10-K 1 d260235d10k.htm FORM 10-K Form 10-K
Table of Contents

 

 

 

UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

Form 10-K

(Mark One)

 

  þ      ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
     OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
     For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011
     OR
  ¨      TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
     OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
     For the transition period from            to            

Commission file number 1-12154

Waste Management, Inc.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Delaware   73-1309529

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

1001 Fannin Street, Suite 4000

Houston, Texas

 

77002

(Zip code)

(Address of principal executive offices)  

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:

(713) 512-6200

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Each Class

 

Name of Exchange on Which Registered

Common Stock, $.01 par value   New York Stock Exchange

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined by Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes  þ    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes  ¨    No  þ

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes  þ    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulations S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).    Yes  þ    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulations S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.    ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

Large accelerated filer  þ                          Accelerated filer  ¨                          Non-accelerated filer  ¨                      Smaller reporting company   ¨

(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).    Yes  ¨    No  þ

The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant at June 30, 2011 was approximately $17.6 billion. The aggregate market value was computed by using the closing price of the common stock as of that date on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”). (For purposes of calculating this amount only, all directors and executive officers of the registrant have been treated as affiliates.)

The number of shares of Common Stock, $0.01 par value, of the registrant outstanding at February 10, 2012 was 461,374,381 (excluding treasury shares of 168,908,080).

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Document

 

Incorporated as to

Proxy Statement for the

2012 Annual Meeting of Stockholders

  Part III

 

 

 

 


Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

         Page  
PART I   
Item 1.  

Business

     3  
Item 1A.  

Risk Factors

     14   
Item 1B.  

Unresolved Staff Comments

     24   
Item 2.  

Properties

     24   
Item 3.  

Legal Proceedings

     25   
Item 4.  

Mine Safety Disclosures

     25   
PART II   
Item 5.   Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities      26   
Item 6.  

Selected Financial Data

     28   
Item 7.  

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

     29   
Item 7A.  

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

     64   
Item 8.  

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

     66   
Item 9.  

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

     144   
Item 9A.  

Controls and Procedures

     144   
Item 9B.  

Other Information

     144   
PART III   
Item 10.  

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

     144   
Item 11.  

Executive Compensation

     145   
Item 12.   Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters      145   
Item 13.  

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

     145   
Item 14.  

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

     145   
PART IV   
Item 15.  

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

     145   

 

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PART I

 

Item 1. Business.

General

The financial statements presented in this report represent the consolidation of Waste Management, Inc., a Delaware corporation; Waste Management’s wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries; and certain variable interest entities for which Waste Management or its subsidiaries are the primary beneficiary as described in Note 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Waste Management is a holding company and all operations are conducted by its subsidiaries. When the terms “the Company,” “we,” “us” or “our” are used in this document, those terms refer to Waste Management, Inc., its consolidated subsidiaries and consolidated variable interest entities. When we use the term “WM,” we are referring only to Waste Management, Inc., the parent holding company.

WM was incorporated in Oklahoma in 1987 under the name “USA Waste Services, Inc.” and was reincorporated as a Delaware company in 1995. In a 1998 merger, the Illinois-based waste services company formerly known as Waste Management, Inc. became a wholly-owned subsidiary of WM and changed its name to Waste Management Holdings, Inc. (“WM Holdings”). At the same time, our parent holding company changed its name from USA Waste Services to Waste Management, Inc. Like WM, WM Holdings is a holding company and all operations are conducted by subsidiaries. For detail on the financial position, results of operations and cash flows of WM, WM Holdings and their subsidiaries, see Note 23 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Our principal executive offices are located at 1001 Fannin Street, Suite 4000, Houston, Texas 77002. Our telephone number at that address is (713) 512-6200. Our website address is www.wm.com. Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K are all available, free of charge, on our website as soon as practicable after we file the reports with the SEC. Our stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “WM.”

We are the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America. Our subsidiaries provide collection, transfer, recycling, and disposal services. We are also a leading developer, operator and owner of waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States. Our customers include residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers throughout North America. During 2011, our largest customer represented approximately 1% of annual revenues. We employed approximately 44,300 people as of December 31, 2011.

Through our core waste management services, we own or operate 271 landfill sites, which is the largest network of landfills in our industry. In order to make disposal more practical for larger urban markets, where the distance to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities is typically farther, we manage 287 transfer stations that consolidate, compact and transport waste efficiently and economically. We also use waste to create energy. One method we use involves recovering the gas produced naturally as waste decomposes in landfills for use in the generation of electricity. We also use waste to create energy through a highly efficient combustion process. Our waste-to-energy subsidiary, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., operates 22 plants that produce clean, renewable energy. We are a leading recycler in North America, handling materials that include paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal and electronics. Through our recycling operations, we provide cost-efficient, environmentally sound programs for municipalities, businesses and households across the U.S. and Canada. In addition to traditional waste operations, we are also expanding to increase the service offerings we provide for our customers.

Our Company’s goals are targeted at serving our customers, our employees, the environment, the communities in which we work and our stockholders, and achievement of our goals is intended to meet the needs of a changing industry. The waste industry continues to confront significant changes. Our Company and others have recognized the value of the traditional waste stream as a potential resource. Landfill volumes have declined in recent years, as customers are increasingly using alternatives to traditional disposal, such as recycling and composting, while also working to reduce the waste they generate. Accomplishment of our goals will grow our Company and allow us to meet the needs of our customers and communities as they, too, Think Green®. We believe that helping our customers achieve their environmental goals will enable us to achieve profitable growth.

 

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Our Company is dedicated to three transformational goals that we believe will drive continued growth and leadership in a dynamic industry: know more about our customers and how to service them than anyone else; use conversion and processing technology to extract more value from the materials we manage; and continuously improve our operational efficiency. We intend to pursue achievement of our long-term goals in the short-term through efforts to:

 

  Ÿ  

Grow our markets by implementing customer-focused growth, through customer segmentation and through strategic acquisitions, while maintaining our pricing discipline and increasing the amount of recyclable materials we manage each year;

 

  Ÿ  

Grow our customer loyalty;

 

  Ÿ  

Grow into new markets by investing in greener technologies; and

 

  Ÿ  

Pursue initiatives that improve our operations and cost structure.

These efforts will be supported by ongoing improvements in information technologies. We believe that execution of our strategy will provide long-term value to our stockholders. In addition, we intend to continue to return value to our stockholders through common stock repurchases and dividend payments. In December 2011, we announced that our Board of Directors expects that quarterly dividend payments will be increased to $0.355 per share in 2012, which is a 4.4% increase from the quarterly dividend we paid in 2011. This will result in an increase in the amount of free cash flow that we expect to pay out as dividends for the ninth consecutive year and is an indication of our ability to generate strong and consistent cash flows. All quarterly dividends will be declared at the discretion of our Board of Directors.

Operations

General

We manage and evaluate our principal operations through five Groups. Our four geographic operating Groups, comprised of our Eastern, Midwest, Southern and Western Groups, provide collection, transfer, disposal (in both solid waste and hazardous waste landfills) and recycling services. Our fifth Group is the Wheelabrator Group, which provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants, or IPPs. We also provide additional services that are not managed through our five Groups, as described below. These operations are presented in this report as “Other.”

The table below shows the total revenues (in millions) contributed annually by each of our Groups, or reportable segments, in the three-year period ended December 31, 2011. More information about our results of operations by reportable segment is included in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements and in Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, included in this report.

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011     2010     2009  

Eastern

   $ 3,115      $ 2,943      $ 2,960   

Midwest

     3,213        3,048        2,855   

Southern

     3,390        3,461        3,328   

Western

     3,282        3,173        3,125   

Wheelabrator

     877        889        841   

Other

     1,532        963        628   

Intercompany

     (2,031     (1,962     (1,946
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,378      $ 12,515      $ 11,791   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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The services we provide include collection, landfill (solid and hazardous waste landfills), transfer, waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants, recycling and other services, as described below. The following table shows revenues (in millions) contributed by these services for each of the three years indicated:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011     2010     2009  

Collection

   $ 8,406      $ 8,247      $ 7,980   

Landfill

     2,611        2,540        2,547   

Transfer

     1,280        1,318        1,383   

Wheelabrator

     877        889        841   

Recycling

     1,580        1,169        741   

Other

     655        314        245   

Intercompany

     (2,031     (1,962     (1,946
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,378      $ 12,515      $ 11,791   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Collection.    Our commitment to customers begins with a vast waste collection network. Collection involves picking up and transporting waste and recyclable materials from where it was generated to a transfer station, material recovery facility (“MRF”) or disposal site. We generally provide collection services under one of two types of arrangements:

 

  Ÿ  

For commercial and industrial collection services, typically we have a three-year service agreement. The fees under the agreements are influenced by factors such as collection frequency, type of collection equipment we furnish, type and volume or weight of the waste collected, distance to the disposal facility, labor costs, cost of disposal and general market factors. As part of the service, we provide steel containers to most customers to store their solid waste between pick-up dates. Containers vary in size and type according to the needs of our customers and the restrictions of their communities. Many are designed to be lifted mechanically and either emptied into a truck’s compaction hopper or directly into a disposal site. By using these containers, we can service most of our commercial and industrial customers with trucks operated by only one employee.

 

  Ÿ  

For most residential collection services, we have a contract with, or a franchise granted by, a municipality, homeowners’ association or some other regional authority that gives us the exclusive right to service all or a portion of the homes in an area. These contracts or franchises are typically for periods of three to five years. We also provide services under individual monthly subscriptions directly to households. The fees for residential collection are either paid by the municipality or authority from their tax revenues or service charges, or are paid directly by the residents receiving the service.

Landfill.    Landfills are the main depositories for solid waste in North America. At December 31, 2011, we owned or operated 266 solid waste landfills, which represents the largest network of landfills in North America. Solid waste landfills are constructed and operated on land with engineering safeguards that limit the possibility of water and air pollution, and are operated under procedures prescribed by regulation. A landfill must meet federal, state or provincial, and local regulations during its design, construction, operation and closure. The operation and closure activities of a solid waste landfill include excavation, construction of liners, continuous spreading and compacting of waste, covering of waste with earth or other acceptable material and constructing final capping of the landfill. These operations are carefully planned to maintain environmentally safe conditions and to maximize the use of the airspace.

All solid waste management companies must have access to a disposal facility, such as a solid waste landfill. The significant capital requirements of developing and operating a landfill serve as a barrier to landfill ownership and, as a result, third-party haulers often dispose of waste at our landfills. It is usually preferable for our collection operations to use disposal facilities that we own or operate, a practice we refer to as internalization, rather than using third-party disposal facilities. Internalization generally allows us to realize higher consolidated margins and stronger operating cash flows. The fees charged at disposal facilities, which are referred to as tipping fees, are based on several factors, including competition and the type and weight or volume of solid waste deposited.

 

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We also operate five secure hazardous waste landfills in the United States. Under environmental laws, the federal government (or states with delegated authority) must issue permits for all hazardous waste landfills. All of our hazardous waste landfills have obtained the required permits, although some can accept only certain types of hazardous waste. These landfills must also comply with specialized operating standards. Only hazardous waste in a stable, solid form, which meets regulatory requirements, can be deposited in our secure disposal cells. In some cases, hazardous waste can be treated before disposal. Generally, these treatments involve the separation or removal of solid materials from liquids and chemical treatments that transform waste into inert materials that are no longer hazardous. Our hazardous waste landfills are sited, constructed and operated in a manner designed to provide long-term containment of waste. We also operate a hazardous waste facility at which we isolate treated hazardous waste in liquid form by injection into deep wells that have been drilled in certain acceptable geologic formations far below the base of fresh water to a point that is safely separated by other substantial geological confining layers.

Transfer.    At December 31, 2011, we owned or operated 287 transfer stations in North America. We deposit waste at these stations, as do other waste haulers. The solid waste is then consolidated and compacted to reduce the volume and increase the density of the waste and transported by transfer trucks or by rail to disposal sites. At December 31, 2011, our WM Healthcare Solutions subsidiary (discussed below) also had 21 smaller transfer operations (separate from its ten processing facilities, but some of which are located at other existing Company facilities) that are permitted to consolidate regulated medical waste collections for disposal.

Access to transfer stations is critical to haulers who collect waste in areas not in close proximity to disposal facilities. Fees charged to third parties at transfer stations are usually based on the type and volume or weight of the waste deposited at the transfer station, the distance to the disposal site and general market factors.

The utilization of our transfer stations by our own collection operations improves internalization by allowing us to retain fees that we would otherwise pay to third parties for the disposal of the waste we collect. It enables us to manage costs associated with waste disposal because (i) transfer trucks, railcars or rail containers have larger capacities than collection trucks, allowing us to deliver more waste to the disposal facility in each trip; (ii) waste is accumulated and compacted at transfer stations that are strategically located to increase the efficiency of our network of operations; and (iii) we can retain the volume by managing the transfer of the waste to one of our own disposal sites.

The transfer stations that we operate but do not own generally are operated through lease agreements under which we lease property from third parties. There are some instances where transfer stations are operated under contract, generally for municipalities. In most cases we own the permits and will be responsible for any regulatory requirements relating to the operation and closure of the transfer station.

Wheelabrator.    As of December 31, 2011, we owned or operated 17 waste-to-energy facilities and five independent power production plants, or IPPs, which are located in the Northeast, in the Mid-Atlantic, and in Florida, California and Washington.

At our waste-to-energy facilities, solid waste is burned at high temperatures in specially designed boilers to produce heat that is converted into high-pressure steam. As of December 31, 2011, our waste-to-energy facilities were capable of processing up to 22,300 tons of solid waste each day. In 2011, our waste-to-energy facilities received and processed 8 million tons of solid waste, or approximately 22,000 tons per day.

Our IPPs convert various waste and conventional fuels into steam. The plants burn wood waste, anthracite coal waste (culm), tires, landfill gas and natural gas. These facilities are integral to the solid waste industry, disposing of urban wood, waste tires, railroad ties and utility poles. Our anthracite culm facility in Pennsylvania processes the waste materials left over from coal mining operations from over half a century ago. Ash remaining after burning the culm is used to reclaim the land damaged by decades of coal mining.

We generate steam at our waste-to-energy and IPPs facilities for the production of electricity. We sell the electricity produced at our facilities into wholesale markets, which include investor-owned utilities, power marketers and regional power pools. Some of our facilities also sell steam directly to end users. Fees charged for electricity and steam at our waste-to-energy facilities and IPPs have generally been subject to the terms and conditions of long-term contracts that include interim adjustments to the prices charged for changes in market

 

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conditions such as inflation, electricity prices and other general market factors. During 2010 and 2009, several of our long-term energy contracts and short-term pricing arrangements expired, significantly increasing our waste-to-energy revenues’ exposure to volatility attributable to changes in market prices for electricity, which generally correlate with fluctuations in natural gas prices in the markets in which we operate. Our market-price volatility will continue to increase as additional long-term contracts expire. The next long-term contract will expire in March 2012. We use short-term “receive fixed, pay variable” electricity commodity swaps to mitigate the variability in our revenues and cash flows caused by fluctuations in the market prices for electricity. Refer to the Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk section of this report for additional information about the Company’s current considerations related to the management of this market exposure.

We continue to look at opportunities to expand our waste-to-energy business. In 2010, we made two investments which increased the total assets of our Wheelabrator Group by $318 million. In the first quarter of 2010, we paid $142 million to acquire a 40% equity investment in Shanghai Environment Group (“SEG”), a subsidiary of Shanghai Chengtou Holding Co., Ltd. As a joint venture partner in SEG, we will participate in the operation and management of waste-to-energy and other waste services in the Chinese market. SEG will also focus on building new waste-to-energy facilities in China. As of December 31, 2011, SEG owned and operated two waste-to-energy facilities, five landfills and five transfer stations. An additional five waste-to-energy facilities were under construction. Our share of SEG’s earnings are included in “Equity in net losses in unconsolidated entities” in our Consolidated Statement of Operations. In the second quarter of 2010, we paid $150 million for the acquisition of a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, Virginia. Additionally, Wheelabrator is actively pursuing development projects with industry partners and pursuing other opportunities to provide waste-to-energy services in the United Kingdom.

Recycling.    Our recycling operations provide communities and industries with an alternative to traditional landfill disposal and support our strategic goals to extract more value from the materials we manage. In 2001, we became the first major solid waste company to focus on residential single-stream recycling, which allows customers to mix recyclable paper, plastic and glass in one bin. Residential single-stream programs have greatly increased the recycling rates. Single-stream recycling is possible through the use of various mechanized screens and optical sorting technologies. We have also been advancing the single-stream recycling programs for commercial applications. Recycling involves the separation of reusable materials from the waste stream for processing and resale or other disposition. Our recycling operations include the following:

Materials processing — Through our collection operations, we collect recyclable materials from residential, commercial and industrial customers and direct these materials to one of our MRFs for processing. We operate 107 MRFs where paper, cardboard, metals, plastics, glass, construction and demolition materials and other recyclable commodities are recovered for resale. We also operate 13 secondary processing facilities where recyclable materials can be further processed into raw products used in the manufacturing of consumer goods. Materials processing services include data destruction and automated color sorting.

Plastics materials recycling — Using state-of-the-art sorting and processing technology, we process, inventory and sell plastic commodities making the recycling of such items more cost effective and convenient.

Commodities recycling — We market and resell recyclable commodities to customers world-wide. We manage the marketing of recyclable commodities that are processed in our facilities by maintaining comprehensive service centers that continuously analyze market prices, logistics, market demands and product quality.

Fees for recycling services are influenced by the type of recyclable commodities being processed, the volume or weight of the recyclable material, degree of processing required, the market value of the recovered material and other market factors.

Some of the recyclable materials processed in our MRFs are purchased from various sources, including third parties and our own operations. The cost per ton of material purchased is based on market prices and the cost to transport the processed goods to our customers to whom we sell such materials. The price we pay for recyclable materials is often referred to as a “rebate.” Rebates generally are based upon the price we receive for sales of

 

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processed goods and on market conditions, but in some cases are based on fixed contractual rates or on defined minimum per-ton rates. As a result, changes in commodity prices for recycled fiber can significantly affect our revenues, the rebates we pay to our suppliers and our operating income and margins.

Other.    Other services not managed within our Groups include the following:

We provide recycling brokerage services which involves managing the marketing of recyclable materials for third parties. The experience of our recycling operations in managing recyclable commodities for our own operations gives us the expertise needed to effectively manage volumes for third parties. Utilizing the resources and knowledge of our recycling operations’ service centers, we can assist customers in marketing and selling their recyclable commodities with little to no capital requirements. We also provide electronics recycling. We recycle discarded computers, communications equipment, and other electronic equipment. Services include the collection, sorting and disassembling of electronics in an effort to reuse or recycle all collected materials. In recent years, we have teamed with major electronics manufacturers to offer comprehensive “take-back” programs of their products to assist the general public in disposing of their old electronics in a convenient and environmentally safe manner.

WM Sustainability Services provides a variety of sustainability services to businesses and organizations. This includes in-plant services, where our employees work full-time inside our customers’ facilities to provide full-service waste management solutions and consulting services. Our vertically integrated waste management operations enable us to provide customers with full management of their waste. The breadth of our service offerings and the familiarity we have with waste management practices gives us the unique ability to assist customers in minimizing waste they generate, identifying recycling opportunities and determining the most efficient means available for waste collection and disposal.

We develop, operate and promote projects for the beneficial use of landfill gas through our WM Renewable Energy Program. Landfill gas is produced naturally as waste decomposes in a landfill. The methane component of the landfill gas is a readily available, renewable energy source that can be gathered and used beneficially as an alternative to fossil fuel. The EPA endorses landfill gas as a renewable energy resource, in the same category as wind, solar and geothermal resources. At December 31, 2011, landfill gas beneficial use projects were producing commercial quantities of methane gas at 131 of our solid waste landfills. At 102 of these landfills, the processed gas is used to fuel electricity generators. The electricity is then sold to public utilities, municipal utilities or power cooperatives. At 18 landfills, the gas is used at the landfill or delivered by pipeline to industrial customers as a direct substitute for fossil fuels in industrial processes. At ten landfills, the landfill gas is processed to pipeline-quality natural gas and then sold to natural gas suppliers. At one landfill, the gas is processed into liquefied natural gas and used as vehicle fuel.

Although many waste management services such as collection and disposal are local services, our Strategic Accounts program works with customers whose locations span the United States. Our Strategic Accounts program provides centralized customer service, billing and management of accounts to streamline the administration of customers’ multiple and nationwide locations’ waste management needs. On July 28, 2011, we acquired Oakleaf Global Holdings and its primary operations (“Oakleaf”), which provides outsourced waste and recycling services through a nationwide network of third-party haulers. Oakleaf has increased our national accounts customer base and enhanced our ability to provide comprehensive environmental solutions.

Our WM Healthcare Solutions subsidiary offers integrated medical waste services for healthcare facilities, pharmacies and individuals. We provide full-service solutions to facilities to assist them in best practices, identifying waste streams and proper disposal.

We also have begun investing in businesses and technologies that are designed to offer services and solutions ancillary or supplementary to our current operations. These investments include joint ventures, acquisitions and partial ownership interests. The solutions and services include the collection of project waste, including construction debris and household or yard waste, through our Bagster® program; the development, operation and marketing of plasma gasification facilities; operation of a landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant; solar powered trash compactors; and organic waste-to-fuel conversion technology. Part of our expansion of services includes offering portable self-storage services; fluorescent bulb and universal waste mail-back through our LampTracker® program; and a sharps mail return program through which individuals can safely dispose of

 

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their used syringes and lancets using our MedWaste Tracker® system. In addition, we have made investments that involve acquisition and development of interests in oil and gas producing properties. Finally, we rent portable restroom facilities to municipalities and commercial customers under the name Port-o-Let®, we service such facilities and we provide street and parking lot sweeping services.

Competition

We encounter intense competition from governmental, quasi-governmental and private sources in all aspects of our operations. In North America, the industry consists primarily of two national waste management companies, regional companies and local companies of varying sizes and financial resources, including companies that specialize in certain discrete areas of waste management, operators of alternative disposal facilities and companies that seek to use parts of the waste stream as feedstock for renewable energy and other by-products. We compete with these companies as well as with counties and municipalities that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations.

Operating costs, disposal costs and collection fees vary widely throughout the geographic areas in which we operate. The prices that we charge are determined locally, and typically vary by volume and weight, type of waste collected, treatment requirements, risk of handling or disposal, frequency of collections, distance to final disposal sites, the availability of airspace within the geographic region, labor costs and amount and type of equipment furnished to the customer. We face intense competition in our core business based on pricing and quality of service. We have also begun competing for business based on service offerings. As companies, individuals and communities look for ways to be more sustainable, we are investing in greener technologies and promoting our comprehensive services that go beyond our core business of collecting and disposing of waste.

Seasonal Trends

Our operating revenues normally tend to be somewhat higher in the summer months, primarily due to the traditional seasonal increase in the volume of construction and demolition waste. Historically, the volumes of industrial and residential waste in certain regions in which we operate have tended to increase during the summer months. Our second and third quarter revenues and results of operations typically reflect these seasonal trends.

Additionally, certain destructive weather conditions that tend to occur during the second half of the year, such as the hurricanes that most often impact our Southern Group, can actually increase our revenues in the areas affected. While weather-related and other “one-time” occurrences can boost revenues through additional work, as a result of significant start-up costs and other factors, such revenue sometimes generates earnings at comparatively lower margins. Certain weather conditions, including severe winter storms, may result in the temporary suspension of our operations, which can significantly affect the operating results of the affected regions. The operating results of our first quarter also often reflect higher repair and maintenance expenses because we rely on the slower winter months, when waste flows are generally lower, to perform scheduled maintenance at our waste-to-energy facilities.

Employees

At December 31, 2011, we had approximately 44,300 full-time employees, of which approximately 8,300 were employed in administrative and sales positions and the balance in operations. Approximately 9,200 of our employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Financial Assurance and Insurance Obligations

Financial Assurance

Municipal and governmental waste service contracts generally require contracting parties to demonstrate financial responsibility for their obligations under the contract. Financial assurance is also a requirement for obtaining or retaining disposal site or transfer station operating permits. Various forms of financial assurance are also required to support variable-rate tax-exempt debt and by regulatory agencies for estimated final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remedial obligations at many of our landfills.

