In the great contest of the environment vs. the bottom line, which side wins?
At Waste Management, our concern for the environment is the defining characteristic of who we are. But we face a lot of the same environmental challenges as our clients in other industries. Like you, we have to make business decisions that serve our shareholders, customers and employees.
For years, we've been going around telling the world that environmental and economic performance are not mutually exclusive - that you can be a good steward of the environment while also serving the vital interests of your stakeholders. That sounds great on paper. But when you have a truck fleet that numbers in the thousands, as we do, how can you get that message out through the fog of exhaust fumes and the roar of diesel engines?
Our solution? Get rid of the fog and the roar.
Thanks to clean, quiet Compressed Natural Gas - also known as CNG - we've been transitioning our fleet to fuel that's not only clean and quiet, but also helps us achieve success on both the environmental and economic fronts. In fact, the more we use CNG, the more enthusiastic we are.
If CNG were a cereal, it would be sugar-free, fiber-rich granola. First, CNG-powered trucks emit nearly zero air particulates. Furthermore, CNG reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 80 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 32 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent. No wonder everyone is calling our CNG-powered vehicles "clean air" trucks.
Plus, CNG engines run much more quietly than traditional diesel engines, reducing noise during collection pickups on community streets.
Compressed natural gas is not only a more environmentally clean alternative to gasoline and diesel, it's also much safer than those fuels in case there's a spill. That's because natural gas is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released.
CNG can also be mixed with biogas and produced from landfills or wastewater, which doesn't increase the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere.
Finally, our trucks' fuel-carrying capacity allows them to run 10 to 12 hours and complete a typical day's waste or recycling collection route.
Those were compelling reasons for making the switch to CNG-powered vehicles. But what about the economic impact of CNG on our company's bottom line?
Day by day, we all watch fuel prices climb. In Texas, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the first week of December 2011 was $3.07. If that sounds high, think of poor California, where it was about $3.65. With a fleet that uses thousands of gallons a week, fuel costs are a huge consideration for our company.
But prices for CNG are typically a third lower than for gasoline and diesel. And using CNG can also help reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil. What's not to like?
CNG is helping demonstrate that the economic health of companies, as well as of the national economy, isn't in conflict with environmental quality. It thrives on it.
Making the Switch
To date at Waste Management, we've converted 1,000 vehicles in our fleet to using compressed natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel fuel.
Put another way, our company now has the largest CNG fleet in North America. Here are some the places we're putting CNG to work for us:
• Vancouver, British Columbia
Beginning in March 2011, we deployed 20 new "clean air" collection trucks to serve the metropolitan and surrounding areas. The trucks are fueling up at a sleek new Waste Management CNG station just east of Vancouver.
• Chicago Area
In the Chicago suburb of Wheeling Village, Waste Management has opened a new CNG filling station equipped with 40 bays to fuel our growing local CNG collection fleet, which now numbers close to 30.
• Camden, New Jersey
We're helping bring CNG to the general public as well. In Camden, our company has opened the city's first public-access CNG fueling station to sell CNG to commercial fleets and individuals with CNG-equipped vehicles.
• Renton, Washington
Across the country, on Puget Sound, we partnered with the city of Renton to put 19 new CNG-powered collection trucks on city streets. Renton has been an environmental pioneer, with programs to convert food scraps to nutrient-rich compost, for example. CNG is just another step in a chain of environmentally friendly initiatives they're embracing.
At Waste Management, our sustainability goals are ambitious. We've committed to reducing fleet emissions by 15 percent and increasing fuel efficiency by 15 percent by 2020. Running on compressed natural gas is going to take us a long way - economically and environmentally - toward reaching that goal.