff looking unshowered during the next few months, you'll know the reason why.) A similar dynamic on the issue of global warming would be disastrous. This country has a long way to go to address the issue, but it's heartening to see the solid waste industry and others exhibiting some adult responsibility.
The author is the editor of Waste Age