 

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We establish financial assurance using surety bonds, letters of credit, insurance policies, trust and escrow agreements and financial guarantees. The type of assurance used is based on several factors, most importantly: the jurisdiction, contractual requirements, market factors and availability of credit capacity. The following table summarizes the various forms and dollar amounts (in millions) of financial assurance that we had outstanding as of December 31, 2011:

 

Surety bonds:

     

Issued by consolidated subsidiary(a)

   $ 215      

Issued by affiliated entity(b)

     1,003      

Issued by third-party surety companies

     1,734      
  

 

 

    

Total surety bonds

      $ 2,952   

Letters of credit:

     

Revolving credit facility(c)

     1,012      

Letter of credit facilities(d)

     502      

Other lines of credit

     251      
  

 

 

    

Total letters of credit

        1,765   

Insurance policies:

     

Issued by consolidated subsidiary(a)

     1,057      

Issued by affiliated entity(b)

     24      

Issued by third-party insurance companies

     182      
  

 

 

    

Total insurance policies

        1,263   

Funded trust and escrow accounts(e)

        137   

Financial guarantees(f)

        252   
     

 

 

 

Total financial assurance(g)

      $ 6,369   
     

 

 

 

 

 

(a) We use surety bonds and insurance policies issued by a wholly-owned insurance subsidiary, National Guaranty Insurance Company of Vermont, the sole business of which is to issue financial assurance to WM and its subsidiaries. National Guaranty Insurance Company is authorized to write up to approximately $1.5 billion in surety bonds or insurance policies for our final capping, closure and post-closure requirements, waste collection contracts and other business-related obligations.

 

(b) We hold a noncontrolling interest in an entity that we use to obtain financial assurance. Our contractual agreement with this entity does not specifically limit the amounts of surety bonds or insurance that we may obtain, making our financial assurance under this agreement limited only by the guidelines and restrictions of surety and insurance regulations.

 

(c) WM has a $2.0 billion revolving credit facility with a term ending May 2016. At December 31, 2011, we had $150 million of outstanding borrowings and $1,012 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the facility. The unused and available credit capacity of the facility was $838 million as of December 31, 2011.

 

(d) We have an aggregate committed capacity of $505 million under letter of credit facilities with terms ending from June 2013 to June 2015. As of December 31, 2011, no borrowings were outstanding under these letter of credit facilities and we had $3 million of unused or available credit capacity.

 

(e) Our funded trust and escrow accounts generally have been established to support landfill final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations and our performance under various operating contracts. Balances maintained in these trust funds and escrow accounts will fluctuate based on (i) changes in statutory requirements; (ii) future deposits made to comply with contractual arrangements; (iii) the ongoing use of funds for qualifying activities; (iv) acquisitions or divestitures of landfills; and (v) changes in the fair value of the financial instruments held in the trust fund or escrow accounts. The assets held in our funded trust and escrow accounts may be drawn and used to meet the obligations for which the trusts and escrows were established.

 

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(f) WM provides financial guarantees on behalf of its subsidiaries to municipalities, customers and regulatory authorities. They are provided primarily to support our performance of landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities.

 

(g) The amount of financial assurance required can, and generally will, differ from the obligation determined and recorded under accounting principles generally accepted in the U.S.

Virtually no claims have been made against our financial assurance instruments in the past, and considering our current financial position, management does not expect there to be claims against these instruments that will have a material adverse effect on our Consolidated Financial Statements.

Insurance

We carry a broad range of insurance coverages, including general liability, automobile liability, real and personal property, workers’ compensation, directors’ and officers’ liability, pollution legal liability and other coverages we believe are customary to the industry. Our exposure to loss for insurance claims is generally limited to the per incident deductible under the related insurance policy. As of December 31, 2011, our general liability insurance program carried self-insurance exposures of up to $2.5 million per incident and our workers’ compensation insurance program carried self-insurance exposures of up to $5 million per incident. As of December 31, 2011, our auto liability insurance program included a per incident base deductible of $5 million, subject to additional deductibles of $4.8 million in the $5 million to $10 million layer. We do not expect the impact of any known casualty, property, environmental or other contingency to have a material impact on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Our estimated insurance liabilities as of December 31, 2011 are summarized in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

The Directors’ and Officers’ Liability Insurance policy we choose to maintain covers only individual executive liability, often referred to as “Broad Form Side A,” and does not provide corporate reimbursement coverage, often referred to as “Side B.” The Side A policy covers directors and officers directly for loss, including defense costs, when corporate indemnification is unavailable. Side A-only coverage cannot be exhausted by payments to the Company, as the Company is not insured for any money it advances for defense costs or pays as indemnity to the insured directors and officers.

Regulation

Our business is subject to extensive and evolving federal, state or provincial and local environmental, health, safety and transportation laws and regulations. These laws and regulations are administered by the U.S. EPA, Environment Canada, and various other federal, state and local environmental, zoning, transportation, land use, health and safety agencies in the United States and Canada. Many of these agencies regularly examine our operations to monitor compliance with these laws and regulations and have the power to enforce compliance, obtain injunctions or impose civil or criminal penalties in case of violations. In recent years, we have perceived an increase in both the amount of government regulation and the number of enforcement actions being brought by regulatory entities against operations in the waste services industry. We expect this heightened governmental focus on regulation and enforcement to continue.

Because the major component of our business is the collection and disposal of solid waste in an environmentally sound manner, a significant amount of our capital expenditures are related, either directly or indirectly, to environmental protection measures, including compliance with federal, state or provincial and local provisions that regulate the placement of materials into the environment. There are costs associated with siting, design, operations, monitoring, site maintenance, corrective actions, financial assurance, and facility closure and post-closure obligations. In connection with our acquisition, development or expansion of a disposal facility or transfer station, we must often spend considerable time, effort and money to obtain or maintain required permits and approvals. There cannot be any assurances that we will be able to obtain or maintain required governmental approvals. Once obtained, operating permits are subject to renewal, modification, suspension or revocation by the issuing agency. Compliance with these and any future regulatory requirements could require us to make significant capital and operating expenditures. However, most of these expenditures are made in the normal course of business and do not place us at any competitive disadvantage.

 

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The primary United States federal statutes affecting our business are summarized below:

 

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The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, as amended, regulates handling, transporting and disposing of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and delegates authority to states to develop programs to ensure the safe disposal of solid waste. In 1991, the EPA issued its final regulations under Subtitle D of RCRA, which set forth minimum federal performance and design criteria for solid waste landfills. These regulations are typically implemented by the states, although states can impose requirements that are more stringent than the Subtitle D standards. We incur costs in complying with these standards in the ordinary course of our operations.

 

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The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, which is also known as Superfund, provides for federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances into the environment that have created actual or potential environmental hazards. CERCLA’s primary means for addressing such releases is to impose strict liability for cleanup of disposal sites upon current and former site owners and operators, generators of the hazardous substances at the site and transporters who selected the disposal site and transported substances thereto. Liability under CERCLA is not dependent on the intentional disposal of hazardous substances; it can be based upon the release or threatened release, even as a result of lawful, unintentional and non-negligent action, of hazardous substances as the term is defined by CERCLA and other applicable statutes and regulations. Liability may include contribution for cleanup costs incurred by a defendant in a CERCLA civil action or by an entity that has previously resolved its liability to federal or state regulators in an administrative or judicially-approved settlement. Liability under CERCLA could also include obligations to a PRP that voluntarily expends site clean-up costs. Further, liability for damage to publicly-owned natural resources may also be imposed. We are subject to potential liability under CERCLA as an owner or operator of facilities at which hazardous substances have been disposed and as a generator or transporter of hazardous substances disposed of at other locations.

 

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The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, known as the Clean Water Act, regulates the discharge of pollutants into streams, rivers, groundwater, or other surface waters from a variety of sources, including solid and hazardous waste disposal sites. If run-off from our operations may be discharged into surface waters, the Clean Water Act requires us to apply for and obtain discharge permits, conduct sampling and monitoring, and, under certain circumstances, reduce the quantity of pollutants in those discharges. In 1990, the EPA issued additional standards for management of storm water runoff that require landfills and other waste-handling facilities to obtain storm water discharge permits. In addition, if a landfill or other facility discharges wastewater through a sewage system to a publicly-owned treatment works, the facility must comply with discharge limits imposed by the treatment works. Also, before the development or expansion of a landfill can alter or affect “wetlands,” a permit may have to be obtained providing for mitigation or replacement wetlands. The Clean Water Act provides for civil, criminal and administrative penalties for violations of its provisions.

 

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The Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended, provides for increased federal, state and local regulation of the emission of air pollutants. Certain of our operations are subject to the requirements of the Clean Air Act, including large municipal solid waste landfills and large municipal waste-to-energy facilities. Standards have also been imposed on manufacturers of transportation vehicles (including waste collection vehicles). In 1996 the EPA issued new source performance standards and emission guidelines controlling landfill gases from new and existing large landfills. In January 2003, the EPA issued Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards for municipal solid waste landfills subject to the new source performance standards. These regulations impose limits on air emissions from large municipal solid waste landfills, subject most of our large municipal solid waste landfills to certain operating permit requirements under Title V of the Clean Air Act and, in many instances, require installation of landfill gas collection and control systems to control emissions or to treat and utilize landfill gas on- or off-site.

The EPA has issued new source performance standards and emission guidelines for large and small municipal waste-to-energy facilities, which include stringent emission limits for various pollutants based on Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards. These sources are also subject to operating permit requirements under Title V of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review and revise the MACT standards applicable to municipal waste-to-energy facilities every five years.

 

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  Ÿ  

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as amended, establishes certain employer responsibilities, including maintenance of a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, compliance with standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and various reporting and record keeping obligations as well as disclosure and procedural requirements. Various standards for notices of hazards, safety in excavation and demolition work and the handling of asbestos, may apply to our operations. The Department of Transportation and OSHA, along with other federal agencies, have jurisdiction over certain aspects of hazardous materials and hazardous waste, including safety, movement and disposal. Various state and local agencies with jurisdiction over disposal of hazardous waste may seek to regulate movement of hazardous materials in areas not otherwise preempted by federal law.

We are also actively monitoring the following recent developments in United States federal statutes affecting our business:

 

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In 2010, the EPA issued the Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, and Title V Greenhouse Gas, or GHG, Tailoring Rule which expanded the EPA’s federal air permitting authority to include the six GHGs, including methane and carbon dioxide. Air permits for new and modified large municipal solid waste landfills, waste-to-energy facilities and landfill gas-to-energy facilities could be impacted, but the degree of impact is incumbent upon the EPA’s final determination on permitting of biogenic GHG emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide) as well as the EPA’s or implementing states’ determinations on what may constitute “Best Available Control Technology” for new projects exceeding certain thresholds. In addition, recent final and proposed reductions in certain National Ambient Air Quality Standards and related PSD increment/significance thresholds could impact the cost, timeliness and availability of air permits for new and modified large municipal solid waste landfills, waste-to-energy facilities and landfill gas-to-energy facilities. In general, controlling emissions involves drilling collection wells into a landfill and routing the gas to a suitable energy recovery system or combustion device. The landfill gas at 131 of our solid waste landfills is currently being captured and utilized for its renewable energy value. Efforts to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases and to ameliorate the effect of climate change may require our landfills to deploy more stringent emission controls, with resulting capital or operating costs; however, we do not believe that such regulations will have a material adverse impact on our business as a whole. See Item 1A. Risk Factors — “The adoption of climate change legislation or regulations restricting emissions of “greenhouse gases” could increase our costs to operate.”

 

  Ÿ  

In 2011, the EPA published the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials, or NHSM, Rule, which provides the standards and procedures for identifying whether NHSM are solid waste under RCRA when used as fuels or ingredients in combustion units. The EPA also published new source performance standards and emission guidelines for commercial and industrial solid waste incineration units, and Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards for commercial and industrial boilers. The EPA has published clarifications and is currently considering amendments to these rules. In addition, there is litigation surrounding the rules and there is proposed legislation seeking to delay implementation and revise the requirements. Some of the potential regulatory outcomes could have a significant impact on some of our projects in which we are seeking to convert biomass or other secondary materials into products, fuels or energy, as well as some of our landfill gas to energy and biomass to energy projects. It is not possible to quantify the financial impact of these rulemakings, which are being reconsidered at this time. However, we do not believe the rules will have a material adverse impact on our business as a whole.

There are also various state or provincial and local regulations that affect our operations. Each state and province in which we operate has its own laws and regulations governing solid waste disposal, water and air pollution, and, in most cases, releases and cleanup of hazardous substances and liabilities for such matters. States and provinces have also adopted regulations governing the design, operation, maintenance and closure of landfills and transfer stations. Some counties, municipalities and other local governments have adopted similar laws and regulations. Our facilities and operations are likely to be subject to these types of requirements.

In addition, our landfill and waste-to-energy operations are affected by the increasing preference for alternatives to landfill and waste-to-energy disposal. Several state and local governments mandate recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of waste, such as yard and food waste, at

 

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landfills or waste-to-energy facilities. Legislative and regulatory measures to mandate or encourage waste reduction at the source and waste recycling also have been or are under consideration by the U.S. Congress and the EPA.

Various states have enacted, or are considering enacting, laws that restrict the disposal within the state of solid waste generated outside the state. While laws that overtly discriminate against out-of-state waste have been found to be unconstitutional, some laws that are less overtly discriminatory have been upheld in court. Additionally, several state and local governments have enacted “flow control” regulations, which attempt to require that all waste generated within the state or local jurisdiction be deposited at specific sites. In 1994, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a flow control ordinance that gave preference to a local facility that was privately owned was unconstitutional, but in 2007, the Court ruled that an ordinance directing waste to a facility owned by the local government was constitutional. In addition, from time to time, the United States Congress has considered legislation authorizing states to adopt regulations, restrictions, or taxes on the importation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste. The United States Congress’ adoption of legislation allowing restrictions on interstate transportation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste or certain types of flow control or the adoption of legislation affecting interstate transportation of waste at the state level could adversely affect our operations. Courts’ interpretation of flow control legislation or the Supreme Court decisions also could adversely affect our solid and hazardous waste management services.

Many states, provinces and local jurisdictions have enacted “fitness” laws that allow the agencies that have jurisdiction over waste services contracts or permits to deny or revoke these contracts or permits based on the applicant’s or permit holder’s compliance history. Some states, provinces and local jurisdictions go further and consider the compliance history of the parent, subsidiaries or affiliated companies, in addition to the applicant or permit holder. These laws authorize the agencies to make determinations of an applicant’s or permit holder’s fitness to be awarded a contract to operate, and to deny or revoke a contract or permit because of unfitness, unless there is a showing that the applicant or permit holder has been rehabilitated through the adoption of various operating policies and procedures put in place to assure future compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for disclosures relating to our current assessments of the impact of regulations on our current and future operations.

 

Item 1A. Risk Factors.

In an effort to keep our stockholders and the public informed about our business, we may make “forward-looking statements.” Forward-looking statements usually relate to future events and anticipated revenues, earnings, cash flows or other aspects of our operations or operating results. Forward-looking statements are often identified by the words, “will,” “may,” “should,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “expect,” “plan,” “forecast,” “project,” “estimate,” “intend” and words of similar nature and generally include statements containing:

 

  Ÿ  

projections about accounting and finances;

 

  Ÿ  

plans and objectives for the future;

 

  Ÿ  

projections or estimates about assumptions relating to our performance; or

 

  Ÿ  

our opinions, views or beliefs about the effects of current or future events, circumstances or performance.

You should view these statements with caution. These statements are not guarantees of future performance, circumstances or events. They are based on facts and circumstances known to us as of the date the statements are made. All aspects of our business are subject to uncertainties, risks and other influences, many of which we do not control. Any of these factors, either alone or taken together, could have a material adverse effect on us and could change whether any forward-looking statement ultimately turns out to be true. Additionally, we assume no obligation to update any forward-looking statement as a result of future events, circumstances or developments. The following discussion should be read together with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto. Outlined below are some of the risks that we believe could affect our business and financial statements for 2012 and beyond and that could cause actual results to be materially different from those that may be set forth in forward-looking statements made by the Company.

 

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The waste industry is highly competitive, and if we cannot successfully compete in the marketplace, our business, financial condition and operating results may be materially adversely affected.

We encounter intense competition from governmental, quasi-governmental and private sources in all aspects of our operations. In North America, the industry consists primarily of two national waste management companies, regional companies and local companies of varying sizes and financial resources, including companies that specialize in certain discrete areas of waste management, operators of alternative disposal facilities and companies that seek to use parts of the waste stream as feedstock for renewable energy and other by products. We compete with these companies as well as with counties and municipalities that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations. These counties and municipalities may have financial competitive advantages because tax revenues are available to them and tax-exempt financing is more readily available to them. Also, such governmental units may attempt to impose flow control or other restrictions that would give them a competitive advantage. In addition, competitors may reduce their prices to expand sales volume or to win competitively-bid contracts, including large national accounts and exclusive franchise arrangements with municipalities. When this happens, we may lose customers and be unable to execute our pricing strategy, resulting in a negative impact to our revenue growth from yield on base business.

If we fail to implement our business strategy, our financial performance and our growth could be materially and adversely affected.

Our future financial performance and success are dependent in large part upon our ability to implement our business strategy successfully. Implementation of our strategy will require effective management of our operational, financial and human resources and will place significant demands on those resources. We have adopted a business strategy built on three key initiatives: know more about our customers and how to service them than anyone else; use conversion and processing technology to extract more value from the materials we manage; and continuously improve our operational efficiency. In the short-term, we intend to pursue these initiatives through efforts to:

 

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Grow our markets by implementing customer-focused growth, through customer segmentation and through strategic acquisitions, while maintaining our pricing discipline and increasing the amount of recyclable materials we manage each year;

 

  Ÿ  

Grow our customer loyalty;

 

  Ÿ  

Grow into new markets by investing in greener technologies; and

 

  Ÿ  

Pursue initiatives that improve our operations and cost structure.

There are risks involved in pursuing our strategy, including the following:

 

  Ÿ  

Our strategy may result in a significant change to our business, and our employees, customers or investors may not embrace and support our strategy.

 

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We may not be able to hire or retain the personnel necessary to manage our strategy effectively.

 

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Customer segmentation is new to our business, and it could result in fragmentation of our efforts, rather than improved customer relationships.

 

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In efforts to enhance our revenues, we have implemented price increases and environmental fees, and we have continued our fuel surcharge program to offset fuel costs. The loss of volumes as a result of price increases may negatively affect our cash flows or results of operations.

 

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We may be unsuccessful in implementing improvements to operational efficiency and such efforts may not yield the intended result.

 

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Our ability to make strategic acquisitions and invest in greener technologies depends on our ability to identify desirable acquisition or investment targets, negotiate advantageous transactions despite competition for such opportunities, fund such acquisitions on favorable terms, and realize the benefits we expect from those transactions.

 

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  Ÿ  

Acquisitions, investments and/or new service offerings may not increase our earnings in the timeframe anticipated, or at all, due to difficulties operating in new markets or providing new service offerings, failure to operate within budget, integration issues, or regulatory issues, among others.

 

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Integration of acquisitions, investments and/or new services offerings could increase our exposure to the risk of inadvertent noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations.

 

  Ÿ  

Execution of our strategy may cause us to incur substantial research and development costs and/or additional indebtedness, which may divert capital away from our traditional business operations.

 

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We continue to seek to divest underperforming and non-strategic assets if we cannot improve their profitability. We may not be able to successfully negotiate the divestiture of underperforming and non-strategic operations, which could result in asset impairments or the continued operation of low-margin businesses.

In addition to the risks set forth above, implementation of our business strategy could also be affected by a number of factors beyond our control, such as increased competition, legal developments, government regulation, general economic conditions, increased operating costs or expenses and changes in industry trends. Further, we may decide to alter or discontinue certain aspects of our business strategy at any time. If we are not able to implement our business strategy successfully, our long-term growth and profitability may be adversely affected. Even if we are able to implement some or all of the initiatives of our business plan successfully, our operating results may not improve to the extent we anticipate, or at all.

The waste industry is subject to extensive government regulation; existing or future regulations and/or enforcement actions may restrict our operations, increase our costs of operations or require us to make additional capital expenditures.

Stringent government regulations at the federal, state, provincial, and local level in the United States and Canada have a substantial impact on our business, and compliance with such regulations is costly. A large number of complex laws, rules, orders and interpretations govern environmental protection, health, safety, land use, zoning, transportation and related matters. In recent years, we have perceived an increase in both the amount of government regulation and the number of enforcement actions being brought by regulatory entities against operations, in the waste services industry. We expect this heightened governmental focus on regulation and enforcement to continue. Among other things, governmental regulations and enforcement actions may restrict our operations and adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows by imposing conditions such as:

 

  Ÿ  

limitations on siting and constructing new waste disposal, transfer or processing facilities or on expanding existing facilities;

 

  Ÿ  

limitations, regulations or levies on collection and disposal prices, rates and volumes;

 

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limitations or bans on disposal or transportation of out-of-state waste or certain categories of waste; or

 

  Ÿ  

mandates regarding the disposal of solid waste, including requirements to recycle rather than landfill certain waste streams.

Regulations affecting the siting, design and closure of landfills could require us to undertake investigatory or remedial activities, curtail operations or close landfills temporarily or permanently. Future changes in these regulations may require us to modify, supplement or replace equipment or facilities. The costs of complying with these regulations could be substantial.

In order to develop, expand or operate a landfill or other waste management facility, we must have various facility permits and other governmental approvals, including those relating to zoning, environmental protection and land use. The permits and approvals are often difficult, time consuming and costly to obtain and could contain conditions that limit our operations.

We also have significant financial obligations relating to final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation at our existing landfills. We establish accruals for these estimated costs, but we could underestimate such accruals. Environmental regulatory changes could accelerate or increase capping, closure, post-closure and remediation costs, requiring our expenditures to materially exceed our current accruals.

 

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Various states have enacted, or are considering enacting, laws that restrict the disposal within the state of solid waste generated outside the state. Additionally, several state and local governments have enacted “flow control” regulations, which attempt to require that all waste generated within the state or local jurisdiction be deposited at specific sites. The United States Congress’ adoption of legislation allowing restrictions on interstate transportation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste or certain types of flow control or the adoption of legislation affecting interstate transportation of waste at the state level could adversely affect our operations. Courts’ interpretation of flow control legislation or the Supreme Court decisions also could adversely affect our solid and hazardous waste management services.

Our revenues will fluctuate based on changes in commodity prices.

Our recycling operations process for sale certain recyclable materials, including fibers, aluminum and glass, all of which are subject to significant market price fluctuations. The majority of the recyclables that we process for sale are paper fibers, including old corrugated cardboard and old newsprint. The fluctuations in the market prices or demand for these commodities, particularly demand from Chinese paper mills, can affect our operating income and cash flows negatively, as we experienced in 2009, or positively, as we experienced in 2010 and 2011. As we have increased the size of our recycling operations, we have also increased our exposure to commodity price fluctuations. The decline in market prices in 2009 for commodities resulted in a year-over-year decrease in revenue of $447 million compared with 2008. Increases in the prices of recycling commodities resulted in year-over-year increases in revenue of $423 million and $216 million in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Market prices for recyclable commodities have increased significantly from the near-historic lows experienced in late 2008 and early 2009. Overall commodity prices have increased year-over-year approximately 57% and 18% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Despite the recent positive trend in commodity prices, these prices may fluctuate substantially and without notice in the future. Additionally, our recycling operations offer rebates to suppliers. Therefore, even if we experience higher revenues based on increased market prices for commodities, the rebates we pay will also increase. In other circumstances, the rebates may be subject to a floor, such that as market prices decrease, any expected profit margins on materials subject to the rebate floor are eliminated.

There are also significant price fluctuations in the price of methane gas, electricity and other energy-related products that are marketed and sold by our landfill gas recovery, waste-to-energy and independent power production plant operations that can significantly impact our revenue from yield provided by such businesses. In most of the markets in which we operate, electricity prices correlate with natural gas prices. During the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009, approximately 54%, 47% and 46%, respectively, of the electricity revenue at our waste-to-energy facilities was subject to current market rates. Our waste-to-energy facilities’ exposure to market price volatility will continue to increase as additional long-term contracts expire. We cannot assure you that we will be able to enter into renewal contracts on comparable or favorable terms, or at all. To mitigate a portion of the variability in our revenues and cash flows caused by fluctuations in the market prices for electricity, we use “receive fixed, pay variable” electricity swaps. These swaps are generally short-term in nature. Additionally, revenues from our independent power production plants can be affected by price fluctuations. If we are unable to successfully negotiate long-term contracts, or if market prices are at lower levels for sustained periods, our revenues could be adversely affected.

Increasing customer preference for alternatives to landfill disposal and waste-to-energy facilities could reduce our ability to operate at full capacity and cause our revenues and operating results to decline.

