TURNING WASTE INTO OPPORTUNITY
From collection to processing, Vivek evaluates the infrastructure and operations of efficient and sustainable waste management companies.
I love trash.
Okay, let me qualify that. The average American creates roughly 5.9 lbs of trash per day. If you do the math that’s upwards of 260 million tons of waste per year in the U.S. alone. A number that increases exponentially when you consider the waste being created around the globe. That’s a lot of trash.
It’s not the actual ‘garbage’ part of trash that fascinates me. It’s the infrastructure around it. The systems required to move it from point A to point B. The enormity of such an operation, undertaken on a daily basis in every neighborhood around the globe – this is what fascinates me about trash.
Most of the trash we create ultimately ends up in landfills, which are essentially long-term storage sites for our garbage. Think about it—we store our garbage underground. These companies have a huge responsibility. Beyond the epic challenges on the collection side, landfills can emit methane into the air or leach chemicals into the water supply. I need to know that the companies we invest in are managing their operations in an efficient and sustainable way. Failure to do so could result in significant liabilities.
Since the garbage that’s buried isn’t going anywhere for decades to come, the need for more landfill real estate grows every year. Most people don’t want to think about these things. But the companies we invest in play an important role in the world economy… and in our daily lives.
The future of trash is recycling. But recent regulatory changes in East Asia have up-ended its economics. While this hurts the industry today, it is forcing companies to reimagine the way that they collect, sort, and process recyclable material. Over time, these changes should result in a more efficient and profitable business.
As an analyst for T. Rowe Price, my job is not just to find companies that generate superior returns for our clients over the long-term, but to find those companies that also value sustainability. It’s not enough to examine numbers on a screen, I have to go into the field and meet with the teams who are driving these changes.
That’s why I go beyond the numbers.
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