The authors of this article in Renewable News thought it would be interesting
to readers who are in the recycling industry to see the kind of commodity pricing issues that were discussed in a recent analysis for a large recycling project study.
The data on price variability and waste composition were used to prepare several scenarios in Pro Forma modeling to predict the “downside” of market shifts in project performance. In our experience, this provides stakeholders with good ideas of potential market risks and the potential sharing of anticipated revenues with high, medium, and low-end pricing of recyclables.
The U.S. is heavily dependent on the Chinese market for absorbing a major percentage of
recyclable paper and plastics we generate. So, potential changes to that market initiated by the Chinese is a cause for concern and for assessing contingencies. Officials for the Scrap Recycling Industries, China Scrap Plastics Association, and Bureau of International Recycling all indicated that China may be rolling out a new policy for expanding the list of banned materials and tightening the quality standards of recyclables coming into their country. Increasing knowledge of the markets and the impact on your program is a good way to get ahead of the potential impact of China’s new restrictions.
Increasing knowledge of the markets and the impact on your program is a good way to start getting ahead of the potential impact of China’s new restrictions.
An SCS pro forma model for waste management gives you the much-needed ability to analyze how different elements of a business plan will impact your cash flows and value. Subsequently, using individual forecasts and operations data, you can analyze when in the future you might need financing allowing you the time to plan to acquire sufficient resources, permits, and equipment. Read the Merced County case study here to learn more.
SCS Engineers assisted the Merced County, California, Regional Waste Management Authority (RWA) in developing a Pro Forma Model that encompasses projected operational costs and revenues to help decision-makers develop timely cash flow forecasts. The RWA now has a useful tool for annual budgeting and developing long-term capital policies.
After several years of revenue declines for numerous reasons, including the recession, a change in management in 2012 ordered a re-assessment of RWA’s operational and administrative functions. Throughout the year-long process, a new Regional Waste Director was selected to implement a progressive strategy that would realize operational efficiencies, cost savings, an expanded customer base, and lower long-term debt through bond refinancing. These measures provided considerable benefit, particularly in regards to the long-term financial health of the agency; however, it was not clear if cash could be generated quickly enough to meet the existing need. As a result, the agency hired a rate consultant in April 2015 to assess the anticipated shortfall and prepare a report to the RWA’s governing board.
The RWA owns and operates two disposal and recycling facilities, each located near the population centers of Merced County. Both landfills need expansions to increase disposal capacity in the coming years. SCS Engineers developed a Pro Forma Model to help the RWA prepare a long-term cash flow analysis and assess whether or not funds were available from operations to forestall a bond issue for the capital improvements as well as to fund adequate emergency reserves. At the beginning of SCS’s engagement, RWA staff provided background data and information concerning residential collection revenues and operating expenses.
The Pro Forma Model estimated annual net revenues during the 12-year planning horizon; determined that the current debt service is a major drain until the bonds mature in FY 2026/27; calculated that funds for projected capital improvements, fleet replacement, and a new “Rainy Day Fund” can be realized even if the RWA receives low waste deliveries to the landfill; and projected cash reserves. The model recommended that the RWA consider funding a landfill gas to energy project out of cash reserves rather than bond proceeds and projected annual revenues from methane sales.
The RWA adopted the findings of the proposed pro forma model in October 2015. Conducting the pro forma modeling effort enabled the RWA’s decision-makers to project costs of the various capital, fleet, and waste flow options. Key among the lessons learned was the implementation of a “Rainy Day Fund” to provide a long-term financial backstop for unforeseen events in landfill operations that cannot be predicted today. Such events could include groundwater and landfill gas remediation, issues with landfill liners, and weather events. The fund is capped at 25 percent of the RWA’s annual operating costs, which can also provide three to four months of operating expenses. While typical of many large County or municipal General Funds, it is less typical of individual enterprise funds in the past. Such Rainy Day Funds are becoming more and more prominent across solid waste agencies in the United States.
Lastly, the RWA now has a financial tool that can be updated annually and will continue to project future revenues and capital expenditures and ultimately forecast rate needs more accurately.
Marc Rogoff, Ph.D., is a Project Director for SCS Engineers’ and our National Expert on Solid Waste Rate Studies. Marc has over 30 years of experience in solid waste management as a public agency manager and consultant and has managed more than 200 consulting assignments across the United States on all facets of solid waste management. He has written and co-authored many articles, including the following: