Taking On Trash: Saving 1M Cubic Yards of Landfill Space

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Pat Zombo never dreamed the company could recycle enough waste to fill five football fields stacked from goal to goal, 100 feet deep. But that’s precisely what’s happened since he helped launch our voluntary recycling program in 1992.

We’re on pace in 2017 to meet a goal to save 1 million cubic yards of landfill space. That’s two years ahead of schedule. “I take a lot of pride in that and the company should too,” said Zombo, who worked 33 years as an environmental planner before retiring in 2015. Environmental planner Bethany Weems has picked up the mantle from Zombo and is leading our recycling efforts into a new era.

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“We’ve done a lot of great things over the years and it says a lot about our corporate responsibility,” she said. “We had passionate people who were conscientious about the future.” The company started by recycling about a dozen streams of waste including mercury equipment, cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and metals. Traditionally, our recycling program helped save about 40,000 yards of landfill space per year. That total has doubled during the last five years, primarily due to increased engagement toward the goal.

In 2015, we launched a network of volunteer “Green Teams” throughout the company to promote landfill avoidance and lead projects and initiatives that reduce the company’s environmental impact. Green Teams also organize local sustainability and volunteer events such as “dumpster dives” to sort recyclable materials from trash. A dumpster dive at our facility in Jackson reduced 22 bags of trash to about half of a bag.

Avoiding 1 million cubic yards of landfill space is just the beginning, Weems said. “Now that the baseline is set, we can improve and be environmental leaders in our industry.”

Our goals for the future include:

  • Establishing recycling centers at all company facilities. Currently, pilot centers are operating at our Jackson-based facilities.
  • Implementing a “green chemistry” initiative that would include an inventory of all chemicals used at company facilities and all the hazardous waste generated. “Before projects start or contractors are hired, Consumers Energy would go through an evaluation process to assess the best vendors and chemicals for each job,” Weems said. “That would reduce hazardous waste, improve safety and be better for the environment.”

Learn more about our sustainability efforts at ConsumersEnergy.com/sustainability.