At first glance, the Waste Age 100 race track may seem relatively dull this year - but don't be misled. A considerable number of company names have disappeared from the 1999 list, the most noticeable being Browning-Ferris Industries (which was acquired by Allied Waste Industries) and Eastern Environmental Inc. (which merged with Waste Management Inc.).

With those changes, Allied now fits snugly into BFI's No. 2 spot followed by Republic Services Inc., which slides up from No. 4 to No. 3. After that, the race gets a little more interesting.

Gaining the most from last year's top tier is Waste Connections Inc., which jumped from No. 19 to No. 9, and Casella Waste Systems, which now ranks No. 8, up from its previous No. 12 position. Both Superior Services Inc. (No. 4) and Rumpke Consolidated Companies Inc. (No. 6) moved up 2 spots.

Not returning to Waste Age's Top 100 list for 2000 - which is based on 1999 revenues - are a couple dozen solid waste outfits that have been purchased. In fact, as we began our research for this year, it became obvious that many firms on the 1999 Top 100 (1998 revenues) were acquisition targets.

As the list of purchased companies grew, we knew that the number of businesses we needed to contact had to expand. Originally, we used 150 names, including our 1999 Top 100 group of companies, plus other reliable lists to compile the 100 rankings.

Eventually, we opened up our search to 200 businesses and confirmed 100 companies for this year's list.

Our sources for confirmation of the information that follows were many: direct company contacts, independent sources such as Dun &Bradstreet, and annual reports for publically held companies. This year, no estimates were used. In fact, more than two-thirds of Waste Age's Top 100 list were confirmed by a company contact.

In many cases, we included each company's number of employees, whether it handled commercial, industrial or residential waste, and whether its operations include collecting, transferring, recycling or landfilling.

Because of our extended search for solid waste firms that fit the Waste Age 100 profile, we've added many new names to our list. A total of 26 companies on this year's list were not ranked on the 1999 report.

But, possibly the most surprising result isn't what you see - it's what you don't see. Of the 200 companies contacted, 71 reported that they were acquired in 1999.

Another interesting element is found at the end of the list. The 1999 report's final five listed revenues between $4 million to $5 million, compared to this year's last entries that reported revenues between $5.5 million and $6.4 million.

So while many of the noticeable changes occurred at the list's top and bottom, some analysts would like to see its midsection become healthier.

Editorial Director Bill Wolpin provided the preceding comments; Managing Editor Patricia-Anne Tom, Research Analyst Heath Morton and Editorial Assistant Misty Milioto compiled this year's Waste Age 100.

To purchase the complete listing of the top 100 companies listed in the Waste Age 100, call Reprint Management Services (717) 399-1900 and ask for the September 2000 issue.