With a potentially historic presidential election on the horizon, it seemed that we were in for an interesting year when 2008 arrived.
We could hardly have predicted then just how interesting — and, all too often, depressing — this year would turn out to be.
The sub-prime mortgage crisis. The bailouts of Bear Sterns, AIG, and Fannie and Freddie Mac, among others. The likely (as of press time) bailouts of the Big 3 automakers. The collapse of the stock markets and 401(k)s. The soaring (at least for a while) cost of fuel. And on … and on … and on.
The solid waste industry didn't lack big news, either. Fortunately, not all of it was of the kind that had you running to jump out of the nearest window.
In early December, Republic Services and Allied Waste Services announced that they had completed their merger of the second- and third-largest solid waste companies. In addition to this month's story in Tip Off ("Two Become One"), Waste Age has covered this story extensively (see "The Ripening of Republic" in our August 2008 issue) and will continue to do so.
The last months of 2008 also brought the welcome news that, after years of lobbying by both the National Solid Wastes Management Association and the Solid Waste Association of North America, Congress has greatly narrowed the exemption that rail-yard waste facilities enjoy from state and local regulations (see "Get in Line").
As for bad news, the fourth-quarter saw the market for recyclables plummet. For example, by one measure, the price waste firms could get for old corrugated containers fell from $124 per ton in December 2007 to $30 per ton in December 2008 (see "Blue Bin Bust").
Also, while industry members like to say the solid waste sector is "recession resistant," that doesn't mean they aren't feeling the effects of the current severe economic downturn. This month's cover story, "Riding Out the Recession," details how waste firms are coping.
Who knows what 2009 will bring, but the country appears poised for more — and possibly deeper — economic woes. For analysis of how all of this is affecting the waste industry, Waste Age is your best bet in the year ahead.