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'Waste-full' Is Good for the Long Haul

In addition, it provides recycling brokerage services consisting of managing the marketing of recyclable materials for third parties. A growing niche is their electronic recycling services, which involves the collection, sorting and disassembling of discarded computers, communications and other electronic equipment.

After the markets closed on Tuesday, Waste Management announced their latest quarterly cash dividend of 35.5 cents per share payable Dec. 14 to stockholders of record on Nov. 28, 2012. This $1.42 annual dividend represents a rather lofty 70% payout ratio of the company's earnings.

Due to that fact and also that their five-year expected PEG ratio has swelled to 2.58, I'd rather keep an eye on this company to see how their next quarter's earnings and revenue growth unfolds. Their last quarter saw a year-over-year 21.58% decrease in earnings, with quarterly revenues falling by almost 2%.

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The key financial numbers for one of WM's publicly traded competitors, Republic Services (RSG) look strangely similar. Their dividend yield is less (3.48%) but so is their payout ratio (52%).

Like WM, I want to see a turnaround in RSG's earnings so their PEG ratio, which is just above 2, can fall to at least 1.5. The chart below compares the quarterly diluted year-over-year earnings per share of both companies during the past five years. RSG's earnings have been up and down like a yo-yo.

WM EPS Diluted Quarterly YoY Growth Chart WM EPS Diluted Quarterly YoY Growth data by YCharts

An alternative to WM and RSG is a lesser known company, Waste Connections (WCN). The Woodlands, Texas-based company with a market cap of almost $4 billion not only operates many of the same waste disposal functions, but it also has some unique side businesses.

WCN owns and operates transfer stations that receive, compact and load solid waste to be transported to landfills via truck, rail or barge. In addition, it treats and disposes non-hazardous waste generated in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. Serving the waste needs of the energy patch is a smart money-making concept.

They also offer intermodal services, including repositioning, storage, maintenance and repair of cargo containers for international shipping companies. These containers include ones in the rail haul movement of cargo and solid waste containers in the Pacific Northwest through a network of intermodal facilities.

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