IN THE SPIRIT OF ITS HOME STATE, with its wide countryside and independent attitude, Dallas' solid waste hauling and disposal scene can be characterized as open, opportunistic and competitive. At least 50 cities encompass the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, offering hundreds of potential municipal markets. These municipalities, which contract their services as franchises, coupled with a commercial and industrial market, fuel waste competition in the area.
More than 100 large and small waste hauling companies operate in the area, making it one of the country's most active markets. The following is a sampling of the major independent and public waste hauling companies that are making a name for themselves in Dallas, this year's WasteExpo host city.
City of Dallas
While many large U.S. cities opt to contract out their residential solid waste collection or disposal or both, Dallas, the eighth-largest city in the nation, has successfully maintained its own collection and disposal operations. According to Mary Nix, assistant director of the Sanitation Services Department for Dallas, the city has had mixed luck privatizing portions of its collection area in the past. “Our citizens generally prefer city services to private ones,” Nix says. “We've been able to efficiently and effectively run our own collection operations.”
In addition to solid waste collection, the city offers residents monthly brush and bulk waste pickup, which accounts for about 25 percent of the total waste collected. Residential recyclables collection is handled by a private contractor.
The city's solid waste collection program serves approximately 240,000 households in a city with a population of 1.2 million. Private haulers serve most multi-family units and most of the commercial waste stream. The city primarily uses automated equipment to collect municipal solid waste (MSW) biweekly from residents' 95-gallon carts. The department maintains a fleet of 122 automated trucks, 40 semi-automated rear loaders and 35 rotoboom trucks paired with up to 81 brush truck/trailer combinations for its bulk waste pickup.
One challenge to collecting waste from Dallas residents is the city's layout, approximately 50 percent of which is alleyway pickup, and the remaining 50 percent of which is curbside pickup. “We have to have slimmer trucks,” Nix says. “We do our collection with 85 percent automated side loaders and 15 percent non-automated trucks.”
Waste collected from Dallas residents is taken to one of three transfer stations run by the city, and then onto McCommas Bluff Landfill, which the city has owned and operated since 1980. Approximately 700,000 tons per year of residential MSW is disposed there.
Overall, the city receives approximately 1.7 million tons per year of waste at McCommas Bluff. Numerous private hauling companies use the landfill, which charges a $15 per ton tipping fee, because of its close proximity to the city. “We get a good percentage of what's generated in Dallas,” Nix says.
With a gross capacity of 153 million cubic yards, McCommas Bluff is also one of the country's largest landfills. Dwindling space is not an immediate concern — there are about 45 years of space left, Nix says.
“We feel like we're a stabilizing, economic anchor for residential and commercial entities in Dallas,” Nix says. “Dallas keeps a competitive edge while running its own operations, and thus can keep solid waste management costs low for the entire region.”
Champion Waste Services
Founded in 2002, family owned and operated Champion Waste Services Ltd. has expanded relatively quickly by offering experienced, personalized service. The company now has accounts with 600-plus customers and claims to be one of the fastest growing independent haulers in the Dallas market.
“We have a solid foundation that has enabled us to grow our customer base so fast,” says Michelle Giannattasio-Kuhar, Champion president. “The services we provide and the fact that we're a family run operation, which has built and sold several companies in the past, have given us a leg up.”
Indeed, the founding of Champion represents the culmination of a long history in the waste business. Giannattasio-Kuhar's grandfather began what would be the family's legacy by founding a waste hauling operation in Connecticut in the 1950s. After her parents sold the company in the late 1980s, the family moved to Oklahoma where it started All Star Waste Systems Inc. In the mid-1990s, the family landed in Dallas, where they founded and eventually sold Consolidated Waste Systems Inc. Prior to starting Champion, Giannattasio-Kuhar and her husband, Paul, operated Houston-based Statewide Waste Systems Inc., which was founded by her parents and eventually sold to Waste Management Inc., Houston.
Today, Giannattasio-Kuhar's parents both work at Champion, and her husband is operations manager for the drivers of Champion's 12-truck fleet. Approximately 95 percent of the company's workforce is from previous family run ventures, Giannattasio-Kuhar adds.
Although the bulk of Champion's business comprises providing roll-off, front-loader and hauling services for industrial and commercial accounts, the company sees cardboard and paper collection, in particular, as an opportunity for growth. Last month, Champion moved to a new 6-acre site in Dallas that features a 100,000-square-foot facility that will be used to separate paper and other recyclables.
“Because collection areas are franchised in Dallas, companies often have the exclusive contract for everything except recycling,” Giannattasio-Kuhar says. “If you're able to recycle, however, that many more potential accounts are opened up to you,” she says.
