Waste is an ever-evolving industry. Thanks to ongoing merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, the balance of power among North American haulers can seemingly shift overnight.

With this in mind, we’ve assembled a list of the top 40 haulers of 2018 in this issue. While this is our first time chronicling the top haulers in the space, our hope is that the list can serve as an evolving snapshot of the largest companies influencing the North American waste landscape—even if it is likely to fluctuate significantly year over year.

One of catalysts behind some of the most notable industry shakeups over the last 20 years has been Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA). The New York-based infrastructure and real asset investment and management company has established itself as perhaps the biggest entity influencing the modern environmental services sector through its pursuit of waste assets.

In this issue’s cover story, MIRA Senior Vice President and Managing Director Paul Mitchener talks about the company’s recent history, how it assesses potential industry opportunities and why the waste sector is an attractive one.

“We like the essential service characteristics of [waste] businesses that generate stable performance and predictable cash flows,” Mitchener says. “We also like that these businesses are highly regulated and have significant ongoing capital requirements that create barriers to entry. The vertically integrated business model, from collection to disposal, can create lasting competitive advantages, which are attractive to an infrastructure investor. A high degree of fragmentation still exists in the waste industry, which continues to create opportunities for accretive growth and synergies via tuck-in acquisitions.”

Although M&A has long provided the impetus for waste companies to bolster their assets, expand their service offerings and increase their national footprint, an emphasis on new technologies is increasingly helping today’s companies differentiate themselves from the pack.

Mitchener says MIRA has begun to look at how these solutions are helping companies grow organically and improve their operational efficiencies as a way to help assess potential opportunities.

“More recently, the use of technology and the investment that goes along with it has increased sophistication in the industry, which, in turn, is resulting in increased efficiency. As a long-term investor, this is a particularly attractive opportunity for us,” Mitchener says.

With things like fleet management software, RFID cart tags, and the confluence of big data and the internet of things working together to alter how companies manage their assets and think about collection and processing, the future of waste seems determined to be shaped by those who can best leverage these solutions to their advantage.

Only time will tell which technologies help the waste companies of tomorrow truly stand out, but you can be sure the investment community is already getting a jump-start trying to figure it out for themselves.