Our customers are increasingly diverting waste to alternatives to landfill and waste-to-energy disposal, such as recycling and composting, while also working to reduce the amount of waste they generate. In addition, several state and local governments mandate recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of waste, such as yard and food waste, at landfills or waste-to-energy facilities. Where such organic waste is not banned from the landfill or waste-to-energy facility, large customers such as grocery stores and restaurants are choosing to divert their organic waste from landfills. Zero-waste goals (sending no waste to the landfill) have been set by many of North America’s largest companies. Although such mandates and initiatives help to protect our environment, these developments reduce the volume of waste going to landfills and waste-to-energy facilities in certain areas, which may affect our ability to operate our landfills and waste-to-energy facilities at full capacity, as well as affecting the prices that we can charge for landfill disposal

 

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and waste-to-energy services. Our landfills and our waste-to-energy facilities currently provide and have historically provided our highest operating margins. If we are not successful in expanding our service offerings and growing lines of businesses to service waste streams that do not go to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities and to provide services for customers that wish to reduce waste entirely, then our revenues and operating results will decline. Additionally, despite the development of new service offerings and lines of business, it is reasonably possible that our revenues and our operating margins could be negatively affected due to disposal alternatives.

Developments in technology could trigger a fundamental change in the waste management industry, as waste streams are increasingly viewed as a resource, which may adversely impact volumes at our landfills and waste-to-energy facilities and our profitability.

Our company and others have recognized the value of the traditional waste stream as a potential resource. Research and development activities are on-going to provide disposal alternatives that maximize the value of waste, including using waste as a source for renewable energy and other valuable by-products. We and many other companies are investing in these technologies. It is possible that such investments and technological advancements may reduce the cost of waste disposal or power production to a level below our costs and may reduce the demand for landfill space and waste-to-energy facilities. As a result, our revenues and operating margins could be adversely affected due to advancements in disposal alternatives.

If we are not able to develop new service offerings and protect intellectual property, or if a competitor develops or obtains exclusive rights to a breakthrough technology, our financial results may suffer.

Our existing and proposed service offerings to customers may require that we invest in, develop or license, and protect, new technologies. Research and development of new technologies often requires significant spending that may divert capital investment away from our traditional business operations. We may experience difficulties or delays in the research, development, production and/or marketing of new products and services which may negatively impact our operating results and prevent us from recouping or realizing a return on the investments required to bring new products and services to market. Further, protecting our intellectual property rights and combating unlicensed copying and use of intellectual property is difficult, and any inability to obtain or protect new technologies could impact our services to customers and development of new revenue sources. Our Company and others are increasingly focusing on new technologies that provide alternatives to traditional disposal and maximize the resource value of waste. If a competitor develops or obtains exclusive rights to a “breakthrough technology” that provides a revolutionary change in traditional waste management, or if we have inferior intellectual property to our competitors, our financial results may suffer.

Our business depends on our reputation and the value of our brand.

We believe we have developed a reputation for high-quality service, reliability and social and environmental responsibility, and we believe our brand symbolizes these attributes. The Waste Management brand name, trademarks and logos and our reputation are powerful sales and marketing tools, and we devote significant resources to promoting and protecting them. Adverse publicity, whether or not justified, relating to activities by our operations, employees or agents could tarnish our reputation and reduce the value of our brand. Damage to our reputation and loss of brand equity could reduce demand for our services. This reduction in demand, together with the dedication of time and expense necessary to defend our reputation, could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations, as well as require additional resources to rebuild our reputation and restore the value of our brand.

Our operations are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, as well as contractual obligations that may result in significant liabilities.

There is risk of incurring significant environmental liabilities in the use, treatment, storage, transfer and disposal of waste materials. Under applicable environmental laws and regulations, we could be liable if our operations cause environmental damage to our properties or to the property of other landowners, particularly as a result of the contamination of air, drinking water or soil. Under current law, we could also be held liable for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired the assets or operations involved. This risk is of

 

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particular concern as we execute our growth strategy, partially though acquisitions, because we may be unsuccessful in identifying and assessing potential liabilities during our due diligence investigations. Further, the counterparties in such transactions may be unable to perform their indemnification obligations owed to us. Additionally, we could be liable if we arrange for the transportation, disposal or treatment of hazardous substances that cause environmental contamination, or if a predecessor owner made such arrangements and, under applicable law, we are treated as a successor to the prior owner. Any substantial liability for environmental damage could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

In the ordinary course of our business, we have in the past, we are currently, and we may in the future, become involved in legal and administrative proceedings relating to land use and environmental laws and regulations. These include proceedings in which:

 

  Ÿ  

agencies of federal, state, local or foreign governments seek to impose liability on us under applicable statutes, sometimes involving civil or criminal penalties for violations, or to revoke or deny renewal of a permit we need; and

 

  Ÿ  

local communities, citizen groups, landowners or governmental agencies oppose the issuance of a permit or approval we need, allege violations of the permits under which we operate or laws or regulations to which we are subject, or seek to impose liability on us for environmental damage.

We generally seek to work with the authorities or other persons involved in these proceedings to resolve any issues raised. If we are not successful, the adverse outcome of one or more of these proceedings could result in, among other things, material increases in our costs or liabilities as well as material charges for asset impairments.

Further, we often enter into contractual arrangements with landowners imposing obligations on us to meet certain regulatory or contractual conditions upon site closure or upon termination of the agreements. Compliance with these arrangements is inherently subject to subjective determinations and may result in disputes, including litigation. Costs to remediate or restore the condition of closed sites may be significant.

General economic conditions can directly and adversely affect our revenues and our operating margins.

Our business is directly affected by changes in national and general economic factors that are outside of our control, including consumer confidence, interest rates and access to capital markets. A weak economy generally results in decreased consumer spending and decreases in volumes of waste generated, which decreases our revenues. In addition, we have a relatively high fixed-cost structure, which is difficult to quickly adjust to match shifting volume levels. Consumer uncertainty and the loss of consumer confidence may limit the number or amount of services requested by customers and our ability to implement our pricing strategy. Economic conditions may also limit our ability to implement our pricing strategy. For example, many of our contracts have price adjustment provisions that are tied to an index such as the Consumer Price Index, and our costs may increase in excess of the increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index.

Some of our customers, including governmental entities, have suffered financial difficulties affecting their credit risk, which could negatively impact our operating results.

We provide service to a number of governmental entities and municipalities, some of which have suffered significant financial difficulties due to the downturn in the U.S. economy and reduced tax revenue. Some of these entities could be unable to pay amounts owed to us or renew contracts with us at previous or increased rates.

Many non-governmental customers have also suffered serious financial difficulties, including bankruptcy in some cases. Purchasers of our recyclable commodities can be particularly vulnerable to financial difficulties in times of commodity price volatility. The inability of our customers to pay us in a timely manner or to pay increased rates, particularly large national accounts, could negatively affect our operating results.

In addition, the financial difficulties of municipalities could result in a decline in investors’ demand for municipal bonds and a correlating increase in interest rates. As of December 31, 2011, we had $611 million of tax-exempt bonds that are subject to re-pricing on either a daily or a weekly basis through a remarketing process and $305 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods that are subject to re-pricing within the next twelve months. If the weakness in the municipal debt market results in re-pricing of our tax-exempt bonds at significantly higher interest rates, we will incur increased interest expenses that may negatively affect our operating results and cash flows.

 

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We may be unable to obtain or maintain required permits or to expand existing permitted capacity of our landfills, which could decrease our revenue and increase our costs.

Our ability to meet our financial and operating objectives depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain the permits necessary to operate landfill sites. Permits to build, operate and expand solid waste management facilities, including landfills and transfer stations, have become more difficult and expensive to obtain and maintain. Permits often take years to obtain as a result of numerous hearings and compliance requirements with regard to zoning, environmental and other regulations. These permits are also often subject to resistance from citizen or other groups and other political pressures. Local communities and citizen groups, adjacent landowners or governmental agencies may oppose the issuance of a permit or approval we may need, allege violations of the permits under which we currently operate or laws or regulations to which we are subject, or seek to impose liability on us for environmental damage. Responding to these challenges has, at times, increased our costs and extended the time associated with establishing new facilities and expanding existing facilities. In addition, failure to receive regulatory and zoning approval may prohibit us from establishing new facilities or expanding existing facilities. Our failure to obtain the required permits to operate our landfills could have a material adverse impact on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

Significant shortages in fuel supply or increases in fuel prices will increase our operating expenses.

The price and supply of fuel can fluctuate significantly based on international, political and economic circumstances, as well as other factors outside our control, such as actions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and other oil and gas producers, regional production patterns, weather conditions and environmental concerns. We have seen average quarterly fuel prices increase by as much as 33% on a year-over-year basis and decrease by as much as 47% on a year-over-year basis within the last three years. We need fuel to run our collection and transfer trucks and our equipment used in our landfill operations. Supply shortages could substantially increase our operating expenses. Additionally, as fuel prices increase, our direct operating expenses increase and many of our vendors raise their prices as a means to offset their own rising costs. We have in place a fuel surcharge program, designed to offset increased fuel expenses; however, we may not be able to pass through all of our increased costs and some customers’ contracts prohibit any pass-through of the increased costs. Additionally, we are currently party to a pending litigation that pertains to our fuel and environmental charge and generally alleges that such charges were not properly disclosed, were unfair, and were contrary to contract. See Note 11 of the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information. Regardless of any offsetting surcharge programs, the increased operating costs will decrease our operating margins.

We are increasingly dependent on technology in our operations and if our technology fails, our business could be adversely affected.

We may experience problems with the operation of our current information technology systems or the technology systems of third parties on which we rely, as well as the development and deployment of new information technology systems, that could adversely affect, or even temporarily disrupt, all or a portion of our operations until resolved. Inabilities and delays in implementing new systems can also affect our ability to realize projected or expected cost savings. Additionally, any systems failures could impede our ability to timely collect and report financial results in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

A cybersecurity incident could negatively impact our business and our relationships with customers.

We use computers in substantially all aspects of our business operations. We also use mobile devices, social networking and other online activities to connect with our employees and our customers. Such uses give rise to cybersecurity risks, including security breach, espionage, system disruption, theft and inadvertent release of information. Our business involves the storage and transmission of numerous classes of sensitive and/or confidential information and intellectual property, including customers’ personal information, private information about employees, and financial and strategic information about the Company and its business partners. We also rely on a Payment Card Industry compliant third party to protect our customers’ credit card information. Further, as the Company pursues its strategy to grow through acquisitions and to pursue new initiatives that improve our operations and cost structure, the Company is also expanding and improving its

 

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information technologies, resulting in a larger technological presence and corresponding exposure to cybersecurity risk. If we fail to assess and identify cybersecurity risks associated with acquisitions and new initiatives, we may become increasingly vulnerable to such risks. Additionally, while we have implemented measures to prevent security breaches and cyber incidents, our preventative measures and incident response efforts may not be entirely effective. The theft, destruction, loss, misappropriation, or release of sensitive and/or confidential information or intellectual property, or interference with our information technology systems or the technology systems of third parties on which we rely, could result in business disruption, negative publicity, brand damage, violation of privacy laws, loss of customers, potential liability and competitive disadvantage.

Our operating expenses could increase as a result of labor unions organizing or changes in regulations related to labor unions.

Labor unions continually attempt to organize our employees, and these efforts will likely continue in the future. Certain groups of our employees are currently represented by unions, and we have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with these unions. Additional groups of employees may seek union representation in the future, and, if successful, the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements could divert management attention and result in increased operating expenses and lower net income. If we are unable to negotiate acceptable collective bargaining agreements, our operating expenses could increase significantly as a result of work stoppages, including strikes. Any of these matters could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

We could face significant liabilities for withdrawal from multiemployer pension plans.

We have participated in and contributed to various “multiemployer” pension plans administered by employer and union trustees. In renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements with labor unions that participate in these plans, we may decide to discontinue participation in various plans. When we withdraw from plans, we can incur withdrawal liabilities for those plans that have underfunded pension liabilities. Various factors affect our liabilities for a plan’s underfunded status, including the numbers of retirees and active workers in the plan, the ongoing solvency of participating employers, the investment returns obtained on plan assets, and the ratio of our historical participation in such plan to all employers’ historical participation. We reflect any withdrawal liability as an operating expense in our statement of operations and as a liability on our balance sheet.

We have previously withdrawn several employee bargaining units from underfunded multiemployer pension plans, and we recognized related expenses of $26 million in 2010 and $9 million in 2009. We are still negotiating and litigating final resolutions of our withdrawal liability for these previous withdrawals, which could be materially higher than the charges we have recognized.

Our business is subject to operational and safety risks, including the risk of personal injury to employees and others.

Provision of environmental and waste management services involves risks such as truck accidents, equipment defects, malfunctions and failures, and natural disasters, which could potentially result in releases of hazardous materials, injury or death of employees and others, or a need to shut down or reduce operation of our facilities while remedial actions are undertaken. These risks expose us to potential liability for pollution and other environmental damages, personal injury, loss of life, business interruption, and property damage or destruction.

While we seek to minimize our exposure to such risks through comprehensive training and compliance programs, as well as vehicle and equipment maintenance programs, if we were to incur substantial liabilities in excess of any applicable insurance, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.

 

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We have substantial financial assurance and insurance requirements, and increases in the costs of obtaining adequate financial assurance, or the inadequacy of our insurance coverages, could negatively impact our liquidity and increase our liabilities.

The amount of insurance we are required to maintain for environmental liability is governed by statutory requirements. We believe that the cost for such insurance is high relative to the coverage it would provide and, therefore, our coverages are generally maintained at the minimum statutorily-required levels. We face the risk of incurring additional costs for environmental damage if our insurance coverage is ultimately inadequate to cover those damages. We also carry a broad range of other insurance coverages that are customary for a company our size. We use these programs to mitigate risk of loss, thereby enabling us to manage our self-insurance exposure associated with claims. The inability of our insurers to meet their commitments in a timely manner and the effect of significant claims or litigation against insurance companies may subject us to additional risks. To the extent our insurers were unable to meet their obligations, or our own obligations for claims were more than we estimated, there could be a material adverse effect to our financial results.

In addition, to fulfill our financial assurance obligations with respect to variable-rate tax-exempt debt, final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations, we generally obtain letters of credit or surety bonds, rely on insurance, including captive insurance, fund trust and escrow accounts or rely upon WM financial guarantees. We currently have in place all financial assurance instruments necessary for our operations. General economic factors may adversely affect the cost of our current financial assurance instruments and changes in regulations may impose stricter requirements on the types of financial assurance that will be accepted. Additionally, in the event we are unable to obtain sufficient surety bonding, letters of credit or third-party insurance coverage at reasonable cost, or one or more states cease to view captive insurance as adequate coverage, we would need to rely on other forms of financial assurance. It is possible that we could be forced to deposit cash to collateralize our obligations. Other forms of financial assurance could be more expensive to obtain, and any requirements to use cash to support our obligations would negatively impact our liquidity and capital resources and could affect our ability to meet our obligations as they become due.

We may record material charges against our earnings due to any number of events that could cause impairments to our assets.

In accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, we capitalize certain expenditures and advances relating to disposal site development, expansion projects, acquisitions, software development costs and other projects. Events that could, in some circumstances, lead to an impairment include, but are not limited to, shutting down a facility or operation or abandoning a development project or the denial of an expansion permit. If we determine a development or expansion project is impaired, we will charge against earnings any unamortized capitalized expenditures and advances relating to such facility or project reduced by any portion of the capitalized costs that we estimate will be recoverable, through sale or otherwise. We also carry a significant amount of goodwill on our Consolidated Balance Sheet, which is required to be assessed for impairment annually, and more frequently in the case of certain triggering events. We may be required to incur charges against earnings if we determine that events such as those described cause impairments. Any such charges could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

Our capital requirements and our business strategy could increase our expenses or cause us to change our growth and development plans, or fail to maintain our desired credit profile.

Recent economic conditions have reduced our cash flows from operations and could do so in the future. If impacts on our cash flows from operations are significant, we may reduce or suspend capital expenditures, growth and acquisition activity, implementation of our business strategy, dividend declarations or share repurchases. We may choose to incur indebtedness to pay for these activities, and there can be no assurances that we would be able to incur indebtedness on terms we deem acceptable or that we would maintain our targeted balance of debt to equity. We also may need to incur indebtedness to refinance scheduled debt maturities, and it is possible that the cost of financing could increase significantly, thereby increasing our expenses and decreasing our net income. Further, our ability to execute our financial strategy and our ability to incur indebtedness depends on our ability to maintain investment grade ratings on our senior debt. The credit rating process is

 

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contingent upon our credit profile, as well as a number of other factors, many of which are beyond our control. If we were unable to maintain our investment grade credit ratings in the future, our interest expense would increase and our ability to obtain financing on favorable terms could be adversely affected.

Additionally, we have $2.2 billion of debt as of December 31, 2011 that is exposed to changes in market interest rates within the next twelve months because of the combined impact of our tax-exempt bonds, our interest rate swap agreements and borrowings outstanding under our Canadian Credit Facility. Therefore, increases in interest rates can increase our interest expenses which also would lower our net income and decrease our cash flow.

We may use our five-year, $2.0 billion revolving credit facility to meet our cash needs, to the extent available. As of December 31, 2011, we had $150 million of borrowings and $1,012 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the facility, leaving an unused and available credit capacity of $838 million. In the event of a default under our credit facility, we could be required to immediately repay all outstanding borrowings and make cash deposits as collateral for all obligations the facility supports, which we may not be able to do. Additionally, any such default could cause a default under many of our other credit agreements and debt instruments. Without waivers from lenders party to those agreements, any such default would have a material adverse effect on our ability to continue to operate.

The adoption of climate change legislation or regulations restricting emissions of “greenhouse gases” could increase our costs to operate.

Efforts to curtail the emission of GHGs, to ameliorate the effect of climate change, continue to advance on the federal, regional, and state level. Our landfill operations emit methane, identified as a GHG. In the 111th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would regulate GHGs comprehensively. While the centerpiece of that bill would be a GHG emission allowance cap-and-trade system, neither landfills nor qualifying waste-to-energy plants would be compelled to hold allowances for their GHG emissions. Rather, they would be subject to certain further emission controls to be determined through administrative rule-making. Should comprehensive federal climate change legislation be enacted, we expect it to impose costs on our operations, the materiality of which we cannot predict.

Absent comprehensive federal legislation to control GHG emissions, the EPA is moving ahead administratively under its existing Clean Air Act authority. In 2010, the EPA published a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule (“PSD tailoring rule”). The rule sets new thresholds for GHG emissions that define when Clean Air Act permits are required under the PSD and Title V programs. The EPA’s legal authority to “tailor” statutory thresholds in this rule has been challenged, and the EPA has delayed regulation of certain emissions pending further regulatory analysis. We cannot predict the final requirements of stationary source rules that might apply to landfills and waste-to-energy facilities as a result of this rulemaking and, accordingly, further developments in this area could have a material effect on our results of operations or cash flows.

The seasonal nature of our business and “one-time” special projects cause our results to fluctuate, and prior performance is not necessarily indicative of our future results.

Our operating revenues tend to be somewhat higher in summer months, primarily due to the higher volume of construction and demolition waste. The volumes of industrial and residential waste in certain regions where we operate also tend to increase during the summer months. Our second and third quarter revenues and results of operations typically reflect these seasonal trends. Additionally, certain destructive weather conditions that tend to occur during the second half of the year, such as the hurricanes that most often impact our Southern Group, can actually increase our revenues in the areas affected. While weather-related and other “one-time” occurrences can boost revenues through additional work, as a result of significant start-up costs and other factors, such revenue sometimes generates earnings at comparatively lower margins. During 2010, our financial results included revenue generated as a result of clean-up efforts in connection with the oil spill along the Gulf Coast and the substantial flooding in Tennessee; however, these special projects have a limited time span.

Certain weather conditions, including severe weather storms, may result in the temporary suspension of our operations, which can significantly affect the operating results of the affected regions. The operating results of our first quarter also often reflect higher repair and maintenance expenses because we rely on the slower winter months, when waste flows are generally lower, to perform scheduled maintenance at our waste-to-energy facilities.

 

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For these and other reasons, operating results in any interim period are not necessarily indicative of operating results for an entire year, and operating results for any historical period are not necessarily indicative of operating results for a future period. Our stock price may be negatively impacted by interim variations in our results.

We could be subject to significant fines and penalties, and our reputation could be adversely affected, if our businesses, or third parties with whom we have a relationship, were to fail to comply with United States or foreign laws or regulations.

Some of our projects and new business may be conducted in countries where corruption has historically been prevalent. It is our policy to comply with all applicable anti-bribery laws, such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and with applicable local laws of the foreign countries in which we operate, and we monitor our local partners’ compliance with such laws as well. Our reputation may be adversely affected if we were reported to be associated with corrupt practices or if we or our local partners failed to comply with such laws. Such damage to our reputation could adversely affect our ability to grow our business. Additionally, violations of such laws could subject us to significant fines and penalties.

Currently pending or future litigation or governmental proceedings could result in material adverse consequences, including judgments or settlements.

We are involved in civil litigation in the ordinary course of our business and from time-to-time are involved in governmental proceedings relating to the conduct of our business. The timing of the final resolutions to these types of matters is often uncertain. Additionally, the possible outcomes or resolutions to these matters could include adverse judgments or settlements, either of which could require substantial payments, adversely affecting our liquidity.

We may experience adverse impacts on our reported results of operations as a result of adopting new accounting standards or interpretations.

Our implementation of and compliance with changes in accounting rules, including new accounting rules and interpretations, could adversely affect our reported financial position or operating results or cause unanticipated fluctuations in our reported operating results in future periods.

 

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

 

Item 2. Properties.

Our principal executive offices are in Houston, Texas, where we lease approximately 480,000 square feet under leases expiring in 2020. Our Group offices are in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona and New Hampshire. We also have field-based administrative offices in Arizona, Illinois, Texas and Connecticut. We own or lease real property in most locations where we have operations. We have operations in each of the fifty states, other than Montana. We also have operations in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and throughout Canada.

Our principal property and equipment consists of land (primarily landfills and other disposal facilities, transfer stations and bases for collection operations), buildings, vehicles and equipment. We believe that our vehicles, equipment, and operating properties are adequately maintained and sufficient for our current operations. However, we expect to continue to make investments in additional equipment and property for expansion, for replacement of assets, and in connection with our strategic growth plans. For more information, see Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations included within this report.

 

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The following table summarizes our various operations at December 31 for the periods noted:

 

     2011      2010  

Landfills:

     

Owned

     211         210   

Operated through lease agreements

     25         26   

Operated through contractual agreements

     35         35   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 
     271         271   

Transfer stations

     287         286   

Material recovery facilities

     107         98   

Secondary processing facilities

     13         12   

Waste-to-energy facilities

     17         17   

Independent power production plants

     5         5   

The following table provides certain information by Group regarding the 236 landfills owned or operated through lease agreements and a count, by Group, of landfills operated through contractual agreements, transfer stations and material recovery facilities as of December 31, 2011:

 

     Landfills Owned or Operated
Through Lease Agreements
     Landfills
Operating
Through
Contractual
Agreements
               
     Landfills      Total
Acreage(a)
     Permitted
Acreage(b)
     Expansion
Acreage(c)
        Transfer
Stations
     Material
Recovery
Facilities
 

Eastern

     37         28,509         6,047         345         9         57         27   

Midwest

     74         33,829         9,692         1,102         9         98         23   

Southern

     80         39,622         13,078         136         10         72         20   

Western

     41         41,870         8,531         725         7         57         37   

Wheelabrator

     4         781         341                         3           
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
     236         144,611         37,689         2,308         35         287         107   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) “Total acreage” includes permitted acreage, expansion acreage, other acreage available for future disposal that has not been permitted, buffer land and other land owned or leased by our landfill operations.

 

(b) “Permitted acreage” consists of all acreage at the landfill encompassed by an active permit to dispose of waste.

 

(c) “Expansion acreage” consists of unpermitted acreage where the related expansion efforts meet our criteria to be included as expansion airspace. A discussion of the related criteria is included within the Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions section included herein.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

Information regarding our legal proceedings can be found under the Litigation section of Note 11 in the Consolidated Financial Statements included in this report.

 

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

Information concerning mine safety and other regulatory matters required by Section 1503(a) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Item 104 of Regulation S-K is included in Exhibit 95 to this annual report.

 

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PART II

 

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Our common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the symbol “WM.” The following table sets forth the range of the high and low per-share sales prices for our common stock as reported on the NYSE:

 

     High      Low  

2010

     

First Quarter

   $ 35.00       $ 31.29   

Second Quarter

     35.98         31.18   

Third Quarter

     36.24         31.22   

Fourth Quarter

     37.25         34.09   

2011

     

First Quarter

   $ 38.58       $ 35.86   

Second Quarter

     39.69         36.22   

Third Quarter

     38.06         27.76   

Fourth Quarter

     35.52         29.77   

2012

     

First Quarter (through February 10, 2012)

   $ 35.53       $ 32.11   

On February 10, 2012, the closing sale price as reported on the NYSE was $35.21 per share. The number of holders of record of our common stock on February 10, 2012 was 13,682.

The graph below shows the relative investment performance of Waste Management, Inc. common stock, the Dow Jones Waste & Disposal Services Index and the S&P 500 Index for the last five years, assuming reinvestment of dividends at date of payment into the common stock. The graph is presented pursuant to SEC rules and is not meant to be an indication of our future performance.

Comparison of Cumulative Five Year Total Return

 

LOGO

 

     12/31/06        12/31/07        12/31/08        12/31/09        12/31/10        12/31/11  

Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 100         $ 91.23         $ 95.55         $ 101.48         $ 114.80         $ 105.89   

S&P 500 Index

   $ 100         $ 105.49         $ 66.46         $ 84.05         $ 96.71         $ 98.76   

Dow Jones Waste & Disposal Services Index

   $ 100         $ 104.57         $ 98.21         $ 111.79         $ 132.79         $ 133.03   

 

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Our quarterly dividends have been declared by our Board of Directors and paid in accordance with our capital allocation programs. Cash dividends declared and paid were $569 million in 2009, or $1.16 per common share, $604 million in 2010, or $1.26 per common share and $637 million in 2011, or $1.36 per common share.

In 2011, we repurchased $575 million of our common stock, pursuant to our capital allocation program. The following table summarizes common stock repurchases made during the fourth quarter of 2011:

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

Period

   Total
Number of
Shares
Purchased
     Average
Price  Paid
per Share(a)
     Total Number of
Shares  Purchased as
Part of Publicly
Announced Plans or
Programs
     Approximate Maximum
Dollar Value of Shares that
May Yet be Purchased Under
the Plans or Programs(b)
 

October 1 — 31

     913,700       $ 32.30         913,700       $   

November 1 — 30

           $               $   

December 1 — 31

           $               $   
  

 

 

       

 

 

    

Total

     913,700       $ 32.30         913,700       $   
  

 

 

       

 

 

    

 

 

(a) This amount represents the weighted average price paid per share and includes a per-share commission paid for all repurchases.

 

(b) The approximate maximum dollar value of shares that may yet be purchased under the program is shown as zero because our capital allocation program, by its own terms, provided for up to $575 million in share repurchases in 2011, and these repurchases were completed in October 2011.

In December 2011, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the per share quarterly dividend from $0.34 to $0.355 for dividends declared in 2012. However, all future dividend declarations are at the discretion of the Board of Directors, and depend on various factors, including our net earnings, financial condition, cash required for future business plans and other factors the Board of Directions may deem relevant. Additionally, the Board of Directors approved up to $500 million in share repurchases for 2012. However, future share repurchases will be made at the discretion of management, and will depend on factors similar to those considered by the Board of Directors in making dividend declarations.

 

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Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

The information below was derived from the audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in this report and in previous annual reports we filed with the SEC. This information should be read together with those Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto. The adoption of new accounting pronouncements, changes in certain accounting policies and certain reclassifications impact the comparability of the financial information presented below. These historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in the future.

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011(a)      2010(a)      2009(a)      2008      2007  
     (In millions, except per share amounts)  

Statement of Operations Data:

              

Operating revenues

   $ 13,378       $ 12,515       $ 11,791       $ 13,388       $ 13,310   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Costs and expenses:

              

Operating

     8,541         7,824         7,241         8,466         8,402   

Selling, general and administrative

     1,551         1,461         1,364         1,477         1,432   

Depreciation and amortization

     1,229         1,194         1,166         1,238         1,259   

Restructuring

     19         (2      50         2         10   

(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items

     10         (78      83         (29      (47
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
     11,350         10,399         9,904         11,154         11,056   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Income from operations

     2,028         2,116         1,887         2,234         2,254   

Other expense, net

     (508      (485      (414      (437      (505
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

     1,520         1,631         1,473         1,797         1,749   

Provision for income taxes

     511         629         413         669         540   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Consolidated net income

     1,009         1,002         1,060         1,128         1,209   

Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests

     48         49         66         41         46   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 961       $ 953       $ 994       $ 1,087       $ 1,163   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Basic earnings per common share

   $ 2.05       $ 1.98       $ 2.02       $ 2.21       $ 2.25   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per common share

   $ 2.04       $ 1.98       $ 2.01       $ 2.19       $ 2.23   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Cash dividends declared per common share

   $ 1.36       $ 1.26       $ 1.16       $ 1.08       $ 0.96   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Balance Sheet Data (at end of period):

              

Working capital (deficit)

   $ (689    $ (3    $ 109       $ (701    $ (118

Goodwill and other intangible assets, net

     6,672         6,021         5,870         5,620         5,530   

Total assets

     22,569         21,476         21,154         20,227         20,175   

Debt, including current portion

     9,756         8,907         8,873         8,326         8,337   

Total Waste Management, Inc. stockholders’ equity

     6,070         6,260         6,285         5,902         5,792   

Total equity

     6,390         6,591         6,591         6,185         6,102   

 

 

(a) For more information regarding these financial data, see the Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations section included in this report. For disclosures associated with the impact of the adoption of new accounting pronouncements and changes in our accounting policies on the comparability of this information, see Note 2 of the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

This section includes a discussion of our results of operations for the three years ended December 31, 2011. This discussion may contain forward-looking statements that anticipate results based on management’s plans that are subject to uncertainty. We discuss in more detail various factors that could cause actual results to differ from expectations in Item 1A, Risk Factors. The following discussion should be read in light of that disclosure and together with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Overview

Our Company is dedicated to three transformational goals that we believe will drive continued growth and leadership in a dynamic industry: know more about our customers and how to service them than anyone else; use conversion and processing technology to extract more value from the materials we manage; and continuously improve our operational efficiency. Our strategy supports diversion from landfills and converting waste into valuable products as customers seek more economically and environmentally sound alternatives. We intend to pursue achievement of our long-term goals in the short-term through efforts to:

 

  Ÿ  

Grow our markets by implementing customer-focused growth, through customer segmentation and through strategic acquisitions, while maintaining our pricing discipline and increasing the amount of recyclable materials we manage each year;

 

  Ÿ  

Grow our customer loyalty;

 

  Ÿ  

Grow into new markets by investing in greener technologies; and

 

  Ÿ  

Pursue initiatives that improve our operations and cost structure.

These efforts will be supported by ongoing improvements in information technologies. We believe that execution of our strategy will provide long-term value to our stockholders.

Our 2011 results of operations reflect the impact of improved recyclable commodity prices and recycling volumes, our discipline in pricing and our continued investment in our strategic initiatives, including our July 28, 2011 acquisition of the primary operations of Oakleaf Global Holdings (“Oakleaf”). Highlights of our financial results for 2011 include:

 

  Ÿ  

Revenues of $13.4 billion compared with $12.5 billion in 2010, an increase of $863 million, or 6.9%. This increase in revenues is primarily attributable to:

 

  Ÿ  

Internal revenue growth from yield on our collection and disposal business of 1.8% in the current period, which increased revenue by $193 million;

 

  Ÿ  

Increases from recyclable commodity prices of $216 million; increases primarily from our fuel surcharge program of $169 million; and increases from foreign currency translation of $31 million; and

 

  Ÿ  

Increases associated with acquired businesses of $449 million, of which $251 million was related to Oakleaf;

 

  Ÿ  

Internal revenue growth from volume was negative 1.5% in 2011, compared with negative 2.6% in 2010. The year-over-year decline in internal revenue growth due to volume was $187 million, of which $94 million relates to the oil spill clean-up project along the Gulf Coast in 2010. Revenue declines due to volume from our collection and waste-to-energy businesses were offset in part by revenue increases from our recycling brokerage business and our material recovery facilities;

 

  Ÿ  

Operating expenses of $8.5 billion, or 63.8% of revenues, compared with $7.8 billion, or 62.5% of revenues, in 2010. This increase of $717 million, or 9.2%, is due primarily to higher customer rebates related to increased recyclable commodity prices and volumes; the impact of higher fuel prices on direct fuel costs and indirect fuel costs included in subcontractor costs; and further increases in subcontractor costs associated in large part with our acquisition of Oakleaf, all of which have related revenue increases as noted above;

 

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  Ÿ  

Selling, general and administrative expenses increased $90 million, or 6.2%, from $1,461 million in 2010 to $1,551 million in 2011, primarily due to costs incurred to support our strategic growth plans and initiatives, including our acquisition of Oakleaf, and cost savings programs. We began to see the associated benefits of our cost savings programs in the second half of the year and expect the benefits to increase throughout 2012;

 

  Ÿ  

Income from operations of $2.0 billion, or 15.2% of revenues, in 2011 compared with $2.1 billion, or 16.9% of revenues, in 2010;

 

  Ÿ  

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc. of $961 million, or $2.04 per diluted share for 2011, as compared with $953 million, or $1.98 per diluted share in 2010.

 

  Ÿ  

Net cash provided by operating activities increased 8.5% from $2.3 billion in 2010 to $2.5 billion in 2011. We returned $1.2 billion to our shareholders through dividends and share repurchases in 2011, compared with $1.1 billion in 2010.

The following explanation of certain notable items that impacted the comparability of our 2011 results with 2010 has been provided to support investors’ understanding of our performance. Our 2011 results were affected by the following:

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of a pre-tax charge of $24 million as a result of a litigation loss, which had a negative impact of $0.03 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of pre-tax restructuring charges, excluding charges recognized in the operating results of Oakleaf, of $17 million related to our cost savings programs. These charges were primarily related to employee severance and benefit costs and had a negative impact of $0.02 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

  Ÿ  

The reduction in pre-tax earnings of approximately $11 million related to the Oakleaf acquisition, which includes the operating results of Oakleaf and related interest expense and integration costs. These items had a negative impact of $0.01 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of a favorable pre-tax benefit of $9 million from a revision to an environmental remediation liability at a closed landfill, which had a positive impact of $0.01 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of non-cash, pre-tax asset impairment charges of $9 million primarily related to two of our medical waste services facilities. The impairment charges had a negative impact of $0.01 on our diluted earnings per share; and

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of a tax benefit of $19 million due to favorable tax audit settlements and favorable adjustments relating to the finalization of our 2010 tax returns. These items had a positive impact of $0.04 on our diluted earnings per share.

Our 2010 results were affected by the following:

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of pre-tax charges aggregating $55 million related to remediation and closure costs at five closed sites, which had a negative impact of $0.07 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of net tax charges of $32 million due to refinements in estimates of our deferred state income taxes and the finalization of our 2009 tax returns, partially offset by favorable tax audit settlements, all of which, combined, had a negative impact of $0.07 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of a net favorable pre-tax benefit of $46 million for litigation and associated costs, which had a favorable impact of $0.06 on our diluted earnings per share; and

 

  Ÿ  

The recognition of net pre-tax charges of $26 million as a result of the withdrawal of certain of our union bargaining units from an underfunded multiemployer pension plan, which had a negative impact of $0.03 on our diluted earnings per share.

 

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We finished 2011 on a positive note with strong fourth quarter results that we intend to build upon going into 2012. Our employees are focused on continuing the progress that we have made on our strategic growth initiatives and cost savings programs. In 2012, we expect to continue to accomplish our goals of growing our revenue, expanding our operating margins, increasing our return on invested capital and returning cash to our shareholders.

Free Cash Flow — As is our practice, we are presenting free cash flow, which is a non-GAAP measure of liquidity, in our disclosures because we use this measure in the evaluation and management of our business. We define free cash flow as net cash provided by operating activities, less capital expenditures, plus proceeds from divestitures of businesses (net of cash divested) and other sales of assets. We believe it is indicative of our ability to pay our quarterly dividends, repurchase common stock, fund acquisitions and other investments and, in the absence of refinancings, to repay our debt obligations. Free cash flow is not intended to replace “Net cash provided by operating activities,” which is the most comparable U.S. GAAP measure. However, we believe free cash flow gives investors greater insight into how we view our liquidity. Nonetheless, the use of free cash flow as a liquidity measure has material limitations because it excludes certain expenditures that are required or that we have committed to, such as declared dividend payments and debt service requirements.

Our calculation of free cash flow and reconciliation to “Net cash provided by operating activities” is shown in the table below (in millions), and may not be the same as similarly-titled measures presented by other companies:

 

     Years Ended
December 31,
 
     2011     2010  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 2,469      $ 2,275   

Capital expenditures

     (1,324     (1,104

Proceeds from divestitures of businesses (net of cash divested) and other sales of assets (a)

     53        44   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Free cash flow

   $ 1,198      $ 1,215   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

(a) Proceeds from divestitures of businesses for the year ended December 31, 2011 included the receipt of a payment of $17 million related to a note receivable from a prior year divestiture. This repayment is included as a component of “Other” within “Cash flows from investing activities” in our Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

When comparing our cash flows from operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2011 to the comparable period in 2010, the change is primarily attributable to decreases in our income tax payments, which have positively affected our cash flow from operations this year, as well as a cash payment of $37 million made when our Canadian hedges matured in December 2010. This current year increase was partially offset by a favorable cash benefit of $77 million resulting from a litigation settlement in April 2010 and a $65 million federal tax refund in the third quarter of 2010 related to the liquidation of a foreign subsidiary in 2009.

The increase in capital expenditures is a result of our increased spending on natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure, information technology infrastructure and growth initiatives, as well as our taking advantage of bonus depreciation. The year-over-year increase in capital expenditures was also affected by timing differences associated with cash payments for the previous years’ fourth quarter capital spending. We generally use a significant portion of our free cash flow on capital spending in the fourth quarter of each year. A more significant portion of our fourth quarter 2010 spending was paid in cash in 2011 than in the preceding year.

Our ability to generate $1.2 billion in free cash flow in 2011 enabled us to return $1.2 billion in cash to stockholders during the year through the payment of $637 million in dividends and the repurchase of $575 million of our common stock.

 

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Acquisition of Oakleaf Global Holdings — On July 28, 2011, we paid $432 million, net of cash received of $4 million and inclusive of certain adjustments, to acquire Oakleaf. Oakleaf provides outsourced waste and recycling services through a nationwide network of third-party haulers. The operations we acquired generated approximately $580 million in revenues in 2010. We acquired Oakleaf to advance our growth and transformation strategies and increase our national accounts customer base while enhancing our ability to provide comprehensive environmental solutions. For the year ended December 31, 2011, we incurred $1 million of acquisition-related costs, which are classified as “Selling, general and administrative” expenses. Since the acquisition date, Oakleaf has recognized revenues of $265 million and net income of less than $1 million, which are included in our Consolidated Statement of Operations.

The following table shows adjustments to the preliminary allocation of the purchase price of Oakleaf to tangible and intangible assets acquired and liabilities assumed based on their estimated fair value from September 30, 2011 to December 31, 2011 (in millions):

 

     September 30, 2011     Adjustments (a)     December 31, 2011  

Accounts and other receivables

   $ 68      $ 2      $ 70   

Other current assets

     28               28   

Property and equipment

     77        (5     72   

Goodwill

     320        7        327   

Other intangible assets

     92        (5     87   

Accounts payable

     (80     (2     (82

Accrued liabilities

     (48            (48

Deferred income taxes, net

     (13     3        (10

Other liabilities

     (12            (12
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total purchase price

   $ 432      $      $ 432   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

(a) The purchase price adjustments relate primarily to changes in the valuation of the customer and vendor relationships and evaluation of physical and market conditions of equipment.

The following table presents the preliminary allocation of the purchase price to intangible assets (amounts in millions, except for amortization periods):

 

     Amount      Weighted Average
Amortization
Periods (in Years)

Customer relationships

   $ 74       10.0

Vendor relationships

     4       10.0

Trademarks

     9       15.0
  

 

 

    

Total intangible assets subject to amortization

   $ 87       10.5
  

 

 

    

Goodwill of $327 million was calculated as the excess of the consideration paid over the net assets recognized and represents the future economic benefits arising from other assets acquired that could not be individually identified and separately recognized. Goodwill is a result of expected synergies from combining the Company’s operations with Oakleaf’s national accounts customer base and vendor network. The vendor-hauler network expands our partnership with third-party service providers. In many cases we can provide vendor-haulers with opportunities to maintain and increase their business by utilizing our extensive post-collection network. We believe this will generate significant benefits for the Company and for the vendor-haulers. Goodwill acquired has been allocated to our four geographic Groups based on our preliminary valuations. Goodwill related to this acquisition is not deductible for income tax purposes.

 

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The following pro forma consolidated results of operations have been prepared as if the acquisition of Oakleaf occurred at January 1, 2010 (in millions, except per share amounts):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
         2011              2010      

Operating revenues

   $ 13,693       $ 13,059   

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

     955         935   

Basic earnings per common share

     2.03         1.95   

Diluted earnings per common share

     2.03         1.94   

Basis of Presentation of Consolidated Financial Information

Goodwill Impairment Testing — In September 2011, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) amended authoritative guidance associated with goodwill impairment testing. The amended guidance provides companies the option to first assess qualitative factors to determine whether the existence of events or circumstances leads to a determination that it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount before performing the two-step impairment test. If, after assessing the totality of events or circumstances, an entity determines it is not more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, then performing the two-step impairment test is unnecessary. The amendments are effective for goodwill impairment tests performed for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2011; however, early adoption was permitted. The Company’s early adoption of this guidance in 2011 did not have an impact on our consolidated financial statements. Additional information on impairment testing can be found in Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Multiple-Deliverable Revenue Arrangements — In October 2009, the FASB amended authoritative guidance associated with multiple-deliverable revenue arrangements. This amended guidance addresses the determination of when individual deliverables within an arrangement are required to be treated as separate units of accounting and modifies the manner in which consideration is allocated across the separately identifiable deliverables. The amendments to authoritative guidance associated with multiple-deliverable revenue arrangements became effective for the Company on January 1, 2011. The new accounting standard has been applied prospectively to arrangements entered into or materially modified after the date of adoption. The adoption of this guidance has not had a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Consolidation of Variable Interest Entities — In June 2009, the FASB issued revised authoritative guidance associated with the consolidation of variable interest entities. The new guidance primarily uses a qualitative approach for determining whether an enterprise is the primary beneficiary of a variable interest entity and, is therefore, required to consolidate the entity. This new guidance generally defines the primary beneficiary as the entity that has (i) the power to direct the activities of the variable interest entity that can most significantly impact the entity’s performance and (ii) the obligation to absorb losses and the right to receive benefits from the variable interest entity that could be significant from the perspective of the entity. The new guidance also requires that we continually reassess whether we are the primary beneficiary of a variable interest entity rather than conducting a reassessment only upon the occurrence of specific events.

As a result of our implementation of this guidance, effective January 1, 2010, we deconsolidated certain final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation trusts because we share power over significant activities of these trusts with others. Our financial interests in these entities are discussed in Note 20. The deconsolidation of these trusts has not materially affected our financial position, results of operations or cash flows during the periods presented.

Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions

In preparing our financial statements, we make numerous estimates and assumptions that affect the accounting for and recognition and disclosure of assets, liabilities, equity, revenues and expenses. We must make these estimates and assumptions because certain information that we use is dependent on future events, cannot be calculated with a high degree of precision from data available or simply cannot be readily calculated based on generally accepted methods. In some cases, these estimates are particularly difficult to determine and we must exercise significant judgment. In preparing our financial statements, the most difficult, subjective and complex estimates and the assumptions that present the greatest amount of uncertainty relate to our accounting for

 

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landfills, environmental remediation liabilities, asset impairments, deferred income taxes and reserves associated with our insured and self-insured claims. Each of these items is discussed in additional detail below. Actual results could differ materially from the estimates and assumptions that we use in the preparation of our financial statements.

Landfills

Accounting for landfills requires that significant estimates and assumptions be made regarding (i) the cost to construct and develop each landfill asset; (ii) the estimated fair value of final capping, closure and post-closure asset retirement obligations, which must consider both the expected cost and timing of these activities; (iii) the determination of each landfill’s remaining permitted and expansion airspace; and (iv) the airspace associated with each final capping event.

Landfill Costs — We estimate the total cost to develop each of our landfill sites to its remaining permitted and expansion capacity. This estimate includes such costs as landfill liner material and installation, excavation for airspace, landfill leachate collection systems, landfill gas collection systems, environmental monitoring equipment for groundwater and landfill gas, directly related engineering, capitalized interest, on-site road construction and other capital infrastructure costs. Additionally, landfill development includes all land purchases for the landfill footprint and required landfill buffer property. The projection of these landfill costs is dependent, in part, on future events. The remaining amortizable basis of each landfill includes costs to develop a site to its remaining permitted and expansion capacity and includes amounts previously expended and capitalized, net of accumulated airspace amortization, and projections of future purchase and development costs.

Final Capping Costs — We estimate the cost for each final capping event based on the area to be finally capped and the capping materials and activities required. The estimates also consider when these costs would actually be paid and factor in inflation and discount rates. Our engineering personnel allocate final landfill capping costs to specific final capping events. The landfill capacity associated with each final capping event is then quantified and the final capping costs for each event are amortized over the related capacity associated with the event as waste is disposed of at the landfill. We review these costs annually, or more often if significant facts change. Changes in estimates, such as timing or cost of construction, for final capping events immediately impact the required liability and the corresponding asset. When the change in estimate relates to a fully consumed asset, the adjustment to the asset must be amortized immediately through expense. When the change in estimate relates to a final capping event that has not been fully consumed, the adjustment to the asset is recognized in income prospectively as a component of landfill airspace amortization.

Closure and Post-Closure Costs — We base our estimates for closure and post-closure costs on our interpretations of permit and regulatory requirements for closure and post-closure monitoring and maintenance. The estimates for landfill closure and post-closure costs also consider when the costs would actually be paid and factor in inflation and discount rates. The possibility of changing legal and regulatory requirements and the forward-looking nature of these types of costs make any estimation or assumption less certain. Changes in estimates for closure and post-closure events immediately impact the required liability and the corresponding asset. When the change in estimate relates to a fully consumed asset, the adjustment to the asset must be amortized immediately through expense. When the change in estimate relates to a landfill asset that has not been fully consumed, the adjustment to the asset is recognized in income prospectively as a component of landfill airspace amortization.

Remaining Permitted Airspace — Our engineers, in consultation with third-party engineering consultants and surveyors, are responsible for determining remaining permitted airspace at our landfills. The remaining permitted airspace is determined by an annual survey, which is used to compare the existing landfill topography to the expected final landfill topography.

Expansion Airspace — We include currently unpermitted expansion airspace in our estimate of remaining permitted and expansion airspace in certain circumstances. First, to include airspace associated with an expansion effort, we must generally expect the initial expansion permit application to be submitted within one year, and the final expansion permit to be received within five years. Second, we must believe the success of obtaining the expansion permit is likely, considering the following criteria:

 

  Ÿ  

Personnel are actively working on the expansion of an existing landfill, including efforts to obtain land use and local, state or provincial approvals;

 

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  Ÿ  

It is likely that the approvals will be received within the normal application and processing time periods for approvals in the jurisdiction in which the landfill is located;

 

  Ÿ  

We have a legal right to use or obtain land to be included in the expansion plan;

 

  Ÿ  

There are no significant known technical, legal, community, business, or political restrictions or similar issues that could impair the success of such expansion;

 

  Ÿ  

Financial analysis has been completed, and the results demonstrate that the expansion has a positive financial and operational impact; and

 

  Ÿ  

Airspace and related costs, including additional closure and post-closure costs, have been estimated based on conceptual design.

For unpermitted airspace to be initially included in our estimate of remaining permitted and expansion airspace, the expansion effort must meet all of the criteria listed above. These criteria are evaluated by our field-based engineers, accountants, managers and others to identify potential obstacles to obtaining the permits. Once the unpermitted airspace is included, our policy provides that airspace may continue to be included in remaining permitted and expansion airspace even if certain of these criteria are no longer met as long as we continue to believe we will ultimately obtain the permit, based on the facts and circumstances of a specific landfill. In these circumstances, continued inclusion must be approved through a landfill-specific review process that includes approval of our principal financial officer and a review by the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors on a quarterly basis. Of the 33 landfill sites with expansions at December 31, 2011, 11 landfills required the principal financial officer to approve the inclusion of the unpermitted airspace. Seven of these landfills required approval by our principal financial officer because of community or political opposition that could impede the expansion process. The remaining four landfills required approval primarily due to local zoning restrictions or because the permit application processes do not meet the one- or five-year requirements.

When we include the expansion airspace in our calculations of remaining permitted and expansion airspace, we also include the projected costs for development, as well as the projected asset retirement cost related to final capping, and closure and post-closure of the expansion in the amortization basis of the landfill.

Once the remaining permitted and expansion airspace is determined in cubic yards, an airspace utilization factor, or AUF, is established to calculate the remaining permitted and expansion capacity in tons. The AUF is established using the measured density obtained from previous annual surveys and is then adjusted to account for settlement. The amount of settlement that is forecasted will take into account several site-specific factors including current and projected mix of waste type, initial and projected waste density, estimated number of years of life remaining, depth of underlying waste, anticipated access to moisture through precipitation or recirculation of landfill leachate, and operating practices. In addition, the initial selection of the AUF is subject to a subsequent multi- level review by our engineering group, and the AUF used is reviewed on a periodic basis and revised as necessary. Our historical experience generally indicates that the impact of settlement at a landfill is greater later in the life of the landfill when the waste placed at the landfill approaches its highest point under the permit requirements.

After determining the costs and remaining permitted and expansion capacity at each of our landfills, we determine the per ton rates that will be expensed as waste is received and deposited at the landfill by dividing the costs by the corresponding number of tons. We calculate per ton amortization rates for each landfill for assets associated with each final capping event, for assets related to closure and post-closure activities and for all other costs capitalized or to be capitalized in the future. These rates per ton are updated annually, or more often, as significant facts change.

It is possible that actual results, including the amount of costs incurred, the timing of final capping, closure and post-closure activities, our airspace utilization or the success of our expansion efforts, could ultimately turn out to be significantly different from our estimates and assumptions. To the extent that such estimates, or related assumptions, prove to be significantly different than actual results, lower profitability may be experienced due to higher amortization rates, or higher expenses; or higher profitability may result if the opposite occurs. Most

 

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significantly, if it is determined that the expansion capacity should no longer be considered in calculating the recoverability of the landfill asset, we may be required to recognize an asset impairment or incur significantly higher amortization expense. If at any time management makes the decision to abandon the expansion effort, the capitalized costs related to the expansion effort are expensed immediately.

Environmental Remediation Liabilities

We are subject to an array of laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment. Under current laws and regulations, we may have liabilities for environmental damage caused by our operations, or for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired a site. These liabilities include potentially responsible party (“PRP”) investigations, settlements, and certain legal and consultant fees, as well as costs directly associated with site investigation and clean up, such as materials, external contractor costs and incremental internal costs directly related to the remedy. We provide for expenses associated with environmental remediation obligations when such amounts are probable and can be reasonably estimated. We routinely review and evaluate sites that require remediation and determine our estimated cost for the likely remedy based on a number of estimates and assumptions.

Where it is probable that a liability has been incurred, we estimate costs required to remediate sites based on site-specific facts and circumstances. We routinely review and evaluate sites that require remediation, considering whether we were an owner, operator, transporter, or generator at the site, the amount and type of waste hauled to the site and the number of years we were associated with the site. Next, we review the same type of information with respect to other named and unnamed PRPs. Estimates of the cost for the likely remedy are then either developed using our internal resources or by third-party environmental engineers or other service providers. Internally developed estimates are based on:

 

  Ÿ  

Management’s judgment and experience in remediating our own and unrelated parties’ sites;

 

  Ÿ  

Information available from regulatory agencies as to costs of remediation;

 

  Ÿ  

The number, financial resources and relative degree of responsibility of other PRPs who may be liable for remediation of a specific site; and

 

  Ÿ  

The typical allocation of costs among PRPs unless the actual allocation has been determined.

Asset Impairments

Our long-lived assets, including landfills and landfill expansions, are carried on our financial statements based on their cost less accumulated depreciation or amortization. We monitor the carrying value of our long-lived assets for potential impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances, including management decisions pertaining to such assets, indicate that their carrying amounts may not be recoverable. These events or changes in circumstances are referred to as impairment indicators. If an impairment indicator occurs, we perform a test of recoverability by comparing the carrying value of the asset or asset group to its undiscounted expected future cash flows. If cash flows cannot be separately and independently identified for a single asset, we will determine whether an impairment has occurred for the group of assets for which we can identify the projected cash flows. If the carrying values are in excess of undiscounted expected future cash flows, we measure any impairment by comparing the fair value of the asset or asset group to its carrying value. Fair value is generally determined by considering (i) internally developed discounted projected cash flow analysis of the asset or asset group; (ii) actual third-party valuations; and/or (iii) information available regarding the current market for similar assets. If the fair value of an asset or asset group is determined to be less than the carrying amount of the asset or asset group, an impairment in the amount of the difference is recorded in the period that the impairment indicator occurs and is included in the “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items” line item in our Consolidated Statement of Operations. Estimating future cash flows requires significant judgment and projections may vary from the cash flows eventually realized, which could impact our ability to accurately assess whether an asset has been impaired.

 

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There are other considerations for impairments of landfills, goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangible assets, as described below.

Landfills — The assessment of impairment indicators and the recoverability of our capitalized costs associated with landfills and related expansion projects require significant judgment due to the unique nature of the waste industry, the highly regulated permitting process and the sensitive estimates involved. During the review of a landfill expansion application, a regulator may initially deny the expansion application although the expansion permit is ultimately granted. In addition, management may periodically divert waste from one landfill to another to conserve remaining permitted landfill airspace, or a landfill may be required to cease accepting waste, prior to receipt of the expansion permit. However, such events occur in the ordinary course of business in the waste industry and do not necessarily result in impairment of our landfill assets because, after consideration of all facts, such events may not affect our belief that we will ultimately obtain the expansion permit. As a result, our tests of recoverability, which generally make use of a probability-weighted cash flow estimation approach, may indicate that no impairment loss should be recorded. At December 31, 2011, three of our landfill sites in two jurisdictions in the Company’s Midwest Group, for which we believe receipt of expansion permits is probable, had ceased accepting waste. The net recorded capitalized landfill asset cost for these three sites was $469 million at December 31, 2011. We performed tests of recoverability for these landfills and the undiscounted cash flows resulting from our probability-weighted estimation approach significantly exceeded the carrying values of each of these three sites.

Goodwill and Other Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess our goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets for impairment.

We assess whether a goodwill impairment exists using both qualitative and quantitative assessments. Our qualitative assessment involves determining whether events or circumstances exist that indicate it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, including goodwill. If based on this qualitative assessment we determine it is not more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, we will not perform a quantitative assessment.

If the qualitative assessment indicates that it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount or if we elect not to perform a qualitative assessment, we perform a quantitative assessment or two-step impairment test to determine whether a goodwill impairment exists at the reporting unit. The first step in our quantitative assessment identifies potential impairments by comparing the estimated fair value of each reporting unit to its carrying value, including goodwill. If the carrying value exceeds estimated fair value, there is an indication of potential impairment and the second step is performed to measure the amount of impairment. Fair value is typically estimated using an income approach or a combination of the income approach and market approach when applicable. The income approach is based on the long-term projected future cash flows of our reporting units. We discount the estimated cash flows to present value using a weighted-average cost of capital that considers factors such as market assumptions, the timing of the cash flows and the risks inherent in those cash flows. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate based upon our reporting units’ expected long-term performance considering the economic and market conditions that generally affect our business. The market approach estimates fair value by measuring the aggregate market value of publicly-traded companies with similar characteristics to our business as a multiple of their reported cash flows. We then apply that multiple to our reporting units’ cash flows to estimate their fair values. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate using valuation inputs from entities with operations and economic characteristics comparable to our reporting units.

Fair value computed by these two methods is arrived at using a number of factors, including projected future operating results, economic projections, anticipated future cash flows, comparable marketplace data and the cost of capital. There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and to our judgment in applying them to this analysis. However, we believe that these two methods provide a reasonable approach to estimating the fair value of our reporting units.

We assess whether other indefinite-lived intangible asset impairments exist by comparing the fair value of the asset with its carrying value. Fair value is typically estimated using an income approach for the respective asset, as described above. If the carrying value exceeds estimated fair value, an impairment would be recognized in the amount of the excess.

 

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Refer to Note 6 to the Consolidating Financial Statements for additional information related to goodwill impairment considerations made during the reported periods.

Deferred Income Taxes

Deferred income taxes are based on the difference between the financial reporting and tax basis of assets and liabilities. The deferred income tax provision represents the change during the reporting period in the deferred tax assets and deferred tax liabilities, net of the effect of acquisitions and dispositions. Deferred tax assets include tax loss and credit carry-forwards and are reduced by a valuation allowance if, based on available evidence, it is more likely than not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. Significant judgment is required in assessing the timing and amounts of deductible and taxable items. We establish reserves for uncertain tax positions when, despite our belief that our tax return positions are fully supportable, we believe that certain positions may be challenged and potentially disallowed. When facts and circumstances change, we adjust these reserves through our provision for income taxes.

Insured and Self-Insured Claims

We have retained a significant portion of the risks related to our health and welfare, automobile, general liability and workers’ compensation insurance programs. Our liabilities associated with the exposure for unpaid claims and associated expenses, including incurred but not reported losses, are based on an actuarial valuation and internal estimates. The accruals for these liabilities could be revised if future occurrences or loss development significantly differ from our assumptions used. Estimated recoveries associated with our insured claims are recorded as assets when we believe that the receipt of such amounts is probable.

Results of Operations

Operating Revenues

We currently manage and evaluate our principal operations through five Groups. Our four geographic Groups, which are comprised of our Eastern, Midwest, Southern and Western Groups, provide collection, transfer, disposal (in both solid waste and hazardous waste landfills) and recycling services. Our fifth Group is the Wheelabrator Group, which provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. These five Groups are our reportable segments.

We also provide additional services that are not managed through our five Groups, including the Oakleaf operations we acquired on July 28, 2011, recycling brokerage services, electronic recycling services, in-plant services, landfill gas-to-energy services, integrated medical waste services and the impacts of investments that we are making in expanded service offerings and solutions. Part of our expansion of services includes offering portable self-storage services and fluorescent bulb and universal waste mail-back through our LampTracker® program. In addition, we have made investments that involve the acquisition and development of interests in oil and gas producing properties. These operations are presented as “Other” in the table below. Shown below (in millions) is the contribution to revenues during each year provided by our five Groups and our Other services:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011      2010      2009  

Eastern

   $ 3,115       $ 2,943       $ 2,960   

Midwest

     3,213         3,048         2,855   

Southern

     3,390         3,461         3,328   

Western

     3,282         3,173         3,125   

Wheelabrator

     877         889         841   

Other

     1,532         963         628   

Intercompany

     (2,031      (1,962      (1,946
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,378       $ 12,515       $ 11,791   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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Our operating revenues generally come from fees charged for our collection, disposal, transfer, recycling and waste-to-energy services and from sales of commodities by our recycling, waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy operations. Revenues from our collection operations are influenced by factors such as collection frequency, type of collection equipment furnished, type and volume or weight of the waste collected, distance to the disposal facility or MRF and our disposal costs. Revenues from our landfill operations consist of tipping fees, which are generally based on the type and weight or volume of waste being disposed of at our disposal facilities. Fees charged at transfer stations are generally based on the weight or volume of waste deposited, taking into account our cost of loading, transporting and disposing of the solid waste at a disposal site. Recycling revenue generally consists of tipping fees and the sale of recyclable commodities to third parties. The fees we charge for our collection, disposal, transfer and recycling services generally include fuel surcharges, which are indexed to current market costs for fuel. Our waste-to-energy revenues, which are generated by our Wheelabrator Group, are based on the type and weight or volume of waste received at our waste-to-energy facilities and IPPs and amounts charged for the sale of energy and steam. Our “Other” lines of business includes Oakleaf, our landfill gas-to-energy operations, Port-O-Let® services, portable self-storage, fluorescent lamp recycling and oil and gas producing properties. Intercompany revenues between our operations have been eliminated in the consolidated financial statements. The mix of operating revenues from our major lines of business is reflected in the table below (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011     2010     2009  

Collection

   $ 8,406      $ 8,247      $ 7,980   

Landfill

     2,611        2,540        2,547   

Transfer

     1,280        1,318        1,383   

Wheelabrator

     877        889        841   

Recycling

     1,580        1,169        741   

Other

     655        314        245   

Intercompany

     (2,031     (1,962     (1,946
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,378      $ 12,515      $ 11,791   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

The following table provides details associated with the period-to-period change in revenues (dollars in millions) along with an explanation of the significant components of the current period changes:

 

     Period-to-Period
Change
2011 vs. 2010
    Period-to-Period
Change
2010 vs. 2009
 
     Amount     As a % of
Total
Company(a)
    Amount     As a % of
Total
Company(a)
 

Average yield(b)

   $ 572        4.6   $ 724        6.1

Volume

     (187     (1.5     (304     (2.6
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Internal revenue growth

     385        3.1        420        3.5   

Acquisitions

     449        3.6        240        2.0   

Divestitures

     (2            (2       

Foreign currency translation

     31        0.2        66        0.6   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
   $ 863        6.9   $ 724        6.1
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

(a) Calculated by dividing the amount of current year increase or decrease by the prior year’s total company revenue adjusted to exclude the impacts of current year divestitures ($12,513 million and $11,789 million for 2011 and 2010, respectively).

 

(b)

The amounts reported herein represent the changes in our revenue attributable to average yield for the total Company. We also analyze the changes in average yield in terms of related-business revenues in order to

 

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  differentiate the changes in yield attributable to our pricing strategies from the changes that are caused by market-driven price changes in commodities. The following table summarizes changes in revenues from average yield on a related-business basis (dollars in millions):

 

     Period-to-Period
Change
2011 vs. 2010
    Period-to-Period
Change
2010 vs. 2009
 
     Amount     As a % of
Related
Business (i)
    Amount     As a % of
Related
Business (i)
 

Average yield:

        

Collection, landfill and transfer

   $ 198        2.0   $ 218        2.2

Waste-to-energy disposal(ii)

     (5     (1.1     21        5.1   
  

 

 

     

 

 

   

Collection and disposal(ii)

     193        1.8        239        2.3   

Recycling commodities

     216        17.8        423        58.5   

Electricity(ii)

     (6     (2.2     (7     (2.5

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees

     169        37.7        69        18.4   
  

 

 

     

 

 

   

Total

   $ 572        4.6      $ 724        6.1   
  

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

  (i) Calculated by dividing the increase or decrease for the current year by the prior year’s related business revenue, adjusted to exclude the impacts of divestitures for the current year. The table below summarizes the related business revenues for each year, adjusted to exclude the impacts of divestitures (in millions):

 

     Denominator  
     2011      2010  

Related-business revenues:

     

Collection, landfill and transfer

   $ 10,111       $ 9,999   

Waste-to-energy disposal

     466         413   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Collection and disposal

     10,577         10,412   

Recycling commodities

     1,215         723   

Electricity

     273         279   

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees

     448         375   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total Company

   $ 12,513       $ 11,789   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

  (ii) Average revenue growth for yield for “Collection and disposal” excludes all electricity-related revenues generated by our Wheelabrator Group and our landfill gas-to-energy operations, which are reported as “Electricity” revenues.

Our revenues increased $863 million, or 6.9%, and $724 million, or 6.1%, for the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, respectively. The year-over-year change in revenues for both periods has been driven by (i) market factors, including higher recyclable commodity prices; higher diesel fuel prices, which increase revenues provided by our fuel surcharge program; and foreign currency translation, which affects revenues from our Canadian operations; (ii) acquisitions, particularly the acquisition of Oakleaf, which increased consolidated revenues by $251 million for 2011; and (iii) revenue growth from average yield on our collection and disposal operations. Offsetting these revenue increases were revenue declines due to lower volumes.

The following provides further details associated with our period-to-period change in revenues.

Average yield

Collection and disposal average yield — This measure reflects the effect on our revenue from the pricing activities of our collection, transfer, landfill and waste-to-energy disposal operations, exclusive of volume

 

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changes. Revenue growth from collection and disposal average yield during both years includes not only base rate changes and environmental and service fee increases, but also (i) certain average price changes related to the overall mix of services, which are due to both the types of services provided and the geographic locations where our services are provided; (ii) changes in average price from new and lost business; and (iii) price decreases to retain customers.

In both 2011 and 2010, our revenue growth from collection and disposal average yield demonstrates our commitment to our pricing strategies. This increase in revenue from yield was primarily driven by our collection operations, which experienced yield growth in all lines of business and in every geographic Group. As discussed below, increased collection revenues due to average yield have been more than offset by revenue declines from lower collection volumes. However, revenue growth from yield on base business and our efforts toward controlling variable costs continue to favorably influence margin changes in our collection line of business.

In 2011, revenue growth from collection and disposal average yield was $193 million, or 1.8%, as compared with the prior year. This revenue increase from yield was primarily driven by our collection operations; however, we also experienced yield growth from our disposal operations. Our 1.8% increase for 2011 is less than the 2.3% increase for 2010. This is due in large part to our residential line of business, in which we have experienced downward pressure on our revenue growth from yield across most of our geographic Groups, most notably in our Eastern and Southern Groups. Due to competition, it has become increasingly difficult to retain customers and to win new contracts at current average rates; as a result, in many instances, the Company has offered increased services, principally recycling services, when bidding on or renewing residential contracts and pursuing residential subscription business. Additional recycling services are typically at lower rates.This combination of increased competition and bundling of complementary services, such as recycling, in the residential line of business has put added pressure on our revenue growth from yield.

Our total collection and disposal revenue growth from yield has also been negatively affected during 2011, by factors including the changes in the mix of our temporary and permanent customers in our industrial business, particularly in North and South Florida. Additionally, we saw a $5 million yield decline in our waste-to-energy facilities, primarily driven by the expiration of a long-term contract at one of our waste-to-energy operations in South Florida in August 2011. We expect this negative trend to continue into 2012 due to the expiration of a similar long-term contract that will occur at the end of March 2012. Although these factors discussed above negatively affected our revenue growth from yield in 2011 as compared with 2010, we did see a favorable rate of revenue growth from yield in our commercial line of business during 2011 as compared with the prior year. This favorable impact was driven by both price increases and additional service fees. Overall, we have found that increasing our revenue growth from yield in today’s market is a challenge given the reduced volume levels resulting from the economic slowdown, the increased service offerings in many of our new contracts, and the highly competitive environment. Despite these headwinds, we continue to maintain our pricing discipline in order to improve yield on our base business.

Revenues from our environmental fee, which are included in average yield on collection and disposal, increased by $37 million and $33 million for the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, respectively. Environmental fee revenues totaled $288 million in 2011 as compared with $251 million in 2010 and $218 million in 2009.

Recycling commodities — Increases in the prices of the recycling commodities we sold resulted in an increase in revenues of $216 million in 2011 as compared with 2010. For the first nine months of 2011, our overall commodity prices increased approximately 26% as compared with the first nine months of the prior year. However, during the fourth quarter of 2011, we saw a decline of approximately 8% in commodity prices due to increased supply and lower demand.

In 2010, higher recycling commodity prices were the principal driver of our revenue increase of $423 million as compared with 2009. Market prices for recyclable commodities increased significantly from the near-historic lows experienced in late 2008 and early 2009. For the twelve months of 2010, overall commodity prices increased approximately 57% as compared with 2009.

 

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Fuel surcharges and mandated fees — These revenues, which are predominantly generated by our fuel surcharge program, increased by $169 million and $69 million for the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, respectively. This increase is directly attributable to higher national average prices for diesel fuel that we use for our fuel surcharge program. The mandated fees included in this line item are primarily related to the pass-through of fees and taxes assessed by various state, county and municipal governmental agencies at our landfills and transfer stations. These mandated fees have not had a significant impact on the comparability of revenues for the periods included in the table above.

Volume — Our revenue decline due to volume was $187 million, or 1.5%, for the year ended December 31, 2011. This is a notable improvement in the rate of revenue decline from the prior year when revenue decline due to volume was $304 million, or 2.6%. Volume declines are generally attributable to economic conditions, increased pricing, competition and increasing focus on waste reduction and diversion by consumers. Additionally, the oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast in 2010 unfavorably impacted our year-over-year volume change by $94 million for the year ended December 31, 2011.

In 2011, volume declines from our collection business accounted for $327 million of volume-related revenue decline. We experienced commercial and residential collection revenue declines due to lower volume that we attribute to the overall weakness in the economy, as well as the effects of pricing, competition and diversion of waste by consumers. Our industrial collection operations continued to be negatively affected by the current economic environment due to the construction slowdown across the United States. Lower third-party volumes in our transfer station operations also caused revenue declines in the current year and can generally be attributed to economic conditions and the effects of pricing and competition. Furthermore, as noted above, the overall year-over-year comparison of volumes in the collection line of business was unfavorably impacted by volume we received from the oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast in 2010. Additionally, in 2011, we experienced revenue declines at our waste-to-energy facilities, primarily driven by the expiration of a long-term electric power capacity agreement, which was offset to some extent by increases in waste tons processed and electricity produced.

Revenue declines due to volume detailed above were offset in part by revenue increases of $101 million for the year ended December 31, 2011, primarily from year-over-year volume improvements in our recycling brokerage business and in our material recovery facilities. Our continued pursuit of municipal volumes as well as the addition of new single stream recycling facilities during 2011 contributed to these revenue increases due to volume. We also experienced volume-related revenue increases of $37 million for the year ended December 31, 2011 from our strategic growth businesses and our landfill gas-to-energy operations. Additionally, our total landfill revenues increased $41 million in 2011 due to higher third-party volumes as compared with the prior year, primarily driven by higher special waste volumes in our Eastern and Midwest geographic Groups. However, our landfill municipal solid waste volumes continued to decline in 2011 as compared with the prior year due to economic conditions, increased pricing, competition and increased focus on waste reduction and diversion by consumers.

In 2010, our collection business accounted for $254 million of the total volume-related revenue decline. We experienced commercial and residential collection volume declines that we attributed to the overall weakness in the economy, as well as the effects of pricing, competition and diversion of waste by consumers. Our industrial collection operations were negatively affected by the economic environment due to the construction slowdown across the United States. The overall volume decline in the collection line of business was offset in part by an increase in volumes of $99 million associated with oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast. Lower third-party volumes in our transfer station operations also caused revenue declines in 2010, and can generally be attributed to economic conditions and the effects of pricing and competition. However, in 2010, our landfill revenues increased due to higher third-party volumes. This increase was principally due to higher special waste volumes in our Midwest and Southern Groups, driven in part by our focus on our customers and better meeting their needs.

Acquisitions and divestitures — Revenues increased $449 million and $240 million for the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, respectively, due to acquisitions. The significant revenue increase due to acquisitions in 2011 was principally associated with Oakleaf, included in our “Other” business, demonstrating our current focus on identifying strategic growth opportunities in new, complementary lines of business. Additionally, revenue increased due to acquisitions in our collection, recycling and waste-to-energy lines of business in both periods. Divestitures accounted for decreased revenues of $2 million in each of the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010, respectively.

 

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Operating Expenses

Our operating expenses include (i) labor and related benefits (excluding labor costs associated with maintenance and repairs discussed below), which include salaries and wages, bonuses, related payroll taxes, insurance and benefits costs and the costs associated with contract labor; (ii) transfer and disposal costs, which include tipping fees paid to third-party disposal facilities and transfer stations; (iii) maintenance and repairs relating to equipment, vehicles and facilities and related labor costs; (iv) subcontractor costs, which include the costs of independent haulers who transport waste collected by us to disposal facilities and are affected by variables such as volumes, distance and fuel prices; (v) costs of goods sold, which are primarily rebates paid to suppliers associated with recycling commodities; (vi) fuel costs, which represent the costs of fuel and oil to operate our truck fleet and landfill operating equipment; (vii) disposal and franchise fees and taxes, which include landfill taxes, municipal franchise fees, host community fees and royalties; (viii) landfill operating costs, which include interest accretion on landfill liabilities, interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets, leachate and methane collection and treatment, landfill remediation costs and other landfill site costs; (ix) risk management costs, which include auto liability, workers’ compensation, general liability and insurance and claim costs; and (x) other operating costs, which include, among other costs, equipment and facility rent, property taxes, utilities and supplies.

