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WM CEO David Steiner Talks about Future of Waste

Date: March 25, 2012

Source: Wall Street Journal

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Waste Management CEO David Steiner outlined a number of ways that his company plans to derive more value from the waste stream and in turn help his customers meet their sustainability goals. He estimated that the company could effectively double its revenues by recycling all of the waste it currently collects. And, rather than simply selling the recycled commodities it processes, the company could make more money by converting it into something more valuable, a specialty chemical, oil or energy. Right now the company only recycles or converts about 25 percent of the waste it collects. In 10 to 15 years he believes that number will be closer to 100 percent.

Steiner said he expects that increased conversion will help profit margins since processing and conversion involve lower costs of capital than operating a network of landfills. To boost its collection of valuable commodity materials, the company has been deploying single-stream recycling to more of its markets. Single-stream boosts participation by removing the burden from the consumer to know what to recycle and what not to, while technology improves sorting, efficiency and economics. In those markets where single-stream collection and processing has been introduced, the recycling rates have gone from between 5% and 10% up to between 30% and 40%. Technology will continue to improve margins. For example the company's recent use of solar-powered compactors reduces the number of required collections. He describes his recipe for success as three legs of a stool -- consumers willing to participate, governmental support, and a business that can make money from it. Governmental mandates will not work without consumer or business interest.

To see the article, visit: online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304636404577299693244220740.html.

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