The world is drowning in garbage. At least that’s the impression you might get if you look at the forecasts for the projected global increase in waste: For 2050, the World Bank predicts a growth in the annual global waste generation from the current around 2 billion to 3.4 billion tons – an increase of around 70%1. This represents more than double the population growth over the same period.

“Seamless waste management is among the most important measures in environmental and nature conservation,” warns Martin Basila, CEO and co-founder of Sensoneo, the issuer of the Global Waste Index. Across regions, according to the World Bank, in sub-Saharan Africa around 44% of all waste generated is collected, while Europe, Central Asia and North America collect at least 90%. But there is still far too little recycling going on around the world: If you look at the recycling rates for municipal waste (household waste and waste similar to household waste), it is 43% in Europe2, while the USA only recycles just under a third of the waste3. Worldwide, only 14% of waste gets a “second life”1. Much of what cannot be recycled is burned to generate energy. The problem is that this increases global carbon dioxide emissions and is therefore harmful to both humans and the climate.

Waste in the US – a curse or perhaps a blessing?

In all of this, one thing is often overlooked: garbage is not only the hard-to-avoid and environmentally harmful by-product of our consumption, but above all, garbage is also valuable! If treated correctly, waste is an important commodity. Its valuable components can be used to replace raw materials such as wood, oil or metals that are not available in abundance. This means you can also make money with waste.

The USA is the largest waste producer in the world with 624,700 tonnes – per day. Each US citizen currently produces 811 kilograms of waste per year4. On the one hand, the USA has the big problem of where to put all the waste, but on the other hand, there is also a huge potential to reuse resources and raw materials.

GFL Environmental – Waste is their business

GFL Environmental is one of the top 5 waste management companies in North America. With a compound annual revenue growth rate of 32% over the past five years, GFL has become the fastest-growing U.S.-listed municipal waste management company. Its main competitors achieved an average annual growth of 10% in the same period5. This has been a function of GFL’s relatively higher annual spend on M&A compared to peers. On average, 33% of annual sales are used for mergers and acquisitions, while competitors only invest around 10%.

The Company provides identification, collection, transportation, processing, recycling and disposal of a wide range of hazardous and non-hazardous solid and liquid wastes. GFL has a broad customer base in the industrial, commercial, municipal and residential sectors in North America. The company’s strength lies in the diversity of its services. GFL’s “one-stop shop” offers a comprehensive range of customizable, integrated environmental solutions, all delivered from a single source, saving customers time, effort and money.

Recycling – Breaking the throwaway cycle

The general disposal of residual, bulky and hazardous waste as well as green waste and building materials is not only the basis of the GFL business model but also the source for the recovery of numerous reusable materials.

GFL owns or manages materials recovery facilities throughout North America that utilize a range of state-of-the-art technologies to sort and prepare recyclable materials for resale and reuse. In 2022, GFL plants were able to recover over 1 million tonnes of fiber materials, 468,000 tonnes of building materials and wood, and 184,000 tonnes of plastic, among other things.6

Environmental services – repair damage

GFL also has an extensive and integrated network of companies for the disposal and recycling of soil and liquid waste. Among other things, extensive solutions for the remediation and reuse of contaminated soil are offered. This often also contributes to the development of brownfield sites that have been abandoned or underutilized due to pollution from industrial use and are now being reactivated for recreational, conservation or commercial redevelopment projects. In 2022, GFL processed nearly 4 million tons of soil, a 90% increase over 2021 volumes.6

An increase of 124% was also achieved in the disposal and treatment of liquid waste from 2021 to 2022. Over 890 million liters of wastewater and 340 million liters of used motor oil and antifreeze were treated.6

Landfill gas – turning waste into energy

Around 44% of the waste generated globally is organic waste such as food and green waste1. When they are stored in garbage dumps, landfill gas is produced, a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material. It consists of about 50% methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. 14.3% of methane emissions in the United States come from municipal landfills.7 Instead of allowing it to escape into the atmosphere, landfill gas can be captured, converted and used as a renewable energy source or biomethane.

Driven by new government incentives for the transportation sector, the majority of the U.S. biomethane currently produced goes to the transportation fuel sector, so demand saw 20% growth in 2022. By 2050, the biogas market is expected to grow 10-fold.8

GFL is taking advantage of this trend and has significantly increased its investments in landfill gas plants in recent years. There are currently nine projects in development. Each of them has a high level of profitability with an expected payback period of less than two years.9 The already existing facilities were able to recover over 352 million m3 of landfill gas in 2022.6 This output is expected to be multiplied in the coming years. A pleasant side effect is that GFL can also use the biogas itself and thereby reduce both its own CO2 footprint and operating costs. The proportion of company vehicles powered by natural gas is currently 16%. By 2030, 85% of GFL’s fleet in the USA will be powered by renewable natural gas from its own landfills.

Capturing a solid growth perspective

GFL is constantly working to further expand the strong growth of recent years. The high market entry barriers in the constantly-growing waste disposal sector (estimated average annual growth rate of 4.5% until 2030)10 give the company additional tailwind and strengthen GFL’s pricing power – over the past five years, price increases of 28% have been achieved compared to an increase in inflation of around 18%.11

All of this not only benefits GFL and its investors, but also the environment. In 2022, 12.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were avoided and CO2 was sequestered. This is the equivalent to taking 1.8 million gas powered vehicles off the road for 1 year.12

Environment protection

One of the three cornerstones of Nordea’s Global Climate and Environment Strategy is environmental protection. Many companies offering products and services in this area strive for both attractive value propositions and strong environmental benefits. We firmly believe that investing in companies that use technology and innovation to conserve resources and protect the environment is a win for investors and the planet.

1 World Bank: (

2 European Environment Agency: The case for increasing recycling: Estimating the potential for recycling in Europe, February 2023 (

3 US Environment Protection Agency: National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling, November 2023.

4 Global Waste Index 2022

5UBS Research, December 2023

6 GFL 2022 Sustainability Update Report

7 US Environment Protection Agency: Basic Information about Landfill Gas.

8 WoodMackenzie, Juli 2023 (

9 Nordea Investment Management, GIR, SEC, EPA. Data as of October 2023

10 Maximize Market Analysis “U.S Waste Management and Recycling Market: Industry Analysis, Trends and Forecast (2024-2030)”

11 Factset, Company Reports, UBS Research Estimations, December 2023

12GFL 2022 Sustainability Update Report. Calculation based on US Environment Protection Agency greenhouse gas equivalent calculator.