Our operating expenses increased $717 million, or 9.2%, when comparing 2011 with 2010 and increased $583 million, or 8.1%, when comparing 2010 with 2009. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenues were 63.8% in 2011, 62.5% in 2010 and 61.4% in 2009. The increases in our operating expenses during the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010 can largely be attributed to the following:

Higher market prices for recyclable commodities — In both 2011 and 2010, increased market prices for recyclable commodities was the main driver of the increase in cost of goods sold, as presented in the table below, primarily due to customer recycling rebates, which also resulted in increased revenues and earnings. For the first nine months of 2011, our overall commodity prices increased approximately 26% as compared with the first nine months of the prior year. However, during the fourth quarter of 2011, we saw a decline of approximately 8% in commodity prices due to higher supply and lower demand. During 2010, market prices for recyclable commodities increased significantly from the near-historic lows experienced in late 2008 and early 2009, reflecting a 57% increase in 2010 as compared with 2009. Increases in cost of goods sold accounted for 41% and 49% of the year-over-year increases in total operating expenses during 2011 and 2010, respectively.

Fuel cost increases — Higher market prices for fuel caused increases in both our direct fuel costs and our subcontractor costs in both 2011 and 2010. On average, diesel fuel prices increased 29% in 2011 and 21% in 2010 as compared with the respective prior years. Diesel fuel prices averaged $3.85, $2.99 and $2.46 per gallon for 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. We believe the total impact of fuel cost increases, when considering both the impact to our direct fuel costs and an estimate of the impact to our subcontractor costs, accounted for approximately 23% and 17% of the total year-over-year increase in operating expenses during 2011 and 2010, respectively. Increased revenues attributable to our fuel surcharge offset the unfavorable impact of higher fuel costs in 2011 and partially offset the unfavorable impact of higher fuel costs in 2010.

Acquisitions and growth initiatives — In both 2011 and 2010, we experienced cost increases attributable to recently acquired businesses and our various growth and business development initiatives. We estimate that these cost increases, which affected each of the operating cost categories identified in the table below, accounted for approximately 42% and 17% of our $717 million and $583 million increases in operating expenses during 2011 and 2010, respectively. Recent acquisitions included the purchase of Oakleaf and a number of collection and recycling operations. In particular, the acquisition of Oakleaf increased operating costs by $213 million in the current year, primarily impacting subcontractor costs and, to a lesser extent, the cost of goods sold and other categories. The increase in operating expenses resulting from acquired businesses was more than offset by increased revenues from acquired businesses.

 

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Canadian exchange rates — When comparing the average exchange rates for 2011 and 2010 to the prior year, the Canadian exchange rate strengthened by 4% and 10%, respectively, which increased our expenses in all operating cost categories. The strengthening of the Canadian dollar increased our total operating expenses by $20 million for 2011 as compared with 2010 and $52 million for 2010 as compared with 2009.

Volume declines — During 2011 and 2010, we continued to experience volume declines as a result of the ongoing weakness of the overall economic environment, pricing, competition and increased focus on waste reduction and diversion by consumers. We continue to manage our fixed costs and reduce our variable costs as we experience volume declines and have achieved cost savings as a result. These cost decreases have benefited each of the operating cost categories identified in the table below except for the cost of goods sold category, which increased as a result of additional customer rebates due to a 13% increase in recyclable material tons sold in 2011.

The following table summarizes the major components of our operating expenses, including the impact of foreign currency translation, for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

     2011      Period-to-
Period  Change
    2010      Period-to-
Period  Change
    2009  

Labor and related benefits

   $ 2,336       $ 36        1.6   $ 2,300       $ 40        1.8   $ 2,260   

Transfer and disposal costs

     937         (6     (0.6     943         6        0.6        937   

Maintenance and repairs

     1,090         49        4.7        1,041         8        0.8        1,033   

Subcontractor costs

     948         178        23.1        770         70        10.0        700   

Cost of goods sold

     1,071         295        38.0        776         288        59.0        488   

Fuel

     628         135        27.4        493         79        19.1        414   

Disposal and franchise fees and taxes

     602         13        2.2        589         11        1.9        578   

Landfill operating costs

     255         (39     (13.3     294         72        32.4        222   

Risk management

     222         20        9.9        202         (9     (4.3     211   

Other

     452         36        8.7        416         18        4.5        398   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 
   $ 8,541       $ 717        9.2   $ 7,824       $ 583        8.1   $ 7,241   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

The significant period-to-period changes in our operating expenses by category are discussed below.

Labor and related benefits — The increases in 2011 and 2010 were primarily due to higher hourly and salaried wages due to merit increases and additional expenses incurred from acquisitions and growth opportunities, offset in part by cost savings that have been achieved as volumes have declined.

The comparability of our labor and related benefits costs for the periods presented has also been affected by costs incurred primarily associated with the withdrawal of certain bargaining units from underfunded multiemployer pension plans. These costs increased 2010 expense by $26 million and 2009 expense by $9 million.

Maintenance and repairs — Comparing 2011 with 2010, the increase was due to higher costs in our geographic Groups largely attributable to increased fleet maintenance costs, which include services provided by third-parties, tires, parts and internal shop labor costs. The increase in expense for tires and parts reflects the worldwide increase in commodity prices.

Subcontractor costs — The current year increase in subcontractor costs was primarily a result of the Oakleaf acquisition, increased diesel fuel prices, other recent acquisitions, our various growth and business development initiatives and additional costs associated with servicing our in-plant services customers. Oakleaf utilizes a nationwide network of third-party haulers to service its customers, which increased our subcontractor costs by $153 million during the second half of 2011 after completing the acquisition on July 28, 2011. These increases were partially offset by the impact of an additional $54 million in prior year costs attributable to oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast during 2010. The 2010 increase in subcontractor costs was largely the result of these oil spill clean-up activities, as well as higher diesel fuel prices when compared with 2009.

 

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Cost of goods sold — The cost increases during 2011 and 2010 were primarily due to increases in the recycling commodity rebates we pay to our customers as a result of higher market prices for recyclable commodities. The increase in costs in 2011 was also driven by (i) increases in the volume of materials processed at our existing recycling facilities; and (ii) increases resulting from the Oakleaf acquisition and other recently acquired businesses.

Fuel — The costs increases for 2011 and 2010 were a result of higher market prices for diesel fuel.

Landfill operating costs — The changes in these costs during 2011 and 2010 were due largely to the recognition of additional estimated expense associated with environmental remediation liabilities of $50 million at four closed sites during 2010. During 2011, the Company recognized a $9 million favorable revision to an environmental liability at one of these sites based on the estimated cost of the remediation alternative selected by the EPA.

The changes in this category for the years presented were also significantly impacted by the changes in U.S. Treasury rates used to estimate the present value of our environmental remediation obligations and recovery assets. As a result of changes in U.S. Treasury rates, we recognized $17 million of unfavorable adjustments during 2011, $2 million of unfavorable adjustments during 2010, and $35 million of favorable adjustments during 2009. During 2011, the discount rate we use decreased from 3.50% to 2.00%. Over the course of 2010, the discount rate decreased slightly from 3.75% to 3.50% and during 2009, the rate increased from 2.25% to 3.75%.

Risk management — The increase in risk management costs during 2011 was primarily a result of increased costs associated with auto and general liability claims in the current year and the prior year recognition of favorable adjustments associated with prior period claims that were higher than similar favorable adjustments recognized during 2011.

Other — The 2011 increase was attributable, in part, to our various growth and business development initiatives and recently acquired businesses, including Oakleaf. These increases were partially offset by prior year costs related to the oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast in 2010. The 2010 increase was attributable, in part, to our various growth and business development initiatives, oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast, and recently acquired businesses. These cost increases in 2010 were partially offset by an increase in gains recognized from the sale of surplus real estate assets.

Selling, General and Administrative

Our selling, general and administrative expenses consist of (i) labor and related benefit costs, which include salaries, bonuses, related insurance and benefits, contract labor, payroll taxes and equity-based compensation; (ii) professional fees, which include fees for consulting, legal, audit and tax services; (iii) provision for bad debts, which includes allowances for uncollectible customer accounts and collection fees; and (iv) other selling, general and administrative expenses, which include, among other costs, facility-related expenses, voice and data telecommunication, advertising, travel and entertainment, rentals, postage and printing. In addition, the financial impacts of litigation settlements generally are included in our “Other” selling, general and administrative expenses.

Our selling, general and administrative expenses increased by $90 million, or 6.2%, and $97 million, or 7.1% when comparing 2011 with 2010 and 2010 with 2009, respectively. The increases in both years are largely due to (i) increased costs of approximately $53 million and $52 million during 2011 and 2010, respectively, incurred to support our strategic plan to grow into new markets and provide expanded service offerings, including our acquisition of Oakleaf in 2011 and (ii) increased costs of $9 million and $23 million during 2011 and 2010, respectively, resulting from improvements we are making to our information technology systems. Additionally, during 2011 we experienced increased consulting costs of $37 million incurred in connection with the start-up phase of new cost savings programs focusing on procurement and operational and back-office efficiency. Our selling, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of revenues were 11.6% in 2011, 11.7% in 2010 and 11.6% in 2009.

 

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The following table summarizes the major components of our selling, general and administrative costs for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

     2011      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2010      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2009  

Labor and related benefits

   $ 913       $ 68         8.0   $ 845       $ 70        9.0   $ 775   

Professional fees

     185         10         5.7        175         8        4.8        167   

Provision for bad debts

     47         2         4.4        45         (9     (16.7     54   

Other

     406         10         2.5        396         28        7.6        368   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 
   $ 1,551       $ 90         6.2   $ 1,461       $ 97        7.1   $ 1,364   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

Labor and related benefits — In 2011, our labor and related benefits costs increased primarily due to (i) higher compensation costs due to an increase in headcount driven by our strategic growth plans, optimization initiatives, cost savings programs, and acquisition of Oakleaf; (ii) higher salaries and hourly wages due to merit increases; and (iii) higher non-cash compensation costs incurred for our performance share units and our stock option equity awards granted under our long-term incentive plan, or LTIP, offset partially by lower costs associated with our executive salary deferral plan, the costs of which are directly affected by equity-market conditions. The stock option equity awards that the Company granted in 2011 and 2010 provide that such options will continue to vest on the schedule provided in the award agreement following an employee’s retirement. Because retirement-eligible employees are not required to provide any future service to vest in these awards, we immediately recognized all of the compensation expense associated with stock option awards granted to retirement eligible employees. In 2011, the composition of our annual LTIP award grant was modified to use stock options to a greater extent and to reduce the number of performance share units awarded. Accordingly, costs increased in 2011 due to the significant increase in the number of stock option awards granted in 2011 over those granted in 2010 and an increase in the number of retirement-eligible employees receiving those awards.

In 2010, our labor and related benefits costs increased primarily due to (i) higher salaries and hourly wages due to merit increases; (ii) higher compensation costs due to an increase in headcount driven by our strategic growth plans; (iii) additional bonus expense in 2010 because our performance against targets established by our annual incentive plans was stronger in 2010 compared with 2009; (iv) increased contract labor costs as a result of our current focus on optimizing our information technology systems; (v) increased severance costs; and (vi) higher non-cash compensation costs incurred for equity awards granted under our LTIP. During the second quarter of 2009, we reversed all compensation costs previously recognized for our 2008 performance share units based on a determination that it was no longer probable that the targets established for that award would be met. Additionally, during the first quarter of 2010 we immediately recognized all of the compensation expense associated with stock option awards granted to retirement-eligible employees. We did not incur similar charges in 2009 because this retirement provision was not included in any of the equity awards that were granted during 2009.

Professional fees — During 2011, our professional fees increased due to consulting fees, primarily associated with the start-up phase of new cost savings programs, although these fees declined significantly during the second half of the year. We have begun to see the associated benefits of these programs and expect the benefits to increase throughout 2012. This increase was offset to a certain extent by lower legal fees in 2011 as compared with 2010. This reduction in legal fees in 2011 was primarily the result of the settlement in 2010 of a lawsuit related to the abandonment of revenue management software.

In 2010, our professional fees increased due to consulting fees, driven primarily by improvements we are made to our information technology systems and investments we made to support our strategic growth plans. This increase was partially offset by a reduction in legal fees in 2010 as compared with 2009.

Provision for bad debts — Our provision for bad debts was slightly higher in 2011 as compared with 2010, but both 2011 and 2010 were notably lower than 2009. Our provision was higher in 2009 as a result of the Company’s assessment of the weak economic environment in the beginning of 2009 and the resulting impacts on our collection risk. However, due in part to management’s continued focus on the collection of our receivables, our collection risk has moderated since 2009, thus resulting in a lower provision in both 2010 and 2011.

 

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Other — During 2011 and 2010, we experienced increases in our computer costs, due in part to improvements we are making to our information technology systems, and litigation loss and settlement costs. Also driving the increase during 2010 was increased marketing and advertising costs, driven in part by our strategic growth plans.

Depreciation and Amortization

Depreciation and amortization includes (i) depreciation of property and equipment, including assets recorded for capital leases, on a straight-line basis from three to 50 years; (ii) amortization of landfill costs, including those incurred and all estimated future costs for landfill development, construction and asset retirement costs arising from closure and post-closure, on a units-of-consumption method as landfill airspace is consumed over the total estimated remaining capacity of a site, which includes both permitted capacity and expansion capacity that meets our Company-specific criteria for amortization purposes; (iii) amortization of landfill asset retirement costs arising from final capping obligations on a units-of-consumption method as airspace is consumed over the estimated capacity associated with each final capping event; and (iv) amortization of intangible assets with a definite life, either using a 150% declining balance approach or a straight-line basis over the definitive terms of the related agreements, which are generally from two to ten years depending on the type of asset.

The following table summarizes the components of our depreciation and amortization costs for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

     2011        Period-to-
Period
Change
    2010        Period-to-
Period
Change
    2009  

Depreciation of tangible property and equipment

   $ 800         $ 19           2.4   $ 781         $ 2           0.3   $ 779   

Amortization of landfill airspace

     378           6           1.6        372           14           3.9        358   

Amortization of intangible assets

     51           10           24.4        41           12           41.4        29   
  

 

 

      

 

 

        

 

 

      

 

 

        

 

 

 
   $ 1,229         $ 35           2.9   $ 1,194         $ 28           2.4   $ 1,166   
  

 

 

      

 

 

        

 

 

      

 

 

        

 

 

 

The increases in amortization expense of intangible assets in 2011 and 2010 are due to our focus on the growth and development of our business through acquisitions and other investments. The increase in amortization of intangible assets in 2011 is primarily related to the amortization of customer lists, which were acquired (i) through our acquisition of Oakleaf, (ii) by our Southern Group and (iii) by our recycling and electronic brokerage services business. The increase in amortization of intangible assets in 2010 is primarily related to the amortization of definite-lived operating permits acquired by our healthcare solutions operations, customer lists acquired by our Southern and Midwest Groups and gas rights acquired by our renewable energy operations.

Restructuring

Beginning in July 2011, we took steps to streamline our organization as part of our cost savings programs. This reorganization eliminated over 700 employee positions throughout the Company, including approximately 300 open positions. Additionally, subsequent to our acquisition of Oakleaf, we incurred charges in connection with restructuring that organization. During the year ended December 31, 2011, we recognized a total of $19 million of pre-tax restructuring charges, of which $18 million were related to employee severance and benefit costs associated with this reorganization.

In January 2009, we streamlined our organization by (i) consolidating our Market Areas from 45 Market Areas to 25 Market Areas; (ii) integrating the management of our recycling operations with our solid waste businesses in our four geographic Groups; and (iii) realigning our Corporate organization with this new structure in order to provide support functions more efficiently. This restructuring eliminated over 1,500 employee positions throughout the Company. During 2009, we recognized $50 million of pre-tax charges associated with this restructuring, of which $41 million were related to employee severance and benefit costs. The remaining charges were primarily related to lease obligations for property that will no longer be utilized. In 2010, we recognized $2 million of income related to the reversal of pre-tax restructuring charges recorded in 2009.

 

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(Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments and Unusual Items

The following table summarizes the major components of “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items” for the year ended December 31 for the respective periods (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011      2010     2009  

(Income) expense from divestitures

   $ 1       $ (1   $   

Asset impairments

     9                83   

Other

             (77       
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 
   $ 10       $ (78   $ 83   
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 

Asset Impairments — During the year ended December 31, 2011, we recognized impairment charges relating primarily to two facilities in our medical waste services business as a result of the closure of one site and of continuing operating losses at the other site. We wrote down the net book values of the sites to their estimated fair values.

Through December 31, 2008, we capitalized $70 million of accumulated costs associated with the development of a new waste and recycling revenue management system. A significant portion of these costs was specifically associated with the purchase of a license for waste and recycling revenue management software and the efforts required to develop and configure that software for our use. After a failed pilot implementation of the software in one of our smallest Market Areas, the development efforts associated with the revenue management system were suspended in 2007. During 2009, we determined to enhance and improve our existing revenue management system and not pursue alternatives associated with the development and implementation of the licensed software. Accordingly, in 2009, we recognized a non-cash charge of $51 million for the abandonment of the licensed software.

We recognized an additional $32 million of impairment charges during 2009, $27 million of which was recognized by our Western Group during the fourth quarter of 2009 to fully impair a landfill in California as a result of a change in our expectations for the future operations of the landfill. The remaining impairment charges were primarily attributable to a charge required to write down certain of our investments in portable self-storage operations to their fair value as a result of our acquisition of a controlling financial interest in those operations.

Other — We filed a lawsuit in March 2008 related to the revenue management software implementation that was suspended in 2007 and abandoned in 2009. In April 2010, we settled the lawsuit and received a one-time cash payment. The settlement increased our “Income from operations” for the year ended December 31, 2010 by $77 million.

Income from Operations by Reportable Segment

The following table summarizes income from operations by reportable segment for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

    2011      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2010      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2009  

Reportable segments:

               

Eastern

  $ 559       $ 43        8.3   $ 516       $ 33        6.8   $ 483   

Midwest

    646         113        21.2        533         83        18.4        450   

Southern

    779         (65     (7.7     844         76        9.9        768   

Western

    576         7        1.2        569         48        9.2        521   

Wheelabrator

    168         (46     (21.5     214         (21     (8.9     235   

Other

    (116      19        (14.1     (135      1        (0.7     (136

Corporate and other

    (584      (159     37.4        (425      9        (2.1     (434
 

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

Total

  $ 2,028       $ (88     (4.2 )%    $ 2,116       $ 229        12.1   $ 1,887   
 

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

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Reportable Segments — The most significant items affecting the results of operations of our four geographic Groups during the three-year period ended December 31, 2011 are summarized below:

 

  Ÿ  

revenue growth from yield on our base business;

 

  Ÿ  

market prices for recyclable commodities reflected significant year-over-year improvement in both 2011 and 2010;

 

  Ÿ  

the accretive benefits of recent acquisitions during 2011and 2010;

 

  Ÿ  

continued volume declines in 2010, and to a lesser extent in 2011, due to the economy, pricing, competition and increasing focus on waste reduction and diversion by consumers;

 

  Ÿ  

higher salaries and wages due to annual merit increases in both 2011 and 2010 for salaried and hourly employees. The increases during 2011 were offset, in large part, by the transfers of certain field sales organization employees to the Corporate sales organization;

 

  Ÿ  

higher maintenance and repair costs during 2011; and

 

  Ÿ  

restructuring charges during 2011 and 2009.

Other significant items affecting the comparability of our Groups’ results of operations for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 are summarized below:

Eastern — During 2009, the Group recognized (i) an $18 million increase in revenues and income from operations associated with an oil and gas lease at one of our landfills; and (ii) a $9 million charge related to bargaining unit employees in New Jersey agreeing to our proposal to withdraw them from an underfunded multiemployer pension fund.

Midwest — The income from operations of our Midwest Group in 2010 was significantly affected by the recognition of charges of $26 million as a result of employees of five bargaining units in Michigan and Ohio agreeing to our proposal to withdraw them from an underfunded multiemployer pension plan.

Additionally, when comparing the average exchange rate in 2010 with 2009, the Canadian exchange rate strengthened by 10%, which increased the Group’s income from operations. The effects of foreign currency translation were the most significant to this Group because substantially all of our Canadian operations are managed by our Midwest Group.

Southern — The decrease in income from operations of our Southern Group for the year ended December 31, 2011 as compared with 2010 was driven largely by the volume decline previously discussed, which includes the unfavorable year-over-year impact of 2010 project volumes resulting from oil spill clean-up activities along the Gulf Coast. Additionally, the Group recognized a charge of $11 million in 2011 related to litigation reserves. This charge was initially recognized in “Other” during the fourth quarter of 2010.

Western — The Group’s income from operations included additional “Selling, general and administrative” expense of $24 million recognized in 2011 as a result of a litigation loss and $12 million recognized in 2010 in connection with a litigation settlement. The Group’s 2009 income from operations included the recognition of an impairment charge of $27 million as a result of a change in expectations for the future operations of an inactive landfill in California.

Further affecting the comparison of results was the recognition of $7 million of favorable adjustments to landfill amortization expense during 2010 associated with our obligations for landfill final capping, closure and post-closure and net expenses of $5 million recognized for adjustments related to these obligations during 2009. The unfavorable adjustments during 2009 primarily related to a closed landfill in Los Angeles, California for which the Group recognized additional amortization expense.

Wheelabrator — The decrease in income from operations of our Wheelabrator Group for the year ended December 31, 2011 as compared with 2010 was driven largely by (i) lower revenues due to the expiration of a long-term electric power capacity agreement that expired December 31, 2010 and the expiration of other long-term contracts at our waste-to-energy and independent power facilities; (ii) an increase in year-to-date costs at our facility in Portsmouth, Virginia that we acquired in April 2010 as we

 

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continue to refurbish the facility; and (iii) additional expenses recognized during 2011 for litigation reserves and associated compliance costs. A portion of the expenses for litigation reserves and associated costs were initially recognized in “Other” during the fourth quarter of 2010. The impact of these unfavorable items was partially offset by the efforts to control costs across each of our facilities.

The decrease in the Group’s 2010 income from operations as compared with 2009 was driven by an increase in maintenance-related outages as compared with the prior year, which resulted in decreased electricity generation and increased plant maintenance costs. These increases were attributable to the acceleration of repair and maintenance expenses at our facility in Portsmouth, Virginia that we acquired in April 2010, and expenses at certain of our other facilities. The Group also experienced an increase in litigation settlement costs as compared with 2009. These unfavorable items were partially offset by the benefit of increased revenues from the sale of metals.

Significant items affecting the comparability of the remaining components of our results of operations for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 are summarized below:

Other — Our “Other” income from operations include (i) the effects of those elements of our in-plant services, landfill gas-to-energy operations, and third-party subcontract and administration revenues managed by our Sustainability Services, Renewable Energy and Strategic Accounts organizations, including Oakleaf, respectively, that are not included with the operations of our reportable segments; (ii) our recycling brokerage and electronic recycling services; and (iii) the impacts of investments that we are making in expanded service offerings, such as portable self-storage and fluorescent lamp recycling, and in oil and gas producing properties. In addition, our “Other” income from operations reflects the impacts of (i) non-operating entities that provide financial assurance and self-insurance support for the Groups or financing for our Canadian operations; and (ii) certain year-end adjustments recorded in consolidation related to the reportable segments that were not included in the measure of segment profit or loss used to assess their performance for the periods disclosed.

Significant items affecting the comparability of income from operations for the periods presented include (i) the reversal in 2011 of adjustments initially recorded in consolidation in the fourth quarter of 2010 related to our reportable segments, which are now included in the measure of segment income from operations in 2011 and (ii) losses from our growth initiatives. The adjustments recorded in consolidation were primarily related to $15 million of additional expense for litigation reserves and associated costs in our Southern and Wheelabrator Groups. The losses from our growth initiatives are expected to drive year-over-year improvements in future periods.

