Republic Services General Manager Kurt Bodendorfer, left, and Divisional Sales Manager Reuben Mutrux say the combined company brings Allied Waste's safety record into the mix with Republic Services' environmental leadership and operating structure.
The waste game is a changing one. For the past 30 years, the recycling movement has crept across the country, altering how many Americans view the items they throw away daily.
In Springfield, the 2008 merger of two national waste management companies is raising the bar in trash service.
Allied Waste Industries – which had operated locally since 1999 – was purchased by smaller competitor Republic Services Inc. (NYSE: RSG) for $6.1 billion. The resulting company is the second-largest waste management operation in the country, with 30,000 national employees serving nearly 13 million residential, commercial and municipal clients across 39 states, according to company records. Republic Services reported $588.9 million in 2013 net income.
In the Ozarks, internal operations haven’t changed much, says Republic Services General Manager Kurt Bodendorfer. “The biggest differences were not at the local levels,” he says. “Trucks, drivers, sales, management – we’re all the same people, providing the same service.”
Externally, the company is being forced to navigate a different type of change. The rebranding of Allied into Republic, which began in 2012, represents a difficult transition for many companies, says John Mack, principal of Springfield-based Brandigm LLC, a communications firm specializing in brand strategy and design.
While much attention centers around a new logo or other topical factors in rebranding, Mack says there are often deeper issues that need to be addressed. The brand promise of an unknown company might not resonate the same way in every community, and it often takes a concerted effort to communicate the “who, what and why” of a business.
“The most fundamental question is how much are they willing to support the change,” he says. “Is the shift more revolutionary or evolutionary? Is there a need for regional customization of the branding and messaging?”
More perfect union With Republic Services, there is a lot to talk about in addition to the new logo. Both Bodendorfer and Division Sales Manager Reuben Mutrux say the new company brings together Allied Waste’s safety record and Republic Services’ environmental leadership and proven operating structure.
“Allied had a really strong sales force and had always been a leader in safety,” Mutrux says. “And Republic had some great systems in place for management. The deal really did take the strongest parts of each company and bring them all together.”
Republic’s solid-waste business is broken into three lines. The residential line, accounting for 40 percent of volume, includes household solid waste and unsorted, aka single-stream, recycling. The remaining 60 percent is split evenly between commercial waste, which includes waste and recycling dumpsters used by businesses and multifamily residences, and the industrial line, encompassing the off-loaded 40-foot flatbed dumpsters seen on residential and commercial construction sites.
Mutrux says the recycling business is the real growth driver. Demand has steadily increased as awareness has grown and the process has gotten easier for both consumers and waste managers. The model has moved from small tubs requiring sorted recycling material to the large curbside bins that accept cardboard, plastic, paper, tin and aluminum – all in the same container.
“When I got in this industry 20 years ago, it was all about volume – all about waste, all about picking it up. Today, it’s a lot more about doing the right thing,” Bodendorfer says, “and that’s moving more and more toward recycling.”
Business at the Prairie View Regional Waste Facility, which Republic Services operates 80 miles northwest of Springfield, is evidence of this phenomenon. As more recyclable material has been diverted from landfills, the facility in Lamar has seen a consistent yearly decline in volume, and an overall 35 percent decrease from its 2007 high of 581 tons to 380 tons last year, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
The future of waste After sending an explanatory letter to all clients and transitioning the brand on billing materials, correspondence and its website, Republic has relied on attrition of old equipment for the new brand rollout. Half of the company’s 100 trucks in the local fleet – some of which carry 175 tons of solid waste in and around Springfield and Branson each day – bear the new Republic Services logo.
That metamorphosis will take a giant leap forward in 90 days, when half of its vehicles are re-branded during the first phase of an ambitious transitioning of all Republic vehicles to compressed natural gas engines from diesel fuel. While the move will have immediate environmental impacts, Mutrux says the return on the two-part, three-year $30 million investment is “way out there.”
“It’s about $300,000 per vehicle conversion,” he says. “Republic is also investing several million dollars in facility renovations [to convert to CNG]. The full ROI will not be seen for several years, but that’s just the direction the company is going.”
The environmental focus garnered the company a Project of the Year award from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program.
Republic’s Prairie View facility is one of 70 such gas-to-energy projects companywide, providing both the city of Lamar and the Barton County Electric Co-operative with electric power via conversion of renewable landfill gasses. According to the Republic Services website, total electrical and gas output from the company’s methane capture programs is equal to the usage of nearly 200,000 homes, with a net ecological impact of removing 4 million cars from U.S. roads or planting 4.5 million trees.
Republic also is committed to organizational safety.
The local operation leads the way in safety training within the Republic Services family, serving as the training site for company drivers across Missouri and into Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of Tennessee. Troy Morris, who manages Republic’s fleet of vehicles, says the service schedule is every 15 days – four times more frequently than the 90-day requirement set by the Department of Transportation.
Technology also has its place in waste management advancements. Republic offers a smartphone application for wireless billing, customer service and scheduling.
“We took two great companies and brought them together – their best practices, my best practices – to make a better, safer company,” says Bodendorfer, who served as operations manager at Allied since 1997. “Were we [Allied] thinking about CNG back before ’08? Sure, but it took this change to get us there. And we’re here now.”[[In-content Ad]]