In the Spotlight: Republic Services: Respectful, Responsible, Reliable, Resourceful, Relentless
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Posted by: Anne Piacentino
Source: Waste Advantage Magazine
In the Spotlight: Republic Services: Respectful, Responsible, Reliable, Resourceful, Relentless
As one of the largest waste and recycling operators in North America, Republic Services’ passion and commitment to the industry and the communities that they serve keeps them recognizable as a valuable strategic partner and innovative company.
Republic Services, Inc., incorporated in 1996, is a Fortune 500 company and the second largest provider of waste and recycling services in the United States. Traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RSG), Republic provides non-hazardous solid waste and recycling services for commercial, industrial, municipal and residential customers through their subsidiaries across 41 states and Puerto Rico (see Fast Facts sidebar).
Guided by five essential core values to be Respectful, Responsible, Reliable, Resourceful and Relentless—representing the five Rs joined together forming the Republic star—in all that they do, every day, Republic continues to grow at a rapid pace and employ a passionate, professional team who are committed to keep the company’s values a priority.
Operating in a Dynamic Industry
Pete Keller, Vice President of Recycling and Customer Solutions at Republic Services, says that in the past several years, Republic has generally seen improving macroeconomic conditions, including increased temporary industrial hauls, increased commercial service and improvements in the residential construction sector. “We believe that household formation is a key indicator of future commercial development, ultimately resulting in additional permanent volume.” Experiencing significant fluctuation in commodity markets, both in the sales of recycled commodities and in the purchase of hydrocarbon related products (diesel, oil, tires), Keller points out that, on balance, these areas of the business are trending very closely to Republic’s plan. “We continue to reside in a low Consumer Price Index (CPI) environment, meaning that cost recovery can be challenged when contracted price increases don’t keep pace with actual operational inflation. As a company, we have focused on using indices that more closely match our industry—for example, the water sewer garbage index.”
In a competitive, dynamic and highly regulated industry, Republic likes to look at challenges as opportunities, such as changes in law, changing economic conditions, changing material streams, complexities in the waste stream and commodity valuation. “I think we are going to continue to see in certain parts of the country, whether is a mandate, incentive or subsidy, continued opportunities in the generic diversion space, that will take the form of organics, other materials, etc.—segmentation of the waste stream. It will be a challenge but also an opportunity,” says Keller. Some other areas of Republic’s interest include organics management, coal combustion residue solutions and how they enhance a circular economy. Keller stresses that they always look to maintain relevance by being well informed, innovative and, ultimately, a trusted advisor to customers and the communities they serve.
Since the waste and recycling industry is largely driven by state legislatures, Republic makes a great effort to play a role in these changing regulations. “As responsible stewards of our company and the communities that we serve, it is something that we spend a lot of time paying attention to. We are involved at state and federal levels. There are a lot of legislative activities that occur in California and we have significant resources there. For example, Senate Bill 1826 focuses on organics and will require all commercial customers to have an organics program by 2019. We have tracked this bill through legislature and provided input along the way.”
Steve Saltzgiver, Vice President of Fleet Management for Republic Services, says that the challenges he sees are the increasing impact of government regulations in emissions, transformation to automation and the exponential pace of truck technology impacting the overall complexity and costs of fleet operations. “We are working through these challenges with our successful OneFleet transformation that focuses on safety, training, quality and productivity which we believe has mitigated costs that might otherwise have been more extreme.” He says that increased complexity and automation continues to be a challenge as the run rate is two to three times inflation, which is at an all-time low. Additionally, Republic has placed greater focus in four primary areas to gain operational efficiencies by right-sizing the fleet, reducing waste and operating costs, leveraging supplier spend through greater economies of scale and building talent capability and shop capacity through advance employee training programs.
Transitioning to CNG
Saltzgiver stresses that Republic continues to be recognized as a leader and innovator in the refuse industry and receive accolades from supplier partners for their innovations in truck specification and delivery processes. Additionally, as a Department of Energy partner Republic continues to focus their efforts on becoming a good corporate citizen in fleet sustainability through the expansion of the Compressed Natural Gas truck program. “In the past year, we have been recognized by the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition (Sonoma County) as the Alternative Fuel Fleet Leader of the year and by the State of Louisiana Clean Cities coalition as Fleet of the Year.”
