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Understanding Scope 3 Emissions in the Waste Industry

Article-Understanding Scope 3 Emissions in the Waste Industry

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WasteExpo featured tons of various panels that addressed ongoing issues and hurdles within the waste industry and the Track Emissions to Help Combat Climate Change panel was no different.

WasteExpo featured tons of various panels that addressed ongoing issues and hurdles within the waste industry and the Track Emissions to Help Combat Climate Change panel was no different. Much of the conversation from the panel revolved around Scope 3 emissions, how different companies look at dealing with them and climate change.

Anne Germain, COO & SVP of Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the NWRA hosted a panel featuring emissions experts and asked questions of her own regarding the topic. The panel featured Dylan Smith, corporate engineering and sustainability manager at Waste Connections, Jennifer Ahluwalia, GFL's vice president of environmental responsibility and sustainability, and Liza Casella, senior director, business development and strategy, Casella.

Germain led off the panel by asking the table for their company’s perspective on Scope 3 and what percentage of their company’s emissions, between Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3, are just Scope 3.

Smith jumped in first to give his answer, noting that Scope 3, for Waste Connections, is typically 23% to 24% of its total Scope. Smith says this equates to 1.8 million tons out of 7.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.

“We use the US EEIO, which is the United States Environmentally Extended Input Out model. It essentially bridges the gap between traditional financial metrics and the emissions associated with those. We take our income statement every year and various line items correspond to inputs in the US EEIO, and it spits out an associated emissions that we report as our Scope 3,” said Smith.

Casella followed Smith’s answer to say that, on par with Waste Connections, Scope 3 represents about 30% of Casella’s emissions and that is generally driven by third party transportation.

Focus changed slightly to discussing the other sustainability goals that emissions services help companies achieve. Ahluwalia jumped in to take the answer on first commenting that every company is unique about how they go about setting their climate strategies and overall sustainability strategies.

“The thing is that we do see, a major part of our sustainability strategy is to not only be a climate leader, but also a leader in the circular economy. A number of our customers have set targets or aspirations around recycled content in their packaging. There are some around zero waste or zero landfill. I’d say [those are] key targets that kind of complement the climate side and the Scope 3 reduction side of things which overlaps with the services and products that we set,” said Ahluwalia.

Smith added in that, “we do also produce various environmental attributes, which we do occasionally sell and help people, whether it’s a voluntary carbon reduction or RNG for their fleets. So, there are a range of products that we do to help other businesses with.”

The panel of speakers were later asked about the actions the waste industry needs to take to help customers reduce their Scope 3 emissions and how the industry can help them understand what needs to be done.

“We sit in a really interesting place sitting at the bottom of the supply chain but impacting the entire supply chain and the entire economy. We sit in a really nice position to really drive change,” said Casella. “One of the biggest challenges that we have as an industry is we’re not always at the table, whether its with our customers, with big global manufacturing companies setting their targets with government, etc. So, we have to continue to close that gap. … If we can supply them [customers] better material on the front end, reduce virgin consumption, supply them with recycled content, that will obviously help them. But more importantly, downstream if we can help them close the loop with their products that they’re putting into the economy and help their customers then set up recycling infrastructure to turn that product back into a feedstock that they can produce and use again. There’s a tremendous impact there.”

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