In the meantime, Champion will rely on its customer service to garner accounts. For instance, the company routinely builds and custom-designs compactors and other equipment to suit customers' needs. “Dallas is a competitive marketplace and we've got to stay on our toes,” Giannattasio-Kuhar says.
Community Waste Disposal
As one of the largest independent waste hauling and recycling companies in Dallas, Community Waste Disposal (CWD) attributes its success to a combination of high-profile contracts and niche services. Although it represents less than half of CWD's business, recycling, in particular, has become the company's trademark.
Founded in 1984 by Greg Roemer, CWD started out doing apartment recycling before moving into solid waste collection, says Paul Hansen, general manager. Today, the company is one of the leading recyclers in Dallas county.
Since 2000, CWD has held the contract to collect and process recyclable materials from Dallas' blue bag recycling program. The contract, which is one of CWD's largest, calls for weekly collection of blue bags from 250,000 homes. Recyclable materials are processed at CWD's 50,000-square-foot materials recovery facility (MRF) located at the company's hauling site near Texas Stadium in Dallas. The MRF processes approximately 2,500 tons of materials per month.
Since taking over blue bag collection, CWD has added more materials to the program, including expanding the list of plastics accepted and achieving a 15 to 20 percent weight increase in materials collected.
Other notable city contracts for the company include a full franchise with the city of Allen to provide solid waste and recyclables collection for 20,000 residences and commercial entities. CWD also holds recycling contracts with the cities of Euless and Frisco, the latter of which encompasses 17,000 homes.
In addition to city contracts, close to half of CWD's business comprises commercial roll-off operations, including providing solid waste and recyclables collection and disposal for office buildings. The company maintains a fleet of 70 collection vehicles and a staff of 125.
According to Hansen, CWD wants to diversify its processing systems to attract future business. “We're hoping to move further into single-stream collection on our processing side, which would allow us to get more contracts with cart collection,” he says. “We currently have dual-stream processing at our plant now, but single-stream seems to be where cities are going now.”
Duncan Disposal-Republic Services Inc.
In 1995, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Services acquired Arlington, Texas-based Duncan Disposal, cementing its foothold in the Dallas waste disposal and recycling market. Today, Duncan Disposal is one of the top publicly traded waste hauling and disposal companies in the city and state.
Republic's acquisition of Duncan Disposal was part of six strategic founding takeovers in different regions of the country that formed the nucleus of the parent company. “Duncan Disposal, which has been around since 1950, is probably one of the oldest waste hauling companies in the United States,” says Will Flower, vice president of communications for Republic. “The company has a great reputation in the region.”
Because of this, Republic has maintained operations under Duncan Disposal's name while providing a service culture that is part of the parent company's overall operation strategy.
Currently, Duncan Disposal has more than 550 employees serving more than 200,000 residential and commercial customers in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. The company owns and operates nine landfills in the state, several of which are in the Dallas area, says Nick Stefkovich, president of Republic's North Texas operations. Duncan Disposal also owns and operates one transfer station in Dallas and has others in the works. The company offers recyclables collection but contracts the processing and marketing of the materials to specialized processors.
According to Stefkovich, what differentiates Duncan Disposal from its competitors is its commitment to service. “The real key to a long-term relationship is to meet and exceed customers' expectations,” he says. “Our story here is one where we've taken the resources we've acquired and used them as a platform to expand [Republic Services].”
For instance, after tornadoes ripped through Ft. Worth and Arlington several years ago, Duncan Disposal provided immediate help with large debris cleanup by bringing in special equipment and using its transfer station and disposal resources. The company holds the franchise contract with the city of Arlington.
The company also attributes part of its success to tremendous regional growth. Duncan Disposal, too, has growth plans in the Dallas market; the company is looking at desirable acquisitions to expand its market share. “Our relative share of the market 10 years from now will be that much more developed,” Stefkovich says.
Although Ft. Worth-based IESI, a privately held company, has waste hauling and recycling operations in nine states, Dallas represents its largest area of operation, says Tom Brown, senior vice president and COO of IESI. Moreover, the company's rapid growth in the market has made it a major player in Dallas.
Founded in 1995 in Justin, Texas, the company started out as a two-truck operation and now boasts a nationwide fleet of 800 vehicles and 1,800 employees. “From 1997 to 2003, we've grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 70 percent,” Brown says, adding that the company made 140 acquisitions during that period.
IESI employs 350 people in the Dallas metroplex and operates six hauling operations, including a MSW landfill, construction and demolition debris landfill, transfer station and MRF. In addition to providing commercial and industrial hauling services to 13,500 customers throughout the area, the company is the exclusive provider of waste and recyclables collection for 84 cities in the area.
