WASTE MANAGEMENT AND REDUCTION
Providing our customers with reliable electricity requires that we responsibly and effectively manage the waste that results from our operations, as we also find ways to minimize future waste and expand our recycling and reuse efforts. Waste streams at FirstEnergy include municipal waste, universal waste and hazardous waste. We work to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste we generate through several initiatives including the projects and programs described below.
As part of our commitment to compliance excellence, we track waste generated from our operations and submit periodic reports to regulatory agencies. Please see our EESG data table for waste and recycling metrics.
WASTE REDUCTION EFFORTS
We continuously look for opportunities to minimize or eliminate waste streams, recycle or reuse waste items and improve employees' awareness of proper waste management methods. As a result, we've implemented a range of improvements, including:
- Vending Machine Removal: We removed vending machines from our corporate headquarters to eliminate waste from expired items and avoid the energy the vending machines used each month.
- Single-Use Elimination: We prevented more than 3,600 pounds of landfill waste by providing employees with reusable water bottles and coffee tumblers to replace disposable plastic, paper and single-use cups.
- Printing and Paper Changes: We converted to 100% recycled paper companywide and implemented new printing best practices, such as default double-sided printing and secure-release prompts that question whether employees really need or intended to print. Additionally, this initiative calls for 100% of our used printer toner to be recycled.
UTILITY POLE RECYCLING PROGRAM
Wood utility poles are one of FirstEnergy's largest waste streams, contributing thousands of tons of waste each year. In 2020, Ohio Edison began a pilot program to recycle or beneficially reuse decommissioned utility poles. The program was a demonstrated success and, in 2021, we expanded the Wood Pole Diversion Program to all our operating companies.
Traditionally, a significant portion of wood utility poles from our transmission and distribution operations are landfilled when they are no longer viable for their intended purpose. Under this new program, the line shops and transmission projects now divert the poles from landfills into various reuse and recycling options available in each state. For example, the poles have found new life in farmers' fields and parks and have been milled into lumber. Since the beginning of the pilot phase, we have diverted over 1,700 tons of wood poles.
By 2025, we aim to recycle or beneficially reuse 50% of our wood poles at the end of their useful lives, when they previously would have been landfilled. This initiative is part of our larger effort to reduce waste across our operations and build a more sustainable energy future.
By 2025, we aim to recycle or beneficially reuse at least 50% of our wood poles at the end of their useful lives, when they previously would have been landfilled.
RECYCLING AND INVESTMENT RECOVERY PROGRAM
At our Miles Service Center in Cleveland, we manage the company's surplus assets, primarily wire and cable, through reuse, refurbishment, and sale. By repairing or processing materials and products for reuse, we reduce new material purchases while creating less landfill waste and mitigating our environmental impact. Additionally, the company generates revenue by processing scrap wire and cable.
Please see our EESG data table for our investment recovery and recycling metrics.
Each month, the Miles Service Center sorts and handles approximately 282,000 pounds of scrap material, which generated a net benefit of $3.1 million in 2021 alone. This program is part of our ongoing efforts to develop increasingly sustainable operations.
CONSUMER AND ELECTRONIC WASTE RECYCLING PROGRAMS
Across our operations, FirstEnergy recycles company electronic waste, such as computers and phones. In addition, we have launched a pilot program to help employees properly recycle personal electronic waste and help divert items from landfills.
Recycling Efforts in 2021
As part of our focus on environmental compliance excellence and stewardship of natural resources, FirstEnergy is committed to the responsible disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs). CCRs – in the form of bottom ash, fly ash, synthetic gypsum and calcium sulfite – are the byproducts that remain after coal is burned to make electricity. These materials are transported to state-of-the-art dry disposal facilities that use liners and leachate collection systems, as well as extensive groundwater monitoring, to help ensure environmental protection. We maintain a CCR management program to meet all compliance requirements of the Federal Coal Combustion Residual regulations. To read about our CCR activities and compliance reports for the facilities we manage, please visit our CCR website.
When possible, we also strive to beneficially use CCRs, which are common ingredients in concrete roads, drywall and a wide variety of other construction materials. By diverting CCRs from landfill to more beneficial uses, we reduce the need for waste disposal sites. In 2021, for instance, our continued beneficial use efforts helped us to divert about 20% of our CCR waste from landfills.
RESTORING AND REPURPOSING LAND FOR BENEFICIAL USE
Our Coal Combustion Residuals team is responsible for an innovative beneficial use project that harvested more than 3 million tons of landfilled fly ash and restored a valuable 400-plus acre property for future redevelopment opportunities. The team also planted 14 acres with a biodiverse seed mix, intended to help feed our stressed pollinator populations. Additionally, the team created a strategic "un-disposal" engineering process for reclaiming a permitted landfill, which was approved by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and provided a reliable feedstock to two major cement manufacturers that supported both companies' sustainability goals.
Disposal of PCB Remediation Wastes at Non-TSCA Approved Landfills
The attached approval ("Approval") from USEPA, dated February 13, 2020, allows FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries to dispose of PCB Remediation Waste with as-found concentrations of < 50 ppm in non-TSCA approved landfill facilities, including municipal solid waste landfills, as found in Condition 9 of the Approval.