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GFL Environmental expands on methane capture efforts

Canadian waste management firm GFL Environmental claimed significant progress on waste and methane capture from its landfills in 2021. (Courtesy GFL Environmental)

GFL Environmental, a waste management company based in Vaughan, Ont., showcased significant advancement in waste capture and greenhouse gas sequestration in its 2021 Sustainability Report.

Founded in 2007, GFL Environmental claims to be the fourth largest diversified environmental services company in North America with over 18,000 employees.

It serves clients in Canada and in the U.S. with over 230 solid waste collection operations and over 10,000 solid and liquid waste trucks, on top of owning, managing and operating over 90 active landfills.

The 2021 report is the company’s second sustainability report.

GFL Environmental’s 2021 emissions

In 2021, GFL Environmental emitted 3.942 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2e) of Scope 1 emissions and 33,000 tCO2e of Scope 2 emissions.

The company does not have Scope 3 emissions data.

The overwhelming proportion of Scope 1 emissions were a result of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from landfills which increased methane levels over the years. GFL Environmental added over 45 landfills in late 2020 and 2021, ballooning its footprint.

It avoided and sequestered 12.1 million tonnes of GHG emissions in CO2e in its landfills in 2021, compared to 7.9 million tCO2e of avoided emissions in 2020. GFL Environmental attributes this 52 per cent increase to “organic growth of our recyclables recovery and processing business and acquisitions completed.”

GFL Environmental committed to a 15 per cent reduction in Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2030 against a 2021 baseline year.

The company anticipates its 2030 GHG reduction goal will reduce its landfill Scope 1 emissions by over 38 per cent compared to a business-as-usual scenario.

The company estimated and calculated its GHG emissions with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and says it verified the data via an unnamed third-party.

How it will improve environmental sustainability

GFL Environmental emphasized its efforts to reduce and reuse landfill gas emanating from its landfills. In 2021, over 5.7 million BTUs of landfill gas was used for electricity or converted into pipeline renewable natural gas (RNG).

It plans to double the use of landfill biogas by developing new RNG projects at the sites. To harness the biogas, it formed GFL Renewables in 2021 to accelerate the development of RNG and other renewable energy projects at its landfills.

It is currently developing five RNG projects, with the first projects that are the largest in its portfolio expected to come online in mid to late 2023. Seven other sites are under negotiation or under development, and nine sites are under evaluation.

To reduce its fugitive landfill emissions, capture more natural gas and increase gas-capture efficiency, GFL Environmental will set its Landfill Gas Working Group to participate in tests for the next generation of surface emission monitoring tools using satellites, aircraft, drones and fixed sensors to measure landfill gas emissions more accurately.

“More accurate measurements of landfill gas emissions will ensure that we are investing in technologies and implementing best practices that increase gas capture resulting in fewer fugitive emissions and higher renewable energy generation,” the report states.

Reducing its fleet emissions will be achieved by replacing its diesel collection vehicles with low-carbon and other types of alternative fuel vehicles. By 2030, at least 85 per cent of its compressed natural gas fleet will be powered by RNG fuel.

The sustainability report laid out a decarbonization strategy to use 100 per cent renewable energy in operations under GFL Environmental’s control by 2030. The company expects to achieve this by using landfill gas to heat and power some of its facilities, partner with renewable energy companies to install renewable energy at sites such as closed landfills, and purchasing electricity from market-based instruments.

Other ESG developments

GFL Environmental:

  • plans to increase its recyclables recovered rate by 40 per cent in 2030 by increasing the volume of recyclables at its facilities, continuing its investments in “sophisticated sorting technologies”, and expanding its sorting capability;
  • was awarded a solid waste collection contract in Gainesville, Fla., which will be serviced by 30 to 40 battery electric vehicles starting in 2023. The company says it is the largest single-site battery electric vehicle-serviced waste contract in North America;
  • upgraded landfills with fortifications to prevent leakage into water supplies and landfill gas collection systems;
  • managed over two million tonnes of soil at remediation facilities and treated 221 million litres of wastewater in Canada and the U.S.;
  • and plans to certify nature conservation or protection projects for at least 10 of its facilities by 2025.

Read the report here.

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