A Message from Our Management
At Covanta, our mission is to ensure that no waste is ever wasted. It’s our business, our purpose and our value proposition to recover, recycle and reimagine waste, extracting the highest value from the byproducts of our daily life.
As a society, we are facing some of the greatest environmental challenges in our history, including global climate change and natural resources degradation. Both are linked to and exacerbated by the proliferation of solid waste in our communities. Covanta is working to solve the complexities that waste poses while addressing the needs of our diverse stakeholders.
We create value from waste in three primary ways: reducing contributions to climate change by diverting municipal solid waste from landfill and using it to generate baseload renewable energy; helping our customers reduce risks and meet their sustainability goals by safely and responsibly disposing of operational waste; and recycling valuable materials from the waste stream. This model makes Covanta an integral contributor to a more sustainable waste ecosystem.
Recovering Energy from Waste
After waste has been reduced, reused and recycled as much as possible by our client companies and municipal partners, we convert what remains to clean, reliable energy. This This Waste-to-Energy (“WTE”) process is a widely recognized way to mitigate contributions to climate change by avoiding the potent methane emissions associated with landfills. In 2019, we processed 21.6 million tons of waste and generated the equivalent of 10.8 million MWh of electricity in the form of steam and electricity, enough to power a million homes. In North America and Europe, we processed more waste—and generated more energy—than we have achieved in any other year in the history of the company. In the process, our facilities saved 18.8 million metric tonnes of GHGs as CO2, equivalent to pulling 3.6 million cars off the road for a year.
Our development efforts with our strategic development partner Green Investment Group (GIG) in the United Kingdom are well underway and on-track. Once fully complete, the initial four projects with have a total capacity of over 1.5 million metric tonnes per year. The Newhurst, Earls Gate, and Rookery projects are currently under construction, and we expect financial close of the Protos project by the end of the year. These projects are an important part of the U.K.’s continued efforts to divert waste from landfills. The Rookery South Energy Recovery Facility, currently nearing mechanical completion , will divert 545,000 tons of waste per year, generating more than 60 megawatts of renewable energy—enough to meet the needs of over 112,500 homes.
Investing in Our People
We know that our commitment to creating value from waste would not be possible without the talent and dedication of our people. Ensuring their safety is a fundamental part of our culture and operations. In 2019, over two-thirds of our facilities were completely injury-free and we continue to outperform our peers in the waste industry. While traditional safety measures are important, we are also focused on the continued development and implementation of leading indicators that help us have a better real-time understanding of our safety efforts.
We are also continuing to build an inclusive culture that celebrates the strength of diverse backgrounds and experiences in building a team. We made significant progress in our diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy in 2018 and 2019 through in-person D&I awareness workshops for all full-time employees and by launching three new Employee Resource Groups. As part of our involvement with the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, a coalition of more than 700 companies pledging to advance D&I in the workplace, we are pleased to support the selection of one of our own senior leaders for a Racial Equity Fellowship.
Supporting Clients’ Sustainability Goals
In addition to minimizing our clients’ risks by securely and responsibly disposing of sensitive, confidential or recalled products, we support their zero waste and other sustainability goals.
For example, in support of New York City’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, we began full operations in 2019 at the second marine transfer station located in Manhattan in partnership with the New York City Department of Sanitation. Together with the operations at the Queens marine transfer station, Covanta will process more than a third of New York City’s residential waste, generating clean energy and avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise occurred in a landfill.
Recycling Valuable Materials
We continue to make investments in the recovery of materials from our ash. Since operations began in 2015, our Fairless Hills facility has processed over half a million tons of ferrous and non-ferrous metals from a growing fleet of our facilities, drastically increasing the quality of recovered metal. In 2020, we began commissioning our first Total Ash Processing System (TAPS) adjacent to our metal processing facility. TAPS will enable increased recycling of small metal fractions and the recovery of aggregate for reuse as construction material while reducing the volume of ash requiring landfill disposal by up to 65 percent.
In addition to the materials recovery at our EfW facilities, Covanta Environmental Solutions advanced the recycling of 905 million gallons of wastewater through pretreatment, beneficially reused 9 million gallons of wastewater and recycled 2 million gallons of oil. Together with our metals recycling and additional recycling services, including our UnWrapp depackaging solution, we recycled over one million tons of material in 2019 alone.
Engaging with Our Communities
Our commitment to our communities remains strong. In New Jersey, we supported ground-breaking legislation to address disproportionate environmental impacts in overburdened communities. We are proud to work with our communities to support local initiatives and volunteer our time, expertise and resources. We are particularly proud of our advancement of STEM and green education initiatives, including tours, scholarships and outreach to disadvantaged communities. We increasingly rely on a strong pipeline of environmentally minded students with science, engineering and technical skills to help us not only sustain our business in the future, but help solve our world’s global environmental challenges, including climate change.
Focusing on Our Future
As we continue to work toward our short- to medium-term sustainability goals, we keep a longer-term view on the societal, environmental and market forces that may impact our business and industry. Emerging waste management trends, regulations and technologies may present business risks but also market opportunities. We are always looking for new, collaborative ways to address climate change, reduce pollution and demonstrate community leadership. For example, we have established a new sustainability goal to set a science-based target and implementation plan in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. We are also working with several local municipalities to establish microgrids connected with our EfW facilities, helping provide resiliency to the electrical grid. As clarity and momentum builds around the development of a circular economy, we will continue to leverage innovation and technology to promote and extract value from the evolving waste ecosystem.
We invite you to explore our sustainability report and microsite to learn more about how Covanta is contributing to a more sustainable society. While we know that the issues are complex and the needs are great, we are excited about the opportunities they present to help us continue protecting tomorrow.