Nationwide, Republic Services operates a fleet of more than 2,200 CNG vehicles and 38 natural gas fueling stations. Republic’s CNG fleet helps to save roughly 18 million gallons of diesel fuel annually. As the operator of the 8th largest vocational fleet in the country, Republic has a number of initiatives to reduce overall fuel usage, including its continued commitment to operating CNG powered trucks. Together, these initiatives will help Republic reach its goal of reducing fleet greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent by 2018.
Saltzgiver points out that transitioning to CNG has had a number of benefits, including the spread between the diesel fuel and the CNG costs. “Even as diesel fuel prices have gone down, we still maintain a little bit of a spread so we still do get that ROI.” Another benefit is that the trucks are very quiet, which Republic’s customers really appreciate, especially when the trucks are on route at 5 a.m. Additionally, productivity has gone up as well. “Generally, trucks get lined up at the fuel pump to fill up. With CNG, the trucks can bypass the fuel pump and go straight to the CNG stall and plug in the truck. While it is fueling, they can do other things that need to be done. So it gives us a productivity benefit.” Working primarily with Clean Energy, Republic builds their own fueling sites in order to give them the fuel security and a little bit more control and more productivity.
As the older diesel trucks are replaced with CNG, Republic has what is called a trickle down truck partner plan. “We found out that to put in CNG, you really have to do it en masse. For example, take a site like Crestwood, IL out by Chicago. We brought in brand new 25 trucks and at the same time we took 25 diesel trucks out and trickled them into other places around the same area. This allows us to make use of the older trucks and then in another two years, we’ll take some of these CNG trucks that are now one to two years old and trickle those down, maintaining the balance. It’s a pretty dedicated process,” says Saltzgiver.
During the CNG transition process, Republic makes it a point to educate their team and make sure they have the right communication plan in place. “That’s a challenge sometimes because it’s a new technology, but with proper training it can be a smooth transition.” says Saltzgiver. He points out that they currently have 36 shops that are currently outfitted for CNG and they have been focusing on implementing about two to three per year since they started the program. “First, we have to retrofit the shop to get it within code because working with CNG is almost exactly the opposite of a diesel truck.” As a result, they have to retrofit the shops to make sure they have alarms, CNG sniffers and detectors, and that the automatic doors can open if there is a gas issue to ensure that everyone is safe. With this, comes with a lot of training. “We train many of our technicians. For every shop we send one or two of them out there to CNG train so everyone knows how to operate within the shop.”
In addition to training in the maintenance shops, Republic also needs to train the drivers. “We always say within our company, one route, one truck, one driver, so every CNG truck is taken through a series of training steps to make sure he understands the subtle differences as well as the safety differences,” says Saltzgiver.
We are working to finish CNG implementation in Baton Rouge. Las Vegas and Anaheim were the first cities to come online. “We have a dozen on the list that we are looking at. We have to go in and see what kind of access to fuel we have at that location and if it’s feasible. We probably have about 10 sites right now that we are exploring that may happen in 2016. We are keeping it to the tent sites because it’s all about optimization, effectiveness, and our customer base and we want to make sure that we prioritize well,” says Saltzgiver.
Recycling and Landfill Facilities
With regards to waste diversion and conversion, Republic has taken the lead in the areas that they serve. Keller considers organics to be an emerging market. He explains that there is regulatory framework in a few states that is beginning to support that business model. “We are collecting organics in some markets and we expect that we’ll be collecting more in the future and delivering to anaerobic digestion. We also own and operate some traditional compost facilities. We’re managing some of those materials through traditional aerobic decomposition. Waste-to-energy and waste conversion is a space that we continue to monitor. We’ve looked at a number of technologies over the course of the last several years but we haven’t moved on anything yet.” However, he says that composting—mechanical and biological—is really the primary focus as well as single-stream recycling, having done some recycling commodities in the commercial space.
On a percentage basis, about 60 percent of the material Republic picks up is single-stream recycling, so 40 percent requires some source separating. In most urban markets (like Las Vegas), there is a mix of carted single stream service and two and three bin tub service so Republic is in the process of converting this market to a carted system throughout. “We trust in automation, so we trust in carts. We know through our experience that when we convert to a carted system, we ultimately get more material. Automation is important to use for a number of reasons and that is something that we will continue to do. Over time, I would expect us to implement more single stream,” says Keller.
He does point out that when switching over to single stream, there is a contamination issue with glass, so they work hard to be mindful of this when structuring their municipal cities and any of their customers. “We understand the balance between the value of the material and the cost to process it and move it. We are working constantly to drive the highest value of those materials.”
