- The industry's top two companies saw their standings rise on the Fortune 500 list this year. After three years of slight decline in the rankings, Waste Management jumped up to 201 from 221.
- Republic Services continued a recent trend of improvement on the list to reach 299, up from 312 last year. This marks the company's highest ranking since 2012.
- The waste management sector was also represented on the broader Fortune 1000 list by Stericycle at 642 and Clean Harbors at 764. This marked a large increase for Stericycle, up from 735 last year, and a dip for Clean Harbors from 677. Waste Connections, ranked 939 last year, was not included on the latest list.
Companies from the waste and recycling industry may still make up a small portion of the broader Fortune 500 list, but it's notable that the two on it have begun to rise once again. While neither Waste Management or Republic Services are at their historic peaks on the list, both showed positive revenue growth in a sign of the industry's improved position post-recession. These standings are also a sign of the continuing consolidation trend that bolsters companies at the top of the industry with less room for expansion among small and mid-size service providers.
Since last year, both Waste Management and Republic have been reassessing their recycling contracts to reduce exposure to commodity shifts and focusing on infrastructure upgrades such as new trucks that run on cleaner fuel. Both have also announced major developments between Fortune lists — including contracts for both companies in the Los Angeles franchise system — that raised their profile. Recently elevated CEO Jim Fish has brought new ideas to his role at Waste Management and the company scored a $3.3 billion export contract with New York among many other deals. Republic secured a 10-year renewal of its collection contract with Las Vegas and continues to expand in multiple markets.
Volatile commodity prices due to changing overseas demand and an uncertain regulatory climate in Washington make the year ahead somewhat unpredictable, though both Waste Management and Republic posted strong first quarter results as did many of their competitors. Based on current trends in construction and consumer spending, the industry is on track to make another solid showing on the broader Fortune 1000 list next year, perhaps with a new addition or two as well. A continued interest in sustainability goals and emissions reduction among some of the list's top companies — Walmart, Apple, General Motors, Alphabet, Target — may also help raise the recycling industry's profile.