The second Greenwash Award goes to the U.S. transnational corporation WMX Technologies for its advertisement in
the Financial Times, on May 19, 1994. WMX Technologies, formerly Waste Management Incorporated, and sometimes known as Waste Management International, claims that raising environmental standards is its whole business. However, Greenpeace has tracked the activities of WMX and its subsidiaries for almost a decade and has documented the company's nefarious
activities around the world, finding that WMX does more to obstruct strict environmental regulations than it does to strengthen them.
Charlie Cray, a Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner who authored a 1991 report entitled "Waste Management Inc.: An Encyclopedia of Environmental Crimes & Other Misdeeds," provides the following assessment of WMX's advertisement.
WMX Claim: "Raising Environmental Standards Is Not Part of Our Job. It's Our Whole Business."
Greenpeace Opinion: WMX often supports stricter pollution control regulations because these tend to generate more business for the company without really going to the source of the problem. Rather than supporting legislation which would reduce the generation and toxicity of waste, WMX focuses on things like stricter landfill laws which squeeze out their competitors -- smaller companies,
non-profit community-based programs, and publicly-owned facilities -- who cannot meet the capitalization requirements of the new laws. This process enhances monopolization of the waste collection, processing and disposal industry, and, in turn, helps the company thwart attempts to implement long-term solutions.
WMX Claim: "We also put our money where our business is."
Greenpeace Opinion: Although WMX's business is based on so-called "state-of-the-art" waste disposal technologies, the company's own investors have suffered from short-sighted investments in modern waste management methods. The company's Chemical Waste Management subsidiary, for example, overinvested in industrial hazardous waste incinerators in the U.S. when other industries were
reducing the waste they generated and sent for disposal. This resulted in a major decrease in the company's profitability and attractiveness as an investment.
WMX Claim: "Raising standards is the key to our success. Whether it's improving recycling techniques in Sweden or the Netherlands..."
Greenpeace Opinion: The Waste Management method of recycling often reduces the emphasis on source separation through commingled collection and mechanical separation. The result can often be a reduction in the recyclability of materials because of contamination.
WMX: "...Upgrading facilities to turn waste into power in Germany."
Greenpeace Opinion: Trash incineration is one of the least efficient means of generating energy. Once a facility is built, it undermines the ability to expand recycling markets for easily recyclable or compostable materials that are instead committed for incineration. WMX continues to market its incinerator systems without revealing its track record at some of its notorious incinerators, including the now-scrapped Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
hazardous waste incinerator which exploded in 1991.
WMX: "Restoring landfills for leisure."
Greenpeace Opinion: This is a fancy way to disguise WMX's attempts to transfer the liabilities of garbage dumps once they are closed and not generating profits for the company. By giving these dumps (often converted into parks, golf courses or mini-ski hills) to the public, WMX rids itself of legal liabilities for the damages that will eventually occur when the landfills leak or otherwise release contaminants into the environment and local community. The properties could become the Love Canals of the future.
WMX: "Remediating contaminated land in Scotland, Finland and Singapore."
Greenpeace: Remediation cleanups are usually nothing more than conversions of toxic wastes (in soils, etc.) into other forms. WMX often uses incinerators which disperse contaminants like heavy metals and other persistent toxic substances more widely than the originally-contaminated areas. In the U.S. WMX has received federal monies to clean up sites it helped contaminate in the first place. In Lackawana, Pennsylvania, U.S., WMX paid the highest-ever settlement for alleged violations of Superfund cleanup land.
WMX: "Building the world's most advanced chemical waste treatment centre for Hong Kong...Opening the first industrial waste treatment facility in Indonesia."
Greenpeace: All over the world, WMX is selling the same kinds of technologies -- especially incinerators -- that have been an impediment to developing clean production criteria for newly-developing nations. The result can be an expensive, difficult-to-monitor approach to regulating the use of chemicals which could be avoided in the first place.
For further information about the waste management industry, check out the following links:
Text of Ad
This is the full text of the Waste Management International ad published in Financial Times on May 19, 1994:
RAISING ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS IS NOT PART OF OUR JOB.
IT'S OUR WHOLE BUSINESS.
At Waste Management International plc, we have only one business. The environment.
Across the world, our people do just one thing. Make it cleaner and safer.
We also put our money where our business is. So far, we have invested over £1 billion. Buying, and building and upgrading our plants and equipment, enchancing our technology, training and retraining our staff.
And whatever we do, wherever we do it, Waste Management International strives
to make it better.
Why? Because raising standards is the key to our success.
Whether it's improving recycling techniques in Sweden or the Netherlands.
Upgrading facilities to turn waste into power in Germany.
Restoring landfills for leisure use in France and Italy.
The introduction of more efficient household waste collection systems in
Denmark and Australia. Helping companies to minimize waste generation in
Building the world's most advanced chemical waste treatment centre for
Opening the first industrial waste treatment facility in Indonesia.
Remediating contaminated land in Scotland, Finland and Singapore.
Cleaning the streets of Buenos Aires or cleaning up after rock concerts
and also major sporting events like the British Open Golf Championship
and the Winter Olympics.
Today, we provide a full range of environmental services for over 6
million households and almost 170,000 businesses in 19 countries
And thanks to the dedication of our 16,400 employees, tailoring our
world-class services to meet local needs is also standard.
For more information, please call Peter Coombes in London on 44 81 563 7000.
Waste Management International plc
Local Presence, Global Know-How
A WMX TECHNOLOGIES COMPANY