Republic operates over 300 active and closed landfills across the country. Teams of more than 160 environmental managers, engineers and scientists ensure that the long-term management of the country’s waste materials are regenerative to the planet. Most of Republic’s landfills are equipped with robust gas extraction systems whereby methane gas, a byproduct of decomposing waste, is extracted from the landfill using a complex system of pipes and wells. Republic is committed to operating landfills with environmental practices and policies that are good for customers, local businesses and residents.
Republic Services’ relentless commitment to safety led to the formation of a comprehensive, industry-leading safety program that relies on continual training to reduce accident frequency. Republic Services’ drivers begin their employment with week-long equipment training that is focused on skill set verification at one of 22 driver training safety centers nationwide. This initial training is followed by weeks of in-cab instruction and evaluation. Throughout their tenure, Republic Services’ drivers participate in Focus 6®, a monthly supervisor-led training protocol focused on eliminating the six types of industry-specific accidents that occur most frequently, or have the potential for the highest degree of human tragedy.
Last year, approximately 12,300 employees earned Republic Services’ Dedicated to Safety Award, and 5,800 employees received the Dedicated to Excellence recognition. Based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration data, Republic Services’ safety performance has been 42 percent better than the industry average over the past seven years (see Driver of the Year Award sidebar).
Republic continues to be innovative by working closely with the vocational schools and various outreach programs to partner and gain access to talent. Their OneFleet program has been a tremendous success in transforming the maintenance shops to enhance safety and productivity leading to greater engagement and retention. Saltzgiver says, “From the fleet management perspective, we continue to focus and expand our outreach programs to attach and retain quality talent, build internal training programs to capability and modernize our shop facilities to foster greater creatively that leads to a safe and productive workplace for our maintenance team.”
Republic is dedicated to supporting the communities they serve. This includes making investments in customer engagement, philanthropic giving, volunteerism, infrastructure investments, and operating in more than 240 markets at the highest standards. Whether it’s walks and runs to raise awareness, supporting a school, participating in a community clean-up or food drives to benefit local food banks, Republic Services employees are always ready, willing and able to extend a helping hand to their communities.
Looking Towards the Future
Keller says that over the last two to three years, the company has been pretty consistent in their messaging and strategy. “We have 31,000 dedicated employees with a common vision: to be America’s preferred recycling and waste services partner. We are looking to our capacity in 35 markets per year and we’ve been making investments in the 50 to 70 million dollar range on an annual basis pretty consistently and will continue to do that as well as invest in markets that are strategic to us in the future.”
For more information, visit www.republicservices.com.
14 Million Customers
341 Collection Operations
198 Transfer Stations
66 Recycling Centers
193 Active Solid Waste Landfills
2,200 Natural Gas Trucks
36 Natural Gas Fueling Stations
73 Landfill Gas-To-Energy Projects
12 Salt Water Disposal Wells
4 Treatment, Recovery and Disposal Facilities
2 Landfill Solar Energy Projects
100 million tons Waste Collected Annually
Driver of the Year Award: Todd Colarusso
At the Waste Expo in June, Republic Services’ 22-year commercial collection driver Todd Colarusso from Scottdale, PA received the prestigious Driver of the Year award, given by the National Waste & Recycling Association. For more than 25 years, the Driver of the Year program has honored drivers who have upheld the field of solid waste management as an honorable occupation, and have conducted themselves and operated their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner. Drivers from the private and public sector in the U.S. are eligible for nomination. Todd was selected out of more than 1,000 driver nominations submitted by industry peers from across the country.
Todd began his driving career in 1993 in Scottdale, PA. Over the past 22 years, he has earned a reputation as a leader and mentor who goes above and beyond for his customers. He is known for his superior and timely service, perfect safety record and sincere interest in getting to know his customers. Each week, Todd drives an average of 832 miles to serve approximately 450 commercial customers, collecting more than 120 tons of waste. He is often called upon to mentor new drivers, extending his knowledge and dedication to service across his division. Todd is a devoted family man who is actively involved at his church and within his community.
“We prioritize safety above all else,” said Don Slager, president and chief executive officer of Republic Services. “Safety is foundational to who we are, what we believe and how we provide service to customers. Todd represents the very best in our people, programs and practices, and he embodies our commitment to the customers and communities we serve. On behalf of all our employees, I am proud to congratulate Todd and his family on this extraordinary recognition.”