Sustainable Solutions to Waste Management Challenges

These words, from Covanta’s homepage, echo the optimistic future that this world leader in recycling and sustainable waste management recovery solutions sees in the ugly and useless – piles of garbage rotting in a landfill. Covanta is continuously inventing innovative ways to deal with tough waste management problems, working with both companies and municipalities to resolve these issues.

Some examples include –

  • Transforming sensitive documents into a clean, renewable liquid waste
  • Creating a nationwide network of recycling and Energy-From-Waste (EfW) facilities
  • Providing on-site services such as tank remediation and safety consultation
  • Transportation services for moving materials from properties to appropriate recycling and waste management facilities

The list of Covanta’s creative waste management solutions are extensive, innovative, and sustainable. The backbone of their operations are Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities, a major player in new investment opportunities. Covanta is constantly instituting innovative solutions for waste management and is literally creating an empire from garbage and waste which would typically lie rotting uselessly in landfills across the country (Covanta is a Fortune 500 company).

Sustainable Waste: History of Innovation

Covanta’s 30 years of experience building waste energy facilities and creating sustainable waste management systems has given them the reputation for being one of the most innovative waste management companies in the world. One innovation involves a profit sharing scenario from EfW facilities. Covanta –

  1. Either builds a facility on behalf of a community, which is owned by the municipality but operated by Covanta or –
  2. Covanta constructs, owns, and operates facilities for communities.

Revenues are divvied up between the municipalities and Covanta and both reap the financial rewards. This business model has worked well for the company and Covanta has constructed multiple facilities using this model in a 10-20 year time span. These facilities help communities meanwhile giving Covanta the corporate and social responsibility of community engagement through physical presence and via employee based community engagement.

Covanta’s mission is to “provide sustainable waste and energy solutions ensuring that no waste is ever wasted and the belief that the materials discarded every day should be utilized to their fullest potential to preserve the world’s valuable resources and generate clean energy for our client communities and the world we live in”.

Waste Management Problems – Creative Solutions

As many companies have resisted creating sustainable business opportunities for their companies, Covata has embraced them; this is the key to both their success, the success of their clients, and their reputation as a world leader in sustainable waste management practices.

According to Jill Stueck, the company is constantly seeking all avenues for getting to the root of “real” sustainable waste management. According to Jill, “Because businesses are now becoming more sustainable, they now have (personal sustainability goals). As the entire industry is evolving it is no longer just a matter of getting rid of municipal solid waste – it’s also getting rid of the waste from the manufacturing process. Thus we found the need to let companies know that we have this terrific footprint of facilities at their disposal.”

Covanta’s list of amenities now includes “environmental services”, such as water treatment and site spills and have created a division devoted to these services. When these new services became available, Covanta created their communications department, which Jill heads up, then a marketing department, which is lead by Karen McVeigh, Senior Marketing Manager. Covanta is also in the process of providing board certification meanwhile partnering with third party verifiers to offer customers the ability to understand their greenhouse gas savings and the amount of their waste that is being diverted from landfills.

Besides attending conferences, such as Sustainable Brands and Green Biz, and marketing the company to potential clients, Karen is a teacher. After spending years attending conferences and speaking to people, Karen realized the need to create materials that speak the right “language”, one that helps companies better understand the need for finding solutions to our waste management problems.

On education, Jill says “The greatest hurdle is creating a succinct message, getting the message out in a way that all people understand. ‘How do you solve problems that I don’t know how to solve?’, ‘I have all these different waste products, where do I put them?’. We’re able to take care of it all, getting everything to it’s proper place and accounting for it.”

Subaru: Sustainable Waste Management Success Story

One of Covanta’s greatest success stories is their work with Subaru, helping them create a “zero waste to landfill”. Zero waste to landfills keep trash out of landfills through materials reuse or energy recapture. Covanta has multiple case studies where they have been that last piece of the puzzle for companies to attain zero waste to landfill.

“When ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ has been fully explored, Covanta is energy recovery”, according to Jill. And, unlike landfills, which puts products into the ground with unregulated energy capture, Covanta is capturing the very last drop of energy from waste. “Landfills aren’t very efficient at recapturing energy and they are not regulated”, Jill states. Zero waste to landfill is the perfect sustainability model and Covanta helps businesses reach their personal sustainability goals every day by keeping materials out of landfills, once everything else has been done.

Jill ends by saying, “You know, you need to start somewhere. I’m more from our ‘sustainability heart’, because we have one.”