Landfills produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions as organic waste like food scraps, wood, and paper decompose and produce methane. They released an estimated 16.8% of the country’s methane emissions in 2020. Methane vented into the atmosphere is a greater contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide emissions.
One of the companies quietly working to solve this problem is leading landfill owner WM (WM -0.30%), formerly Waste Management. The collections and recycling company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to capture these emissions and turn them into renewable energy. It’s one of several companies looking to simultaneously reduce emissions while providing the country with more energy.
Turning a harmful gas into a useful fuel
WM recently unveiled plans to invest $825 million from 2022 to 2025 to expand its renewable natural gas (RNG) infrastructure. RNG is methane gas captured at the source and turned into pipeline quality gas. It has significantly lower emissions than other fuel sources like gasoline, diesel, and coal.
WM is already a leader in using landfill gas. It currently captures landfill gas at 144 of the landfills it owns and operates. It feeds some of this methane into gas-to-electricity plants that produce renewable power. It also makes RNG at 16 plants that help fuel its fleet of natural gas-powered garbage and recycling trucks.
The company now plans to build 17 more RNG plants across North America by 2026, growing its RNG output by 600%. These new plants will produce enough RNG to power its entire fleet, double its initial goal to power half its fleet with RNG by 2025. On top of that, its operations will produce enough renewable energy to meet the energy needs of 1 million homes. These investments will help displace the about 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2026, equivalent to removing 3 billion miles driven by the typical gas-powered car.
RNG is one of several relatively unnoticed investments the collections’ company is making to reduce emissions and increase energy output. WM is also investing in projects using methane captured at dairies to fuel its fleet and hosts several wind and solar energy projects at some of its closed landfills.
RNG investment is soaring
WM is among a growing list of companies making major investments to build RNG projects. Natural gas pipeline<span data-preserver-spaces="…….