Resource Recycling News

Haulers see stronger Q4, but lower full-year revenues

Waste Management collection truck.


Though the fourth quarter of 2023 brought some recycling revenue increases, overall the five largest publicly traded recycling companies posted losses for the year. 

WM, Republic Services, GFL Environmental, Waste Connections and Casella Waste Systems reported 2023 recycling revenue decreases of 17%, 0.5%, 6%, 28% and 2.4%, respectively.

Company leaders largely attributed the decreases to falling commodity prices and noted overall company revenue increased in 2023.

However, the fourth quarter brought pricing improvements, reversing the downward trend of the last few quarters. In 2022, the five companies also saw price-point pinches, unlike the year before, when revenues were higher.

Following is a roundup of financial results from the largest publicly traded residential hauling and recycling companies in North America:

Waste Management

In the fourth quarter of 2023, WM’s recycling revenue was $349 million, up 18% over the same period last year, a press release noted. In Q4 2022, WM reported recycling revenue of $296 million.

However, its annual recycling processing and sales net operating revenue for 2023 was $1.26 billion, down 17% year over year from $1.52 billion in 2022. The company’s recycling business income also fell year over year, coming in at a loss of $44 million in 2023. All told, the recycling division’s adjusted operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was $188 million in 2023, compared to $220 million in 2022. 

WM’s 10-K Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) form noted that the decrease was primarily due to a $168 million goodwill impairment charge (which is a write-off of assets that have declined in values so as to become worthless) related to “a business engaged in accelerating film and plastic wrap recycling capabilities.” Additional factors included a decline in recycling commodity prices, the temporary shutdown of facilities for technology upgrades combined and increased costs for transportation and third-party tip fees. 

“With the significant decline in commodity prices that started in the second half of 2022 and has continued into 2023, we are currently experiencing margin pressures from our commodity-driven businesses,” the filing noted, adding that while current prices are still lower than in the beginning of 2022, “recycling commodity prices began to improve in the fourth quarter of 2023.” 

The recycling processing and sales segment saw revenues attributable to yield decrease $308 million in 2023, after it increased $19 million in 2022 compared to 2021, the filing noted, and average market prices for single-stream recycled commodities were down 40% in 2023 as compared with the prior year periods. 

By the numbers

The following is a look at key fourth-quarter and full-year 2023 recycling numbers from the five largest publicly traded haulers in North America:


Q4 recycling revenue: $349 million

Q4 revenue change YoY: Up 18%

2023 recycling revenue: $1.26 billion

2023 revenue change: Down 17% from 2022

Average 2023 commodity price: $62 a ton

Republic Services

Q4 recycling revenue: $85.7  million

Q4 revenue change YoY: Up 46%

2023 recycling revenue: $312.3 million

2023 revenue change: Down 0.5% from 2022

Q4 average commodity price: (excluding glass and organics): $131 per ton

Q4 price YoY: Up 49%

2023 average commodity price (excluding glass and organics): $117 per ton

2023 price change: Down 31%

GFL Environmental (converted to U.S. from Canadian dollars on March 1)

Q4 recycling revenue: $58.9 million 

Q4 revenue change YoY: Up 2.3%

2021 recycling revenue: $237.5 million

2021 revenue change: Down 6%

Waste Connections

Q4 recycling revenue: $41 million

Q4 revenue change YoY: Up 57.7%

2023 recycling revenue: $147 million

2023 revenue change: Down 28%

Casella Waste Systems

Q4 recycling revenue: $77.6 million

Q4 revenue change YoY: Up 8.8%

2023 recycling revenue: $292.8 million

2023 revenue change from 2022: Down 2.4%

2023 operating income: $5.7 million

2021 income change from 2020: Down 64.4%

“During 2023, the revenue decline from lower commodity pricing that started in 2022 was partially offset by higher pricing in our recycling brokerage business as well as our continued focus on a fee-based pricing model,” WM added. 

In 2023, WM opened eight new recycling facilities within the U.S. and Canada, all “equipped with advanced recycling technology,” its SEC filing stated, and it plans to continue to invest in recycling facility automation and new markets. Between its recycling and renewable energy businesses, it plans to spend between $850 and $900 million on capital expenditures in 2024.

As of Dec. 31, the company operated 102 recycling facilities, 44 of those single-stream. In a Feb. 13 investor’s call, Jim Fish, CEO and president, noted that WM is on track to complete automation upgrades at 10 recycling facilities and add three recycling facilities in new markets in 2024.

