Community and engagement

Our operations are governed by stringent environmental, safety and health regulations that extend beyond our contractual requirements. Because we care deeply about the safety and health of surrounding communities, it’s important for us to communicate the safety and security of our technologies and processes.

We establish community relationships as soon as we begin contracting with municipal clients, and we continue to develop and monitor them on an ongoing basis. Neighborhood representatives are integral to the contracting process. We work with them to set minimum performance standards for waste processing, energy efficiency, energy production, environmental management, delivery hours, odor mitigation and other aspects of our operations.

Recently, Covanta announced that continuous emissions monitoring data for the Delaware Valley WTE facility is available to the public on the company’s website 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This data is the same information monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and required by the facility’s air permit to ensure its adherence to the commonwealth’s stringent environmental regulations. It is also used by operators on site at the facility to track emissions, anticipate potential issues and resolve them to ensure compliance. In 2021, we expanded this program, extending online monitoring data to all of our New Jersey and Virginia facilities, as well the Harrisburg and Lancaster facilities in Pennsylvania.

Detailed annual facility performance is available for each of our U.S. facilities. Select an individual U.S. facility to see detailed 2020 environmental performance on life-cycle GHG emissions, electricity generation, metals recycling, emissions performance relative to federal guidelines and emissions compared to total emissions in the local county.

“We care deeply about the Chester community and understand some residents have raised concerns about the facility. We want residents to know we’ve heard them and, in taking this step, we are demonstrating our commitment to changing the status quo. Chester is an environmental justice community and, as an industrial operator in the community, we take our responsibility for minimizing the impacts of our operation seriously. Our work to reduce emissions and overall environmental impacts is never-ending.”

  Derek Veenhof, Covanta’s Chief Operating Officer

Our four pillars

With a commitment to sustainability comes a commitment to programs that support environmental issues and educate communities about what they can do to help the environment—while always driving home our business objectives. Our community outreach is most successful when each of our facilities and employees work with a variety of organizations on the environmental and social issues that are top of mind for our neighbors and our facilities. Our goal is to contribute to the communities where our employees live and work. These activities can be categorized into four pillars:

  • Community Stewardship: supporting economic opportunities and giving back to our communities through programs and sponsorships.
  • Sustainable Communities: contributing to community infrastructure in terms of energy production and green development.
  • Green Education: supporting youth education around environmental stewardship, sustainability and responsible waste management.
  • Environmental Responsibility: responding to community needs for responsible waste management through our environmental solutions.

Community stewardship

We believe we have a role to play in the continued success of the communities in which we operate, whether by providing economic opportunity, helping community members in need or helping to build and support local community organizations. These efforts include:

Providing economic opportunity

WTE facilities provide well-paid and highly skilled jobs to local communities and support local economies.

Supporting communities in need

Covanta’s facility-run volunteer programs focus on helping community members in need, with efforts ranging from hosting clothing drives to supporting food pantries.

Encouraging community service

Through Covanta Cares, employees receive paid time-off to volunteer at service events of their choice.

Sustainable communities

We strive to have a strong community participation strategy with the communities where we operate, including contributing new solutions and ideas related to sustainable development. These efforts include:

Recognizing facilities as community infrastructure

WTE facilities are a key component of community infrastructure, providing local, reliable and sustainable waste management and energy services.

Ensuring resiliency

Covanta is working with several local municipalities to establish microgrids connected with our WTE facilities. Microgrids are energy distribution systems that can operate independent of the main electrical grid. In addition, local facilities can provide needed waste management services after damaging storms.

Cultivating green spaces

Covanta participates in efforts to clean up local rivers, streets and parks, plant trees, and participate in local household hazardous waste programs.

Green education

We are committed to supporting youth and education, particularly related to environmental issues, responsible waste management and sustainability. These efforts include:

Building a green workforce

We are committed to providing educational opportunities to the young people in our communities by exposing them to possibilities in “green” careers. Covanta’s Green Workforce program seeks to introduce youth in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York to career ideas to consider after graduation.

Partnering with the Go Green Initiative

The Go Green Initiative (GGI) has been Covanta’s premier environmental education partner for over a decade. The GGI works directly with public school districts in some of Covanta’s most strategic regions and helps schools create healthy learning environments for their students.

Celebrating Earth Day

To support the next generation of environmental leaders, Covanta works with school students on creative ways to share the importance of recycling and responsible waste management.

Providing scholarships

The Covanta Scholars Program recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of Covanta employees’ children by contributing to their college education. Each year, Covanta awards two $2,500 scholarships and up to twenty $1,000 scholarships to eligible students on the basis of academic achievement, community involvement, leadership and financial need. In addition, many facilities contribute to scholarship programs at local schools and districts.

Internal Sustainability Education

Covanta’s Sustainability Employee Resource Group, formed in late 2020, hosted a Zero Waste Challenge to improve internal understanding of our individual waste impacts. The group challenged employees across the company to produce as little waste as possible for a week, providing tips and information sessions along the way. Employees across 26 facilities rated their wastefulness before and after the challenge, with 30% of participants showing an improvement in waste reduction habits.

Environmental responsibility

We embrace environmental responsibility by listening carefully to the waste and pollution concerns that are most important to our stakeholders and then implementing local solutions that help reduce the impacts from waste management. We’re also proud to contribute unique solutions that support local environmental responsibility. These efforts include:

Providing solutions for pharmaceutical waste

Covanta’s Rx4Safety Program provides the means for safe, secure and anonymous disposal of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, veterinary medications and nutritional supplements through participation in community-sponsored drug take-back events.
Learn more about Pharmaceutical Waste.

Partnering to find solutions

Each year, 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost or abandoned around the globe. Fishing for Energy, a partnership between Covanta, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and Schnitzer Steel Industries, addresses this problem by offering no-cost solutions to recycle and recover energy from derelict and/or retired gear that would otherwise become marine debris.

Collecting toxic substances found in household items

Covanta has led mercury awareness initiatives and conducted collection programs since 2000. Our WTE facilities use sophisticated air pollution control equipment that removes, on average, 95% of mercury.

We also support well-designed extended-producer-responsibility programs, and we’re a sustaining partner of the Product Stewardship Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to minimizing the negative impacts of consumer products and packaging.

Providing e-waste collection services

We work with community partners to support local e-waste collection events.

Retiring flags and wreaths

Though veteran organizations have flag collection and retirement programs in place, the volume of retired flags can become unmanageable as the synthetic materials used to make the flags are unsafe and unhealthy if burned openly in a ceremony. We conduct retirement ceremonies in partnership with veteran groups and led by the many veterans working at our facilities. We are proud to have been able to safely and respectfully retire approximately 20,000 flags each year in our WTE facilities.
Video: Flag disposal