Corporate and Other — Significant items affecting the comparability of expenses for the periods presented include:

 

  Ÿ  

a benefit in 2010 of $77 million resulting from a litigation settlement that occurred in April 2010 and $51 million in charges recognized during 2009 for the abandonment of licensed software associated with the revenue management software implementation that was suspended in 2007 and abandoned in 2009;

 

  Ÿ  

increases in “Selling, general and administrative” expenses for the periods presented as a result of cost increases attributable to (i) consulting fees primarily associated with our new cost savings programs focusing on procurement, operational efficiency and back office efficiency and (ii) additional compensation expense due to annual salary and wage increases, headcount increases to support the Company’s strategic growth plans, and an increase in costs attributable to our equity compensation. Also affecting the comparison during the periods presented is increased compensation expense during 2011 due to transfers of certain field sales organization employees to the Corporate sales organization and a favorable litigation settlement that occurred in 2010;

 

  Ÿ  

the recognition of a $9 million favorable adjustment during 2011 and net charges of $50 million during 2010 for estimates associated with environmental remediation liabilities at certain of our closed sites;

 

  Ÿ  

changes in U.S. Treasury rates used to estimate the present value of our environmental remediation obligations and recovery assets. As a result of changes in U.S. Treasury rates, we recognized $17 million of unfavorable adjustments during 2011 and $2 million of unfavorable adjustments during 2010, compared with $35 million of favorable adjustments during 2009;

 

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  Ÿ  

an increase in 2011 risk management costs, primarily due to increased costs associated with auto and general liability claims and the recognition of a favorable adjustment in 2010 associated with prior period claims; and

 

  Ÿ  

the recognition of $9 million in restructuring charges during 2009.

Renewable Energy Operations

We have extracted value from the waste streams we manage for years, and we are focusing on increasing our ability to do so, particularly in the field of clean and renewable energy. Most significantly, our current operations produce renewable energy through the waste-to-energy facilities that are managed by our Wheelabrator Group and our landfill gas-to-energy operations. We are actively seeking opportunities to enhance our existing renewable energy service offerings to ensure that we can respond to the shifting demands of consumers and to ensure that we are acting as a leader in environmental stewardship.

We are disclosing the following supplemental information related to the operating results of our renewable energy operations for the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010 (in millions) because we believe that it provides information related to the significance of our current renewable energy operations, the profitability of these operations and the costs we are incurring to develop these operations:

 

    2011     2010  
    Wheelabrator     Landfill  Gas-
to-Energy(a)
    Growth
Opportunities(b)
    Total     Wheelabrator     Landfill  Gas-
to-Energy(a)
    Growth
Opportunities(b)
    Total  

Operating revenues (including intercompany)

  $     877      $     140      $     —      $   1,017      $     889      $     126      $     —      $   1,015   

Costs and expenses:

               

Operating

    548        60        2        610        512        51        2        565   

Selling, general & administrative

    92        3        3        98        99        3        3        105   

Depreciation and amortization

    67        28               95        64        24               88   

Restructuring and unusual items

    2                      2                               
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
    709        91        5        805        675        78        5        758   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income (loss) from operations

  $ 168      $ 49      $ (5   $ 212      $ 214      $ 48      $ (5   $ 257   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(a) Our landfill gas-to-energy business focuses on generating a renewable energy source from the methane that is produced as waste decomposes. The operating results include the revenues and expenses of landfill gas-to-energy plants that we own and operate, as well as revenues generated from the sale of landfill gas to third-party owner/operators. The operating results of our landfill gas-to-energy business are included within our geographic reportable segments and “Other”.

 

(b) Includes businesses and entities we have acquired or invested in through our organic growth group’s business development efforts. These businesses include a landfill gas-to-LNG facility; landfill gas-to-diesel fuels technologies; organic waste streams-to-fuels technologies; and other engineered fuels technologies. The operating results of our Growth Opportunities are included within “Other” in our assessment of our income from operations by segment.

Interest Expense

Our interest expense was $481 million in 2011, $473 million in 2010 and $426 million in 2009. When comparing 2011 with 2010, our interest expense increased only slightly in spite of a more significant increase in our debt balances over the course of the year of about $850 million. This was primarily attributable to (i) a decrease in our weighted average borrowing rate that has been achieved by refinancing debt with scheduled maturities in 2011 with debt at much lower fixed interest rates; (ii) the impacts that lower market interest rates had on the cost of certain of our tax-exempt debt; and (iii) a $5 million increase in capitalized interest due primarily to higher capital spending in 2011. In 2011, these decreases in interest expense were partially offset by a decrease in the benefits provided by active and terminated interest rate swap agreements due to the maturity of the underlying senior notes.

 

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When comparing 2010 with 2009, the significant increase in our interest expense was primarily due to (i) the issuance of an additional $600 million of senior notes in November 2009 to support acquisitions and investments made throughout 2010, (ii) significantly higher costs related to our revolving credit facility, and (iii) decreased benefits to interest expense provided by active interest rate swaps as a result of decreases in the notional amount of swaps outstanding. These increases in interest expense were offset, in part, by a decline in market interest rates, which reduced the interest costs of our tax-exempt borrowings and our Canadian credit facility.

Equity in Net Losses of Unconsolidated Entities

Beginning in April 2010, our “Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities” has been primarily related to our noncontrolling interest in a limited liability company established to invest in and manage low-income housing properties, as well as (i) noncontrolling investments made to support our strategic initiatives and (ii) unconsolidated trusts for final capping, closure, post-closure or environmental obligations. In January 2011, we acquired a noncontrolling interest in a limited liability company established to invest in and manage a refined coal facility. The tax impacts realized as a result of our investments in low-income housing properties and the refined coal facility are discussed below in Provision for Income Taxes. Refer to Notes 9 and 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to these investments.

Provision for Income Taxes

We recorded provisions for income taxes of $511 million in 2011, $629 million in 2010 and $413 million in 2009. These tax provisions resulted in an effective income tax rate of approximately 33.6%, 38.5% and 28.1%, for 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. The comparability of our reported income taxes for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 is primarily affected by (i) variations in our income before income taxes; (ii) the utilization of a capital loss carry-back; (iii) the realization of state net operating loss and credit carry-forwards; (iv) changes in effective state and Canadian statutory tax rates; (v) tax audit settlements; and (vi) the impact of federal low-income housing and refined coal tax credits. The impacts of these items are summarized below:

 

  Ÿ  

Capital Loss Carry-back — During 2009, we generated a capital loss from the liquidation of a foreign subsidiary. We determined that the capital loss could be utilized to offset capital gains from 2006 and 2007, which resulted in a reduction to our 2009 “Provision for income taxes” of $65 million.

 

  Ÿ  

State Net Operating Loss and Credit Carry-forwards — During 2011, 2010 and 2009, we utilized state net operating loss and credit carry-forwards resulting in a reduction to our “Provision for income taxes” for those periods of $4 million, $4 million, and $35 million, respectively.

 

  Ÿ  

Canadian and State Tax Rate Changes — During 2011, our state deferred income taxes increased by $3 million to reflect the impact of changes in the estimated tax rate at which existing temporary differences will be realized. During 2010, our current state tax rate increased from 6.25% to 6.75% resulting in an increase to our provision for income taxes of $5 million. In addition, our state deferred income taxes increased $37 million to reflect the impact of changes in the estimated tax rate at which existing temporary differences will be realized. During 2009, our current state tax rate increased from 6.0% to 6.25% and our deferred state tax rate increased from 5.5% to 5.75%, resulting in an increase to our income taxes of $3 million and $6 million, respectively. Also affecting 2009 was the reduction of provincial tax rates in Ontario, which resulted in a $13 million tax benefit as a result of the revaluation of the related deferred tax balances.

 

  Ÿ  

Tax Audit Settlements — The settlement of various tax audits resulted in reductions in income tax expense of $12 million for the year ended December 31, 2011, $8 million for the year ended December 31, 2010 and $11 million for the year ended December 31, 2009.

 

  Ÿ  

Federal Low-income Housing Tax Credits — Our federal low-income housing investment and the resulting credits reduced our provision for income taxes by $38 million for the year ended December 31, 2011 and $26 million for the year ended December 31, 2010. Refer to Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our federal low-income housing investment.

 

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  Ÿ  

Refined Coal Investment Tax Credits — Our refined coal facility investment and the resulting credits reduced our provision for income taxes by $17 million for the year ended December 31, 2011. Refer to Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our refined coal investment.

Our acquisition of Oakleaf did not materially impact our provision for income taxes or the effective income tax rate for the period ended December 31, 2011. We did receive, as part of the acquisition, income tax attributes (primarily federal and state net operating losses). While these tax attributes, when realized, will not affect our overall provision for income taxes, they will have a favorable impact on our cash taxes, although we do not anticipate the impact to be material to our overall cash flow from operations.

We expect our 2012 recurring effective tax rate will be approximately 35.5% based on expected income levels, projected federal tax credits and other permanent items.

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act, signed into law on December 17, 2010, included an extension of the bonus depreciation allowance through the end of 2012 and increased the amount of qualifying capital expenditures that can be depreciated immediately from 50% to 100%. The 100% depreciation deduction applies to qualifying property placed in service from September 8, 2010 through December 31, 2011. The acceleration of deductions on 2011 capital expenditures resulting from the bonus depreciation provision had no impact on our 2011 effective tax rate. However, the ability to accelerate depreciation deductions decreased our 2011 cash taxes by approximately $190 million. Taking the accelerated tax depreciation will result in increased cash taxes in future periods when the deductions for these capital expenditures would have otherwise been taken.

Noncontrolling Interests

Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests was $48 million in 2011, $49 million in 2010 and $66 million in 2009. These amounts are principally related to third parties’ equity interests in two limited liability companies that own three waste-to-energy facilities operated by our Wheelabrator Group. The comparison of these amounts for the reported periods has been affected by (i) our January 2010 acquisition of a controlling financial interest in a portable self-storage business and (ii) the deconsolidation of certain final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation trusts as a result of our implementation of authoritative accounting guidance, effective January 1, 2010, associated with variable interest entities. Refer to Note 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information related to the consolidation of these variable interest entities.

Landfill and Environmental Remediation Discussion and Analysis

We owned or operated 266 solid waste and five secure hazardous waste landfills at December 31, 2011 and 2010. At December 31, 2011 and 2010, the expected remaining capacity, in cubic yards and tonnage of waste that can be accepted at our owned or operated landfills, is shown below (in millions):

 

     December 31, 2011      December 31, 2010  
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
     Expansion
Capacity
     Total
Capacity
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
     Expansion
Capacity
     Total
Capacity
 

Remaining cubic yards

     4,730         621         5,351         4,793         600         5,393   

Remaining tonnage

     4,485         621         5,106         4,391         603         4,994   

Based on remaining permitted airspace as of December 31, 2011 and projected annual disposal volumes, the weighted average remaining landfill life for all of our owned or operated landfills is approximately 42 years. Many of our landfills have the potential for expanded disposal capacity beyond what is currently permitted. We monitor the availability of permitted disposal capacity at each of our landfills and evaluate whether to pursue an expansion at a given landfill based on estimated future waste volumes and prices, remaining capacity and likelihood of obtaining an expansion permit. We are seeking expansion permits at 33 of our landfills that meet the expansion criteria outlined in the Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions section above. Although no assurances can be made that all future expansions will be permitted or permitted as designed, the weighted average remaining landfill life for all owned or operated landfills is approximately 48 years when considering remaining permitted airspace, expansion airspace and projected annual disposal volume.

 

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The number of landfills we own or operate as of December 31, 2011, segregated by their estimated operating lives (in years), based on remaining permitted and expansion airspace and projected annual disposal volume, was as follows:

 

     0 to 5      6 to 10      11 to 20      21 to 40      41+      Total  

Owned

     11         9         32         69         90         211   

Operated through lease(a)

     5         4         4         5         7         25   

Operating contracts(b)

     10         6         8         5         6         35   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total landfills

     26         19         44         79         103         271   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) From an operating perspective, landfills we operate through lease agreements are similar to landfills we own because we own the landfill’s operating permit and will operate the landfill for the entire lease term, which in many cases is the life of the landfill. We are usually responsible for the final capping, closure and post-closure obligations of the landfills we lease.

 

(b) For operating contracts, the property owner owns the permit and we operate the landfill for a contracted term, which may be the life of the landfill. However, we are generally responsible for final capping, closure and post-closure obligations under the operating contracts.

The following table reflects landfill capacity and airspace changes, as measured in tons of waste, for landfills owned or operated by us during the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2010 (in millions):

 

     December 31, 2011     December 31, 2010  
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
    Expansion
Capacity
    Total
Capacity
    Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
    Expansion
Capacity
    Total
Capacity
 

Balance, beginning of year

     4,391        603        4,994        4,075        726        4,801   

Acquisitions, divestitures, newly permitted landfills and closures

                          14               14   

Changes in expansions pursued(a)

            101        101               120        120   

Expansion permits granted(b)

     84        (84            238        (238       

Airspace consumed

     (90            (90     (91            (91

Changes in engineering estimates and other(c)

     100        1        101        155        (5     150   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, end of year

     4,485        621        5,106        4,391        603        4,994   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(a) Amounts reflected here relate to the combined impacts of (i) new expansions pursued; (ii) increases or decreases in the airspace being pursued for ongoing expansion efforts; (iii) adjustments for differences between the airspace being pursued and airspace granted and (iv) decreases due to decisions to no longer pursue expansion permits.

 

(b) We received expansion permits at eight of our landfills during 2011 and 13 of our landfills during 2010, demonstrating our continued success in working with municipalities and regulatory agencies to expand the disposal capacity of our existing landfills.

 

(c)

Changes in engineering estimates can result in changes to the estimated available remaining capacity of a landfill or changes in the utilization of such landfill capacity, affecting the number of tons that can be placed in the future. Estimates of the amount of waste that can be placed in the future are reviewed annually by our engineers and are based on a number of factors, including standard engineering techniques and site-specific factors such as current and projected mix of waste type; initial and projected waste density; estimated number of years of life remaining; depth of underlying waste; anticipated access to moisture through precipitation or recirculation of landfill leachate; and operating practices. We continually focus on

 

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  improving the utilization of airspace through efforts that include recirculating landfill leachate where allowed by permit; optimizing the placement of daily cover materials; and increasing initial compaction through improved landfill equipment, operations and training.

The tons received at our landfills in 2011 and 2010 are shown below (tons in thousands):

 

     2011      2010  
     # of
Sites
    Total
Tons
    Tons
per Day
     # of
Sites
     Total
Tons
    Tons
per Day
 

Solid waste landfills

     266 (a)      91,130        334         266         91,863        336   

Hazardous waste landfills

     5        599        2         5         667        2   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 
     271        91,729        336         271         92,530        338   
      

 

 

         

 

 

 

Solid waste landfills closed or divested during related year

     1        49           3         295     
    

 

 

         

 

 

   
       91,778 (b)            92,825 (b)   
    

 

 

         

 

 

   

 

(a) In 2011, we developed one landfill and closed one landfill.

 

(b) These amounts include 1.4 million tons at December 31, 2011 and 1.7 million tons at December 31, 2010 that were received at our landfills but were used for beneficial purposes and generally were redirected from the permitted airspace to other areas of the landfill. Waste types that are frequently identified for beneficial use include green waste for composting and clean dirt for on-site construction projects.

When a landfill we own or operate receives certification of closure from the applicable regulatory agency, we generally transfer the management of the site, including any remediation activities, to our closed sites management group. As of December 31, 2011, our closed sites management group managed 207 closed landfills.

Landfill Assets — We capitalize various costs that we incur to prepare a landfill to accept waste. These costs generally include expenditures for land (including the landfill footprint and required landfill buffer property), permitting, excavation, liner material and installation, landfill leachate collection systems, landfill gas collection systems, environmental monitoring equipment for groundwater and landfill gas, directly related engineering, capitalized interest, and on-site road construction and other capital infrastructure costs. The cost basis of our landfill assets also includes estimates of future costs associated with landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities, which are discussed further below.

The following table reflects the total cost basis of our landfill assets and accumulated landfill airspace amortization as of December 31, 2011 and 2010, and summarizes significant changes in these amounts during 2011 (in millions):

 

     Cost Basis of
Landfill  Assets
    Accumulated
Landfill  Airspace
Amortization
    Landfill Assets  

December 31, 2010

   $ 12,777      $ (6,792   $ 5,985   

Capital additions

     398               398   

Asset retirement obligations incurred and capitalized

     49               49   

Acquisitions

                     

Amortization of landfill airspace

            (378     (378

Foreign currency translation

     (32     8        (24

Asset retirements and other adjustments

     (252     231        (21
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

December 31, 2011

   $ 12,940      $ (6,931   $ 6,009   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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As of December 31, 2011, we estimate that we will spend approximately $400 million in 2012, and approximately $1 billion in 2013 and 2014 combined for the construction and development of our landfill assets. The specific timing of landfill capital spending is dependent on future events, and spending estimates are subject to change due to fluctuations in landfill waste volumes, changes in environmental requirements and other factors impacting landfill operations.

Landfill and Environmental Remediation Liabilities — As we accept waste at our landfills, we incur significant asset retirement obligations, which include liabilities associated with landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities. These liabilities are accounted for in accordance with authoritative guidance associated with accounting for asset retirement obligations, and are discussed in Note 3 of our Consolidated Financial Statements. We also have liabilities for the remediation of properties that have incurred environmental damage, which generally was caused by operations or for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired operations or a site. We recognize environmental remediation liabilities when we determine that the liability is probable and the estimated cost for the likely remedy can be reasonably estimated.

The following table reflects our landfill liabilities and our environmental remediation liabilities as of December 31, 2011 and 2010, and summarizes significant changes in these amounts during 2011 (in millions):

 

     Landfill     Environmental
Remediation
 

December 31, 2010

   $ 1,266      $ 284   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

     49          

Obligations settled

     (80     (37

Interest accretion

     84        6   

Revisions in cost estimates and interest rate assumptions

     (30     23   

Acquisitions, divestitures and other adjustments

     3        (3
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

December 31, 2011

   $ 1,292      $ 273   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Landfill Costs and Expenses — As disclosed in the Operating Expenses section above, our landfill operating costs include interest accretion on asset retirement obligations, interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets, leachate and methane collection and treatment, landfill remediation costs, and other landfill site costs. The following table summarizes these costs for each of the three years indicated (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011        2010        2009  

Interest accretion on landfill liabilities

   $ 84         $ 82         $ 80   

Interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets

     23           8           (30

Leachate and methane collection and treatment

     76           64           69   

Landfill remediation costs

               63           23   

Other landfill site costs

     72           77           80   
  

 

 

      

 

 

      

 

 

 

Total landfill operating costs

   $ 255         $ 294         $ 222   
  

 

 

      

 

 

      

 

 

 

The comparison of these costs for the reported periods has been significantly affected by accounting for changes in the risk-free discount rate that we use to estimate the present value of our environmental remediation liabilities and environmental remediation recovery assets, which is based on the rate for U.S. Treasury bonds with a term approximating the weighted-average period until settlement of the underlying obligations. Additionally, in 2010, we increased our cost estimates associated with environmental remediation obligations primarily based on a review and evaluation of existing remediation projects. As these remediation projects progressed, more defined plans were developed, resulting in a net increase in remediation expense to reflect the more likely remedies. In 2011, we had a favorable revision to an environmental remediation liability at a closed site based on the estimated cost of the remediation alternative selected by the EPA.

 

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Amortization of landfill airspace, which is included as a component of “Depreciation and amortization” expense, includes the following:

 

  Ÿ  

the amortization of landfill capital costs, including (i) costs that have been incurred and capitalized and (ii) estimated future costs for landfill development and construction required to develop our landfills to their remaining permitted and expansion airspace; and

 

  Ÿ  

the amortization of asset retirement costs arising from final landfill capping, closure and post-closure obligations, including (i) costs that have been incurred and capitalized and (ii) projected asset retirement costs.

Amortization expense is recorded on a units-of-consumption basis, applying cost as a rate per ton. The rate per ton is calculated by dividing each component of the amortizable basis of a landfill by the number of tons needed to fill the corresponding asset’s airspace. Landfill capital costs and closure and post-closure asset retirement costs are generally incurred to support the operation of the landfill over its entire operating life, and are, therefore, amortized on a per-ton basis using a landfill’s total airspace capacity. Final capping asset retirement costs are related to a specific final capping event and are, therefore, amortized on a per-ton basis using each discrete final capping event’s estimated airspace capacity. Accordingly, each landfill has multiple per-ton amortization rates.

The following table presents our landfill airspace amortization expense on a per-ton basis:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011      2010      2009  

Amortization of landfill airspace (in millions)

   $ 378       $ 372       $ 358   

Tons received, net of redirected waste (in millions)

     90         91         92   

Average landfill airspace amortization expense per ton

   $ 4.19       $ 4.08       $ 3.90   

Different per-ton amortization rates are applied at each of our 271 landfills, and per-ton amortization rates vary significantly from one landfill to another due to (i) inconsistencies that often exist in construction costs and provincial, state and local regulatory requirements for landfill development and landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities; and (ii) differences in the cost basis of landfills that we develop versus those that we acquire. Accordingly, our landfill airspace amortization expense measured on a per-ton basis can fluctuate due to changes in the mix of volumes we receive across the Company year-over-year. The comparability of our total Company average landfill airspace amortization expense per ton for the years ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009 has also been affected by the recognition of reductions to amortization expense for changes in our estimates related to our final capping, closure and post-closure obligations. Landfill amortization expense was reduced by $11 million in 2011, $13 million in 2010 and $14 million in 2009, for the effects of these changes in estimates. In each year, the majority of the reduced expense resulted from revisions in the estimated timing or cost of final capping events that were generally the result of (i) concerted efforts to improve the operating efficiencies of our landfills and volume declines, both of which have allowed us to delay spending for final capping activities; (ii) effectively managing the cost of final capping material and construction; or (iii) landfill expansions that resulted in reduced or deferred final capping costs.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

We continually monitor our actual and forecasted cash flows, our liquidity and our capital resources, enabling us to plan for our present needs and fund unbudgeted business activities that may arise during the year as a result of changing business conditions or new opportunities. In addition to our working capital needs for the general and administrative costs of our ongoing operations, we have cash requirements for: (i) the construction and expansion of our landfills; (ii) additions to and maintenance of our trucking fleet and landfill equipment; (iii) construction, refurbishments and improvements at waste-to-energy and materials recovery facilities; (iv) the container and equipment needs of our operations; (v) final capping, closure and post-closure activities at our landfills; (vi) the repayment of debt and discharging of other obligations; and (vii) capital expenditures, acquisitions and investments in support of our strategic growth plans. We also are committed to providing our shareholders with a return on their investment through our capital allocation program that provides for dividend payments and share repurchases.

 

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Summary of Cash and Cash Equivalents, Restricted Trust and Escrow Accounts and Debt Obligations

The following is a summary of our cash and cash equivalents, restricted trust and escrow accounts and debt balances as of December 31, 2011 and 2010 (in millions):

 

     2011      2010  

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 258       $ 539   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Restricted trust and escrow accounts:

     

Final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation funds

   $ 123       $ 124   

Tax-exempt bond funds

     14         14   

Other

     15         8   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total restricted trust and escrow accounts

   $ 152       $ 146   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Debt:

     

Current portion

   $ 631       $ 233   

Long-term portion

     9,125         8,674   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total debt

   $ 9,756       $ 8,907   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Increase in carrying value of debt due to hedge accounting for interest rate swaps

   $ 102       $ 79   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents — Cash and cash equivalents consist primarily of cash on deposit and money market funds that invest in U.S. government obligations with original maturities of three months or less. Our cash and cash equivalents have decreased as a result of the execution of our strategic growth plans, which has increased our level of capital spending, acquisitions and investments.

Restricted trust and escrow accounts — Restricted trust and escrow accounts consist primarily of (i) funds deposited for purposes of settling landfill final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations; and (ii) funds received from the issuance of tax-exempt bonds held in trust for the construction of various projects or facilities. These balances are primarily included within long-term “Other assets” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.

Debt — We use long-term borrowings in addition to the cash we generate from operations as part of our overall financial strategy to support and grow our business. We primarily use senior notes and tax-exempt bonds to borrow on a long-term basis, but also use other instruments and facilities when appropriate. The components of our long-term borrowings as of December 31, 2011 are described in Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Changes in our outstanding debt balances from December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2011 were primarily due to (i) net debt borrowings of $698 million; (ii) $100 million in non-cash proceeds from tax-exempt borrowings; and (ii) the impacts of accounting for other non-cash changes in our debt balances due to hedge accounting for interest rate swaps, foreign currency translation, interest accretion and capital leases.

As of December 31, 2011, we had (i) $925 million of debt maturing within twelve months, including $150 million of borrowings outstanding under our revolving credit facility, U.S.$137 million of advances outstanding under our Canadian credit facility, $400 million of 6.375% senior notes that mature in November 2012 and $168 million of tax-exempt bonds and (ii) $305 million of fixed-rate tax-exempt borrowings subject to re-pricing within the next twelve months. Under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, this debt must be classified as current unless we have the intent and ability to refinance it on a long-term basis. We have the intent and ability to refinance $599 million of this debt on a long-term basis and have classified the remaining $631 million as current obligations as of December 31, 2011. In January 2012, we borrowed an additional $50 million under our revolving credit facility, increasing the total loans outstanding under our revolving credit facility to $200 million.