Recycling made up just over 6% of WM’s total operating revenue. Overall, the company reported revenues of $5.22 billion and $20.43 billion during the fourth quarter and full-year 2023, up 5.7% and 3.7% year over year, respectively. 

During the investor’s call, Tara Hemmer, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, noted that the company has moved to a fee-for-service model to help moderate commodity price fluctuations. 

“We have 95% of our contracts through that, which is really insulating us a bit on the commodity side,” Hemmer said. “And then on top of that, recall that a significant piece of the benefit is coming independent of commodity prices, really those labor cost improvements and also some price premiums that we get related to the automation benefit.”

Republic Services

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Republic reported $85.7 million in revenue from the recycling division, up 46% from $58.7 during the fourth quarter of 2022. 

Overall, the company’s 2023 revenue increased by 10.8% to just under $15 billion. In 2022, revenue was $13.5 billion. Republic attributed the increase to an increased commodity volume of 0.5%, average yield of 6.1% and some acquisitions, including US Ecology, which were partially offset by a 0.5% decrease in recycling processing and commodity sales.

The overall operating income was $2.8 billion in 2023, up from $2.4 billion in 2022. The EBITDA for the recycling and waste division was $4.1 billion in 2023, up from $3.7 billion in 2022. 

Recycling processing and commodity sales were $312.3 million in 2023, down 0.5% from 2022’s sales of $359.1 million. The company pointed to a decrease in overall commodity prices, noting that the average price for recycled commodities, excluding glass and organics, was $117 per ton in 2023, compared to $170 per ton in 2022.

Republic Services has 364 collection operations, 246 transfer stations and 74 recycling centers across the U.S. and Canada. 

Recycling accounted for 2.1% of the company’s total revenue in 2023, its SEC filing noted, and about 82% of total recycling center volume is fiber-based. In 2023, Republic processed and sold 2 million tons, excluding glass and organics. An additional 2 million tons were collected by the company and delivered to third parties. 

“We continue to invest in proven technologies to control costs and to simplify and streamline recycling for our customers,” the filing stated. “For example, robotics and advanced sorting equipment.” 

In 2023, Republic also completed construction of its first Polymer Center in Las Vegas, and the company anticipates opening at least three more centers. Also in 2023 it created Blue Polymers, a joint venture with Ravago, to take HDPE and PP from the Polymer Centers and create custom resins. 

In a Feb. 27 investor call, CEO and President Jon Vander Ark said Republic was “very satisfied with both the execution and the return” on the Polymer Center. 

“We feel very good about the demand in the marketplace,” he said. “We could have sold out Las Vegas five times over upfront.”

Republic spent $1.2 billion on recycling and waste capital expenditures in 2023. 

In a press release Vander Ark said the company expects “another outsized year of growth in revenue, EBITDA, earnings and free cash flow in 2024.” 

In the fourth quarter of 2023, the average recycled commodity price per ton was $131, an increase of $19 per ton from the third quarter of 2023 and an increase of $43 per ton over the fourth quarter of 2022.

Recycling generated 2.1% of Republic’s overall revenue in 2023, compared to 2.7% in 2022. 

Waste Connections 

Waste Connections also saw increased overall revenues in 2023 but a drop in recycling revenues. According to its SEC filing, the company saw $8 billion in revenues in 2023, up 11.2% from $7.2 billion in 2022. 

Acquisitions accounted for $407.3 million of that revenue in 2023. Excluding the impact of those acquisitions, revenues increased 5.6%, the filing noted, “due predominantly to higher internal growth in solid waste.”

In 2023, Waste Connections completed 13 acquisitions at a value of $752.8 million, down from the 24 acquisitions worth $2.3 billion it completed the year prior. 

In a Feb. 14 investor’s call, President and CEO Ron Mittelstaedt called 2023 “a remarkable year in many ways.” 

The company was awarded the right to compete in 12 commercial zones plus citywide compactor service in New York City, he said. 

In terms of capital expenditures, Waste Connections spent $934 million on property and equipment in 2023 and expects to spend $1.2 billion in 2024. 

Its overall 2023 EBITDA increased 13.6% to $2.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion in 2022, and its 2023 operating income was $1.2 billion, a 0.5% decrease year over year. 

Its recycling segment specifically netted about $147 million, down 28% from 2022’s $205 million.