The bulk of IESI's revenue comes from solid waste collection. “Recycling in the Texas area is difficult because landfill prices are so cheap; the cost avoidance you get is difficult to do,” Brown says. “On the converse side, we still recycle 400 tons of paper per night.”
According to Brown, IESI's strong share of city contracts in the Dallas metroplex is attributable, in part, to its involvement in the communities it serves. The company routinely involves itself with charitable organizations such as Meals on Wheels as well as local Chambers of Commerce and senior citizen centers.
While IESI's future growth in the Metroplex is not likely to be as explosive as it has been in the past five years, the company continues to look at potential acquisitions, as well as new city contract opportunities. “We've talked to a number of cities about maybe privatizing residential collection in the future to save costs,” Brown says.
In the meantime, IESI is enjoying the benefits of steady growth in the Dallas metroplex. In Frisco and McKinney, two of IESI's contracted cities, approximately 500 homes are added each month, Brown says. “Home building here has kept strong, even throughout the recession,” he says. “Part of it is a migration of people to the sunbelts, as well as jobs being created in a cheaper labor market.”
Trinity Waste Services-Allied Waste Services
Mirroring its parent company's presence in major markets around the country, Trinity Waste Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Waste Services Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz., is one of the top two waste hauling companies operating in the Dallas metroplex.
“Everything that a solid waste company does, we do here,” says Scott Bradley, district manager for Trinity Waste Services, which is based in Hutchins, Texas. Specifically, Trinity operates seven landfills and three MRFs in the metroplex, in addition to solid waste hauling operations and transfer facilities. The company employs 950 people in the metroplex — one of the top five revenue-producing markets in the country for Allied — and serves approximately 350,000 customers, 260,000 of who are residential. The city of Plano is the company's largest franchise account.
The Dallas market offers both advantages and challenges for solid waste haulers, Bradley says. “The franchise system here presents a different kind of ‘competitive,’” he says. “When it's a [completely] open market, you're fighting a battle on a daily basis. In a franchise system, however, you can get lulled into a false sense of security because you have a lock on business for a period of time,” he adds. “But the hurt is much bigger if [the contract] goes away.” Cities in the metroplex are becoming more sophisticated in terms of putting contracts out for bid after they expire, rather than automatically renewing them, Bradley says.
Additionally, a number of suburban cities haul their own waste, which Bradley attributes to the region's culture. “In my 18 years in the business, I haven't seen so many cities in an area [do that],” he says. “Texas is a very interesting state. Property rights are a big issue here. The notion of taking care of one's self — circling the wagons, if you will — is big here. A lot of cities see it as their responsibility.”
Still, with so many hauling companies in the fray, cities in the metroplex are finding it increasingly cost-effective to contract out their services, Bradley adds. “We're here to stay and we look forward to being part of the expanding mix.”
Waste Management Inc.
Waste Management Inc. (WM) is indisputably the largest solid waste hauling company operating in Dallas, and one of the largest in the state. The company, which operates as Waste Management of North Texas in the region, maintains its regional headquarters in Lewisville, northwest of Dallas. The company operates in 20 counties in the region. Some of the company's larger municipal accounts include the cities of Ft. Worth, Lewisville and Coppell, as well as the Dallas Independent School District and the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport.
Waste Management of North Texas currently has 640 employees in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and serves ap-proximately 255,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers, as well as 239,500 recycling customers. The company maintains six hauling operations, six landfills, one transfer station in Pittsburgh, Texas, and one MRF in Ft. Worth.
The company's two landfills in closest proximity to Dallas are the Dallas/Ft. Worth Landfill in Lewisville and the Westside Landfill in Ft. Worth. In addition to Dallas' McCommas Bluff Landfill, WM's two landfills are some of the most used by municipalities and hauling companies in the region.
Waste Management of North Texas also maintains a high presence in the communities in which it operates. For instance, the company serves on the Resource Conservation Council for the North Texas Council of Governments and is active in Keep America Beautiful programs in North Texas. WM also has helped to sponsor scholarship programs in communities throughout the region.
Like other hauling companies operating in the area, Waste Management of North Texas sees continued growth in the Dallas metroplex as part of its bottom line. “Waste Management is one of our biggest competitors,” says Champion's Giannattasio-Kuhar. “But the beauty of the market here is that the little guy can compete with the big guy.”
Kathy White is a Waste Age contributing editor based in Portland, Ore.
Don't miss the educational session “Tossing Trash Texas Style” at WasteExpo 2004 in Dallas.
Date: Monday, May 17
Time: 2:15 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Margaret Hoffman of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality, Mary Nix of the city of Dallas, Tom Brown of IESI and a representative from Waste Management Inc. will discuss emerging trends that are affecting the Texas trash industry. For more information, visit www.wasteexpo.com.