 

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We have credit facilities in place to support our liquidity and financial assurance needs. The following table summarizes our outstanding letters of credit (in millions) at December 31, categorized by type of facility:

 

     2011      2010  

Revolving credit facility(a)

   $ 1,012       $ 1,138   

Letter of credit facilities(b)

     502         505   

Other(c)

     251         237   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 
   $ 1,765       $ 1,880   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) In May 2011, we amended and restated our $2.0 billion revolving credit facility as a result of changes in market conditions, which significantly reduced the cost of the facility. We also extended the term through May 2016. At December 31, 2011, we had $150 million of outstanding borrowings and $1,012 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the facility, leaving an unused and available credit capacity of $838 million.

 

(b) As of December 31, 2011, we had an aggregate committed capacity of $505 million under letter of credit facilities with terms that extend from June 2013 to June 2015. As of December 31, 2011, no borrowings were outstanding under these letter of credit facilities and we had $3 million of unused or available credit capacity.

 

(c) These letters of credit are outstanding under various arrangements that do not obligate the counterparty to provide a committed capacity.

Summary of Cash Flow Activity

The following is a summary of our cash flows for the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2011     2010     2009  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 2,469      $ 2,275      $ 2,362   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash used in investing activities

   $ (2,185   $ (1,606   $ (1,250
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash used in financing activities

   $ (566   $ (1,273   $ (457
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparison of our operating cash flows in 2011 as compared with 2010 are summarized below:

 

  Ÿ  

Decreased income tax payments — Cash paid for income taxes, net of excess tax benefits, was approximately $242 million lower in 2011 due in large part to the extension of the bonus depreciation legislation. The ability to accelerate depreciation deductions decreased our full year 2011 cash taxes by approximately $175 million. Also contributing to the decrease in cash paid for taxes in 2011, is an increase in federal tax credits provided by our investments in two unconsolidated entities. These investments are discussed in Note 9 and Note 20 of the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

  Ÿ  

2010 Non-recurring cash inflows — Two significant cash transactions benefited cash provided by operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2010. In the second quarter of 2010, we received $77 million for a litigation settlement, and in the third quarter of 2010, we received a $65 million federal tax refund related to the liquidation of a foreign subsidiary in 2009.

 

  Ÿ  

Settlement of Canadian hedge — In December 2010, our previously existing foreign currency hedges matured and we paid cash of $37 million upon settlement. The cash payment from the settlement was classified as a change in accrued liabilities within “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

 

  Ÿ  

Changes in assets and liabilities, net of effects from business acquisitions and divestitures — Our cash flow from operations was favorably impacted in 2011 by changes in our working capital accounts. Although our working capital changes may vary from year to year, they are typically driven by changes in

 

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accounts receivable, which are affected by both revenue changes and timing of payments received, and accounts payable changes, which are affected by both cost changes and timing of payments.

The most significant items affecting the comparison of our operating cash flows for 2010 and 2009 are summarized below:

 

  Ÿ  

Increase in earnings — Our income from operations increased by $229 million on a year-over-year basis, driven, in part, by a favorable cash benefit of $77 million resulting from a litigation settlement in April 2010. This earnings increase was also impacted by (i) the recognition of a $51 million non-cash charge associated with the abandonment of licensed revenue management software and (ii) the recognition of a $27 million non-cash charge in 2009 as a result of a change in expectations for the future operations of an inactive landfill in California.

The comparison of our 2010 and 2009 income from operations was also affected by a $91 million increase in non-cash charges attributable to (i) equity-based compensation expense; (ii) interest accretion on landfill liabilities; (iii) interest accretion and discount rate adjustments on environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets; (iv) depreciation and amortization; and (v) the impact of the withdrawal of certain bargaining units from multiemployer pension plans. While these increases in non-cash charges unfavorably affected our earnings comparison, there was no impact on net cash provided by operating activities.

 

  Ÿ  

Changes in assets and liabilities, net of effects from business acquisitions and divestitures — Our cash flow from operations was negatively impacted in 2010 and favorably impacted in 2009, by changes in our working capital accounts. Although our working capital changes may vary from year to year, they are typically driven by changes in accounts receivable, which are affected by both revenue changes and timing of payments received, and accounts payable changes, which are affected by both cost changes and timing of payments. Additionally, the following are other significant items that affected our cash flow from operations:

 

  Ÿ  

Increased income tax payments — Cash paid for income taxes, net of excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions, was approximately $86 million higher on a year-over-year basis. The comparability of our effective tax rates is discussed in the Provision for income taxes section above.

 

  Ÿ  

Increased interest payments — Cash paid for interest was approximately $61 million higher on a year-over-year basis. This increase was primarily due to (i) the issuance of an additional $600 million of senior notes in November 2009 to support acquisitions and investments made throughout 2010; (ii) significantly higher costs related to the execution and maintenance of our revolving credit facility, which was refinanced in June 2010; and (iii) a decrease in benefits to interest expense provided by active interest rate swaps as a result of decreases in the notional amount of swaps outstanding.

 

  Ÿ  

Settlement of Canadian hedge — In December 2010, our previously existing foreign currency hedges matured and we paid cash of $37 million upon settlement. The cash payment from the settlement was classified as a change in accrued liabilities within “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

 

  Ÿ  

Liquidation of a foreign subsidiary — We received a $65 million federal tax refund in the third quarter of 2010 related to the liquidation of a foreign subsidiary in 2009. The cash proceeds were classified as a change in other current assets within “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

Net Cash Used in Investing Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparison of our investing cash flows for the periods presented are summarized below:

 

  Ÿ  

Capital expenditures — We used $1,324 million during 2011 for capital expenditures, compared with $1,104 million in 2010 and $1,179 million in 2009. The increase in capital expenditures in 2011 is a result of our increased spending on natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure, information technology infrastructure and growth initiatives, as well as our taking advantage of the bonus depreciation legislation. The year-over-year comparison of 2011 with 2010 was also affected by timing differences associated

 

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with cash payments for the previous years’ fourth quarter capital spending. Approximately $206 million of our fourth quarter 2010 spending was paid in cash in the first quarter of 2011 compared with approximately $145 million of our fourth quarter 2009 spending that was paid in the first quarter of 2010.

 

  Ÿ  

Acquisitions — Our spending on acquisitions increased from $281 million during 2009 to $407 million in 2010 and to $867 million in 2011. During the third quarter of 2011, we paid $432 million, net of cash received of $4 million and inclusive of certain adjustments, to acquire Oakleaf, which provides outsourced waste and recycling services through a nationwide network of third-party haulers. During the second quarter of 2010, we paid approximately $150 million to acquire a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, Virginia. We continue to focus on accretive acquisitions and growth opportunities that will contribute to improved future results of operations and enhance and expand our existing service offerings.

 

  Ÿ  

Investments in unconsolidated entities — We made $155 million of cash investments in unconsolidated entities during 2011. These investments included a $48 million payment made to acquire a noncontrolling interest in a limited liability company, which was established to invest in and manage a refined coal facility in North Dakota, and $107 million of investments primarily related to furthering our goal of growing into new markets by investing in greener technologies.

We made $173 million of cash investments in unconsolidated entities during 2010. These cash investments were primarily related to a $142 million payment made to acquire a 40% equity investment in Shanghai Environment Group, a subsidiary of Shanghai Chengtou Holding Co., Ltd. As a joint venture partner in SEG, we participate in the operation and management of waste-to-energy and other waste services in the Chinese market. SEG’s focus also includes building new waste-to-energy facilities in China.

 

  Ÿ  

Net receipts from restricted funds — Net cash received from our restricted trust and escrow accounts, which are largely generated from the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for our capital needs, contributed $107 million to our investing activities in 2011 compared with $48 million in 2010 and $196 million in 2009. The significant decrease in cash received from our restricted trust and escrow accounts during 2010 was due to a decrease in tax-exempt borrowings.

Net Cash Used in Financing Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparison of our financing cash flows for the periods presented are summarized below:

 

  Ÿ  

Share repurchases and dividend payments — Our 2011, 2010 and 2009 share repurchases and dividend payments have been made in accordance with capital allocation programs approved by our Board of Directors.

We paid $575 million for share repurchases in 2011, compared with $501 million in 2010 and $226 million in 2009. We repurchased approximately 17 million, 15 million and 7 million shares of our common stock in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. We did not repurchase shares during the first half of 2009 given the state of the economy and the financial markets. In the second half of 2009, we resumed repurchases of our common stock following improvements in the economy and capital markets.

We paid an aggregate of $637 million in cash dividends during 2011, compared with $604 million in 2010 and $569 million in 2009. The increase in dividend payments is due to our quarterly per share dividend increasing from $0.29 in 2009, to $0.315 in 2010 and to $0.34 in 2011, and has been offset in part by a reduction in our common stock outstanding as a result of our share repurchase programs.

In December 2011, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the per share quarterly dividend from $0.34 to $0.355 for dividends declared in 2012. However, all future dividend declarations are at the discretion of the Board of Directors, and depend on various factors, including our net earnings, financial condition, cash required for future business plans and other factors the Board of Directors may deem relevant. In December 2011, the Board of Directors approved up to $500 million in share repurchases for 2012. However, future share repurchases will be made at the discretion of management, and will depend on factors similar to those considered by the Board of Directors in making dividend declarations.

 

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  Ÿ  

Proceeds from the exercise of common stock options — The exercise of common stock options and the related excess tax benefits generated a total of $45 million of financing cash inflows during 2011 compared with $54 million during 2010 and $20 million during 2009.

 

  Ÿ  

Net debt repayments — Net debt borrowings were $698 million in 2011, net debt repayments were $204 million in 2010 and net debt borrowings were $414 million in 2009. The following summarizes our most significant cash borrowings and debt repayments made during each year (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2011     2010     2009  

Borrowings:

      

Revolving credit facility(a)

   $ 150      $      $   

Canadian credit facility

     137        316        364   

Senior notes

     893        592        1,385   

Capital leases and other

     21                 
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
   $ 1,201      $ 908      $ 1,749   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Repayments:

      

Revolving credit facility(a)

   $      $      $ (310

Canadian credit facility

     (214     (372     (395

Senior notes

     (147     (600     (500

Tax exempt bonds

     (25     (52     (65

Tax exempt project bonds

     (30     (39     (39

Capital leases and other debt

     (87     (49     (26
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
   $ (503   $ (1,112   $ (1,335
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net borrowings (repayments)

   $ 698      $ (204   $ 414   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(a) Due to the short-term maturities of the borrowings under the revolving credit facility, we have reported these cash flows on a net basis in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the U.S.

This summary excludes the impacts of non-cash borrowings and debt repayments. For the years ended December 31, 2011 and 2009, these non-cash financing activities were primarily associated with our tax-exempt bond financings. Proceeds from tax-exempt bond issuances, net of principal repayments made directly from trust funds, were $100 million and $105 million, respectively. During the year ended December 31, 2010, we did not have any tax-exempt bond financings; however, we did have a $215 million non-cash increase in our debt obligations as a result of the issuance of a note payable in return for a noncontrolling interest in a limited liability company established to invest in and manage low-income housing properties. This investment is discussed in detail in Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

  Ÿ  

Other — Net cash used in other financing activities was $46 million in 2011 and $50 million in 2009 while net cash provided from other financing activities was $18 million in 2010. These activities are primarily attributable to changes in our accrued liabilities for checks written in excess of cash balances due to the timing of cash deposits or payments. During 2011, the cash used for these activities included $7 million of financing costs paid in May to amend and restate our $2.0 billion revolving credit facility. The cash provided by changes in our accrued liabilities for checks written in excess of cash balances in 2010 was offset, in part, by $13 million of financing costs paid in June to initially execute our $2.0 billion revolving credit facility.

 

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Summary of Contractual Obligations

The following table summarizes our contractual obligations as of December 31, 2011 and the anticipated effect of these obligations on our liquidity in future years (in millions):

 

    2012      2013      2014      2015      2016      Thereafter      Total  

Recorded Obligations:

                   

Expected environmental liabilities(a)

                   

Final capping, closure and post-closure

  $ 123       $ 98       $ 86       $ 114       $ 95       $ 1,993       $ 2,509   

Environmental remediation

    38         26         27         24         12         138         265   
 

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
    161         124         113         138         107         2,131         2,774   

Debt payments(b),(c),(d)

    918         210         460         455         696         6,924         9,663   

Unrecorded Obligations:(e)

                   

Non-cancelable operating lease obligations

    91         77         68         56         45         238         575   

Estimated unconditional purchase obligations(f)

    148         143         47         36         29         237         640   
 

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Anticipated liquidity impact as of December 31, 2011

  $ 1,318       $ 554       $ 688       $ 685       $ 877       $ 9,530       $ 13,652   
 

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) Environmental liabilities include final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation costs. The amounts included here reflect environmental liabilities recorded in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2011 without the impact of discounting and inflation. Our recorded environmental liabilities for final capping, closure and post-closure will increase as we continue to place additional tons within the permitted airspace at our landfills.

 

(b) The amounts reported here represent the scheduled principal payments related to our long-term debt, excluding related interest. Refer to Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding interest rates.

 

(c) Our debt obligations as of December 31, 2011 include $305 million of tax-exempt bonds subject to re-pricing within the next twelve months, which is prior to their scheduled maturities. If the re-offerings of the bonds are unsuccessful, then the bonds can be put to us, requiring immediate repayment. We have classified the anticipated cash flows for these contractual obligations based on the scheduled maturity of the borrowing for purposes of this disclosure. For additional information regarding the classification of these borrowings in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2011, refer to Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

(d) Our recorded debt obligations include non-cash adjustments associated with discounts, premiums and fair value adjustments for interest rate hedging activities. These amounts have been excluded here because they will not result in an impact to our liquidity in future periods.

 

(e) Our unrecorded obligations represent operating lease obligations and purchase commitments from which we expect to realize an economic benefit in future periods. We have also made certain guarantees, as discussed in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, that we do not expect to materially affect our current or future financial position, results of operations or liquidity.

 

(f) Our unconditional purchase obligations are for various contractual obligations that we generally incur in the ordinary course of our business. Certain of our obligations are quantity driven. For contracts that require us to purchase minimum quantities of goods or services, we have estimated our future minimum obligations based on the current market values of the underlying products or services. Accordingly, the amounts reported in the table are not necessarily indicative of our actual cash flow obligations. See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for discussion of the nature and terms of our unconditional purchase obligations.

 

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Liquidity Impacts of Uncertain Tax Positions

As discussed in Note 9 of our Consolidated Financial Statements, we have liabilities associated with unrecognized tax benefits and related interest. These liabilities are primarily included as a component of long-term “Other liabilities” in our Consolidated Balance Sheet because the Company generally does not anticipate that settlement of the liabilities will require payment of cash within the next twelve months. We are not able to reasonably estimate when we would make any cash payments required to settle these liabilities, but do not believe that the ultimate settlement of our obligations will materially affect our liquidity.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We are party to guarantee arrangements with unconsolidated entities as discussed in the Guarantees section of Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. These arrangements have not materially affected our financial position, results of operations or liquidity during the year ended December 31, 2011 nor are they expected to have a material impact on our future financial position, results of operations or liquidity.

Inflation

While inflationary increases in costs, including the cost of diesel fuel, have affected our operating margins in recent years, we believe that inflation generally has not had, and in the near future is not expected to have, any material adverse effect on our results of operations. However, as of December 31, 2011, over 17% of our collection revenues are generated under long-term agreements with price adjustments based on various indices intended to measure inflation. Additionally, management’s estimates associated with inflation have had, and will continue to have, an impact on our accounting for landfill and environmental remediation liabilities.

New Accounting Pronouncements

Fair Value Measurements — In May 2011, the FASB amended authoritative guidance associated with fair value measurements. This amended guidance defines certain requirements for measuring fair value and for disclosing information about fair value measurements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. The amendments to authoritative guidance associated with fair value measurements were effective for the Company on January 1, 2012 and are to be applied prospectively. We do not expect that the adoption of this guidance will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.

 

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk.

In the normal course of business, we are exposed to market risks, including changes in interest rates, Canadian currency rates and certain commodity prices. From time to time, we use derivatives to manage some portion of these risks. Our derivatives are agreements with independent counterparties that provide for payments based on a notional amount. As of December 31, 2011, all of our derivative transactions were related to actual or anticipated economic exposures. We are exposed to credit risk in the event of non-performance by our derivative counterparties. However, we monitor our derivative positions by regularly evaluating our positions and the creditworthiness of the counterparties.

Interest Rate Exposure — Our exposure to market risk for changes in interest rates relates primarily to our financing activities, although our interest costs can also be significantly affected by our on-going financial assurance needs, which are discussed in the Financial Assurance and Insurance Obligations section of Item 1.

As of December 31, 2011, we had $9.7 billion of long-term debt when excluding the impacts of accounting for fair value adjustments attributable to interest rate derivatives, discounts and premiums. The effective interest rates of approximately $2.2 billion of our outstanding debt obligations are subject to change during 2012. The most significant components of our variable-rate debt obligations are (i) $1 billion of “receive fixed, pay variable” interest rate swaps associated with outstanding fixed-rate senior notes; (ii) $611 million of tax-exempt bonds that are subject to re-pricing on either a daily or weekly basis through a remarketing process; (iii) $305 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods that are subject to re-pricing within twelve months; (iv) $150 million of borrowings outstanding under our $2.0 billion revolving credit facility; and

 

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(v) U.S.$137 million of outstanding advances under our Canadian Credit Facility. We currently estimate that a 100 basis point increase in the interest rates of our outstanding variable-rate debt obligations would increase our 2012 interest expense by approximately $18 million. As of December 31, 2010, the effective interest rates of approximately $1.8 billion of our outstanding debt obligations were subject to change within twelve months.

Our remaining outstanding debt obligations have fixed interest rates through either the scheduled maturity of the debt or, for certain of our “fixed-rate” tax exempt bonds, through the end of a term interest rate period that exceeds twelve months. In addition, at December 31, 2011, we had forward-starting interest rate swaps with a notional amount of $375 million. The fair value of our fixed-rate debt obligations and various interest rate derivative instruments can increase or decrease significantly if market interest rates change.

We have performed sensitivity analyses to determine how market rate changes might affect the fair value of our market risk-sensitive derivatives and related positions. These analyses are inherently limited because they reflect a singular, hypothetical set of assumptions. Actual market movements may vary significantly from our assumptions. An instantaneous, one percentage point increase in interest rates across all maturities and applicable yield curves attributable to these instruments would have decreased the fair value of our combined debt and interest rate derivative positions by approximately $805 million at December 31, 2011.

We are also exposed to interest rate market risk because we have significant cash and cash equivalent balances as well as assets held in restricted trust funds and escrow accounts. These assets are generally invested in high quality, liquid instruments including money market funds that invest in U.S. government obligations with original maturities of three months or less. Because of the short terms to maturity of these investments, we believe that our exposure to changes in fair value due to interest rate fluctuations is insignificant.

Commodity Price Exposure — In the normal course of our business, we are subject to operating agreements that expose us to market risks arising from changes in the prices for commodities such as diesel fuel; recyclable materials, including old corrugated cardboard, old newsprint and plastics; and electricity, which generally correlates with natural gas prices in many of the markets in which we operate. With the exception of electricity commodity derivatives, which are discussed below, we generally have not entered into derivatives to hedge the risks associated with changes in the market prices of these commodities during the three years ended December 31, 2011. Alternatively, we attempt to manage these risks through operational strategies that focus on capturing our costs in the prices we charge our customers for the services provided. Accordingly, as the market prices for these commodities increase or decrease, our revenues also increase or decrease.

During 2011, approximately 54% of the electricity revenue at our waste-to-energy facilities was subject to current market rates, and we currently expect that nearly 56% of our electricity revenues at our waste-to-energy facilities will be at market rates by the end of 2012. Our exposure to variability associated with changes in market prices for electricity has increased over the last few years as long-term power purchase agreements have expired. The energy markets have changed significantly since the expiring contracts were executed and we have found that the current market structure does not support medium- and long-term electricity contracts. As we renegotiate our power-purchase agreements, we expect that a more substantial portion of our energy sales at our waste-to-energy facilities will be based on variable market rates. Accordingly, in 2010 we implemented a more actively managed energy program, which includes a hedging strategy intended to decrease the exposure of our revenues to volatility due to market prices for electricity. Refer to Note 8 of the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our electricity commodity derivatives.

Currency Rate Exposure — We have operations in Canada and investments in China and the United Kingdom. From time to time, we use currency derivatives to mitigate the impact of currency translation on cash flows of intercompany Canadian-currency denominated debt transactions. Our foreign currency derivatives have not materially affected our financial position or results of operations for the periods presented. In addition, while changes in foreign currency exchange rates could significantly affect the fair value of our foreign currency derivatives, we believe these changes in fair value would not have a material impact to the Company. Refer to Note 8 of the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our foreign currency derivatives. The foreign currency exposure associated with our investments in China and the United Kingdom has not been material.

 

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Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

INDEX TO

CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

     Page  

Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

     67   

Reports of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

     68   

Consolidated Balance Sheets as of December 31, 2011 and 2010

     70   

Consolidated Statements of Operations for the Years Ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009

     71   

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the Years Ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009

     72   

Consolidated Statements of Changes in Equity for the Years Ended December 31, 2011, 2010 and 2009

     73   

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

     75   

 

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MANAGEMENT’S REPORT ON INTERNAL CONTROL

OVER FINANCIAL REPORTING

Management of the Company, including the principal executive and financial officers, is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as defined in Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Our internal controls are designed to provide reasonable assurance as to the reliability of our financial reporting and the preparation of the consolidated financial statements for external purposes in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States and includes those policies and procedures that:

 

  i. pertain to the maintenance of records that in reasonable detail accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the issuer;

 

  ii. provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the issuer are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the issuer; and

 

  iii. provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use or disposition of the issuer's assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

Management of the Company assessed the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2011 based on the Internal Control — Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. Management has excluded from its assessment the internal controls of Oakleaf Global Holdings, which was acquired in July 2011 and, excluding goodwill, accounted for approximately 1% of our consolidated total assets at December 31, 2011 and 2% of our consolidated total operating revenues for the year ended December 31, 2011. Based on its assessment, management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2011.

The effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting has been audited by Ernst & Young LLP, the independent registered public accounting firm that audited our consolidated financial statements, as stated in their report which is included herein.

 

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REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

The Board of Directors and Stockholders of Waste Management, Inc.

We have audited Waste Management, Inc.’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2011, based on criteria established in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (the COSO criteria). Waste Management, Inc.’s management is responsible for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting, and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting included in the accompanying Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the company’s internal control over financial reporting based on our audit.

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects. Our audit included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk, and performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

A company’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A company’s internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (1) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (2) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (3) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

As indicated in the accompanying Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting, management’s assessment of and conclusion on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting did not include the internal controls of Oakleaf Global Holdings, which is included in the 2011 consolidated financial statements of Waste Management, Inc. and, excluding goodwill, constituted 1% of consolidated total assets as of December 31, 2011 and 2% of consolidated total operating revenues for the year then ended. Our audit of internal control over financial reporting of Waste Management, Inc. also did not include an evaluation of the internal control over financial reporting of Oakleaf Global Holdings.

In our opinion, Waste Management, Inc. maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2011, based on the COSO criteria.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the consolidated balance sheets of Waste Management, Inc. as of December 31, 2011 and 2010, and the related consolidated statements of operations, cash flows, and changes in equity for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011, and our report dated February 16, 2012 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Houston, Texas

February 16, 2012

 

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REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

The Board of Directors and Stockholders of Waste Management, Inc.

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Waste Management, Inc. (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2011 and 2010, and the related consolidated statements of operations, cash flows, and changes in equity for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011. These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audits.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Waste Management, Inc. at December 31, 2011 and 2010, and the consolidated results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.

As discussed in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements, effective January 1, 2010, the Company adopted certain provisions of ASC Topic 810, “Consolidation” related to the consolidation of variable interest entities.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), Waste Management, Inc.’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2011, based on criteria established in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and our report dated February 16, 2012 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Houston, Texas

February 16, 2012

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS

(In Millions, Except Share and Par Value Amounts)

 

     December 31,  
     2011      2010  
ASSETS   

Current assets:

     

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 258       $ 539   

Accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful accounts of $29 and $26, respectively

     1,631         1,510   

Other receivables

     144         146   

Parts and supplies

     153         130   

Deferred income taxes