“The decrease is primarily attributable to lower average commodity pricing for old corrugated cardboard, plastics and other paper products as compared to the prior period,” the filing noted. 

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Waste Connections’ overall revenue was about $2 billion, up 8.9% year over year from $1.9 billion, a press release noted. 

Overall operating income was $224.5 million in Q4, compared to $312 million the year prior. EBITDA was $656 million, up 16.4% year over year. 

In the recycling division, the fourth quarter of 2023 brought revenue of $41 million, up 57.7% from $26 million in 2022. 

In 2023, recycling revenue made up about 1.8% of Waste Connections’ revenue. 

Mittelstaedt saud during the investor’s call that he believes recycling over time will grow as a percentage of the business as more diversion legislation and recycling mandates come into play. 

GFL Environmental 

Toronto-headquartered GFL Environmental’s recycling business brought in 80 million Canadian dollars in the fourth quarter and 322.5 million Canadian dollars in 2023 (about $58.9 million and $237.5 million U.S., respectively. All following figures are in USD). 

According to its SEC filing, the company’s 2023 overall revenue was $5.5 billion in 2023, up 10% from $5 billion in 2022, and $1.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, an increase of 3.4% year over year. 

The recycling segment was down 6% from 2022’s $254.8 million in revenue, and year-over-year Q4 recycling revenue was up 2.3% from 2022’s $57.6 million. 

Overall, GFL Environmental reported a 2023 EBITDA of $1.5  billion, an increase of 16.4% year over year. It also completed acquisitions generating approximately $261.4 million in annualized revenue in 2023. 

Looking ahead to 2024, the company predicted revenue of $5.9 billion in 2024 and an EBITDA of $1.6 billion.

In a Feb. 21 investor call, CEO Patrick Dovigi said with more extended producer responsibility programs coming into full force in Canada, he anticipates “our EPR opportunity will be significantly larger than the $80 million to $100 million that we have already been awarded and we expect to provide updates on new contract awards in the coming months.”

Overall, recycling generated 4.3% of GFL’s revenue in 2023, compared to 5% in 2022.

Casella Waste Systems

Casella’s Resource Solutions segment, which includes recycling, saw total revenues of $292.8 million, down $7.1 million, or 2.4%, year over year. The segment’s operating income also declined in fiscal year 2023 by $10.3 million as compared to the prior year.

The company’s SEC filing noted that the decrease was primarily driven by lower recycled commodity pricing and lower processing volumes due to some facility downtime.

In the fourth quarter 2023, Resource Solutions saw revenue of $77.6 million, compared to $71.3 million in 2022, a press release stated. 

Overall, the company’s revenue was $1.3 billion in 2023, up 16.5% from $1.1 billion in 2022. Its total operating income was $80.4 million, down 15% from $95.4 million in 2022 and its EBITDA was $294.6 million, up $49.4 million year over year, or 20.1%.

In the fourth quarter, Casella’s overall revenues were $359.6 million, up $87.4 million, or 32.1%, from the same period in 2022. Its fourth quarter operating income was $13.4 million, down $3.9 year over year, and its EBITDA was $82.2 million, up $25.9 million, or 46.1%, year over year. 

In a Feb.16 investor’s call, CEO John Casella said “this was an exceptional year for the company and illustrates the success that we continue to have in terms of executing against our key strategies.”

In 2023, capital expenditures were $24 million higher year over year due to a retrofit of a Boston stream MRF, the purchase of a transfer station that was formerly leased, landfill development, acquisitions and general inflation, the filing added. It plans to retrofit another MRF in Connecticut in 2024, Casella added in the call. 

Casella acquired seven businesses in 2023, including four wholly owned subsidiaries of GFL Environmental and the assets of Consolidated Waste, for $846.6 million. That’s significantly more than the $82.7 million it spent on acquisitions in 2022, though that year it acquired 14 businesses. 

The company is trying to reduce exposure to recycling commodity price volatility by restructuring its third-party processing contracts to limit downside risk through processing fees, adding a “sustainability recycling adjustment fee” and investing in better processing infrastructure.

“Where implemented, our risk mitigation programs offset most recycling commodity price decline and allow us to return value to our customers with higher recycling commodity prices,” the SEC filing noted. 

In 2023, the Resource Solutions segment made up 23.2% of the company’s overall revenue. 

Editor’s note: Waste Connection’s Q4 recycling revenue figure was incorrect in the By the Numbers Box and has been corrected.

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