Data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) shows thousands of waste and recycling companies and organizations applied for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), receiving between $583.7 million and more than $1.2 billion in subsequent payments.
That program is part of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress and is meant to provide small businesses with the funding necessary to maintain payroll and hire back laid-off employees, in addition to covering certain other operational costs. Data indicates the program has played a significant role in job retention for the waste industry — reported numbers show more than 67,000 jobs have been retained as a result of those loans.
Industry stakeholders told Waste Dive the money has helped keep operations going during a global crisis, at a time when waste services have been deemed essential. Even so, some say navigating the process has been complex and slow. Their experiences dealing with the program, and the level of interest from businesses, offer an idea of what navigating the financial impacts of the pandemic has been like for qualifying industry participants so far.
Data shows PPP helped protect jobs
As of June 30, PPP has provided nearly 4.9 million forgivable loans overall, totaling more than $521 billion. Borrowers are limited to $10 million, but the average loan size so far is approximately $107,000, according to the recent data. Only the names of borrowers exceeding $150,000 in loans have been released.
SBA utilizes the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), and its data shows more than half of all PPP loans have gone to a small group of industries that do not include waste. Prior data released by SBA indicated waste companies received some stimulus money, but the broad coding used made it unclear how much of that funding had gone to the solid waste and recycling sector specifically.
New data shows companies categorized under NAICS codes for solid waste collection, solid waste incinerators, MRFs, and solid waste landfills received almost 4,000 loans in total as of June 30.
|Applicant NAICS Code||Percentage of Applications|
|Solid Waste Collection (562111)||60.34%|
|Materials Recovery Facilities (562920)||28.58%|
|Solid Waste Landfill (562212)||10.22%|
|Solid Waste Combustors and Incinerators (562213)||0.86%|
Because total loan amounts are given in ranges for recipients of more than $150,000, exact breakdowns are unclear. More than 86% of all loans were for that amount or less; the waste industry, however, tended towards slightly larger loans, with a smaller percentage — almost 72% — of loans for the industry falling in that range.
Nearly 2,860 waste and recycling applicants received loans under $150,000, totaling a little over $139 million, and more than 600 applicants received loans between $150,000 and $350,000. Another 374 companies received more than that amount, but under $1 million. And 85 companies received between $1 million and $2 million, followed by 49 companies receiving between $2 million and $5 million. Only eight companies received the maximum amount.
|Company||State||Loan Amount||Jobs Retained|
|California Waste Solutions Inc.||CA||$5-10 million||295|
|Garaventa Enterprises, Inc.||CA||$5-10 million||417|
|Patriot Environmental Services, Inc.||CA||$5-10 million||367|
|Rubicon Global, LLC||GA||$5-10 million||290|
|Homewood Disposal Services||IL||$5-10 million||276|
|JRM Hauling & Recycling Services, Inc.||MA||$5-10 million||250|
|Royal Waste Services Inc.||NY||$5-10 million||401|
|Meridian Waste Acquisitions LLC||NC||$5-10 million||384|
Most of these companies did not respond to a request for comment from Waste Dive about how funds have been used or their experiences with the process.
Rubicon General Counsel William Meyer said in a statement the company applied for funding to preserve jobs during a time of heightened need for services.
“[W]e were encouraged by the opportunity to participate in this program for the sake of retaining our valued employees through this unprecedented time, ensuring that our network of over 7,000 small business hauling partners could continue to receive payment for their waste and recycling services,” said Meyer, whose company reported retaining 290 jobs due to its loan.
Rubicon is grateful to lawmakers for “working together to implement this program to help ensure that frontline workers in the waste and recycling industry have been able to find some relief,” he added.
Job retention has been key for other stakeholders in the space as well. While over 300 companies reported no retention associated with their loans, more than 3,000 said the funds helped them preserve between one and 500 jobs.
The PPP criteria excluded many of the industry’s largest employers from applying, but the list of recipients includes sizable regional companies as well as one notable trade group. The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) received a loan in the $350,000 to $1 million bracket, and CEO David Biderman told Waste Dive that “careful financial management” helped SWANA avoid layoffs in the spring.
“We intend to use the PPP loan to cover eligible expenses over the next few months, similar to many other associations, and help us continue providing the industry-leading programs and services that both the private and public sector solid waste industry rely on,” Biderman said.
Where applicants are and how they navigated the program
SBA data also shows where aid has flowed for the waste industry. California, Texas, Georgia, and New York were among states with the highest number of loans, reflecting population size and, in some cases, where business declined the most during the pandemic’s early months. New Jersey and Pennsylvania also featured high numbers, while smaller states like Vermont and Rhode Island netted fewer than 20 loans each.
Most applicants did not provide information regarding gender, race and ethnicity or veteran status, but where disclosed the data shows that loans over $150,000 more commonly went to companies with white male owners who are non-veterans. Numbers are similar for recipients of smaller loans, mirroring ownership trends across the industry. Companies listed as Black-owned collectively received 12 loans under $150,000 and three loans between $150,000 and $350,000. Only one listed Black-owned company received a loan between $350,000 and $1 million — Knight Waste Services, based in Fort Worth, Texas.
Despite reporting benefits, PPP applicants have encountered challenges while applying. Several small waste companies have shared their experiences with Waste Dive in recent months and expressed frustrations about the length of time involved, as well as mixed messaging from banks and the government.
When the program initially ran out of money in April, one applicant said she was told funding had been depleted, only to be informed later that her application had been approved. Another said she applied to ensure her lone employee could remain on staff. She reported struggling with the parameters and language used around the program when applying in April. Funds ultimately appeared in her account in May, weeks after she began the process.
Biderman similarly reported a lull between SWANA’s application and receipt of funds.
“Although we originally submitted our loan application in April, we were not notified by our lender that the loan was being processed until late June, and did not receive any PPP money until last week,” he said.
What comes next
A wave of reopenings across the country has resulted in a return to normal operations for some shuttered MRFs, as well as a seeming uptick in business for some haulers servicing the commercial sector. But a surge in COVID-19 cases across the Sun Belt in states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona has led to growing concerns. California and Oregon re-imposed restrictions in some areas, limiting dining at restaurants and other activities.
While some of the industry’s largest companies have expressed optimism regarding business prospects, state actions could preview a turbulent few months for smaller waste companies reeling from downward trends during the first half of the year.
In early July, President Donald Trump signed an extension for PPP, giving Congress another five weeks until Aug. 8 to settle on a plan for future small business aid. At the time of that extension, some $130 billion in PPP loan money remained unspent, potentially leaving further opportunities for waste and recycling industry operators to apply.
PPP could also take a different form in the future. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has indicated certain industries might take priority in another round of aid, like dining establishments or hotels. Some Democrats are meanwhile pushing forward a measure that would prioritize businesses with 100 or fewer employees and suffering significant pandemic-linked revenue losses.
What any of these proposals might mean for the waste industry is unclear, even as Biderman and other stakeholders have expressed gratitude for the ability to seek relief through PPP.
“It is my fervent hope that the second half of 2020 marks a return to normal, or at least the ‘new normal,’” he said.
If you would like to share any feedback on the PPP application process, or this initial data about the waste and recycling industry, please contact us at [email protected]