From the company's ad slogan right down to the color of their trucks, it's hard not to think green when you think of leading U.S. waste hauler Waste Management (NYSE:WM).

After returning $795 million to shareholders during 2009 through a healthy dose of share buybacks and dividends, the management at Waste Management is wasting no time offering even greener pastures ahead. The company expects strong 2010 cash flow approaching $1.3 billion, and intends to let it all flow straight to shareholders through dividend payments of $615 million and share repurchases of up to $685 million.

Thanks to a cost-compacting campaign that exceeded its $120 million target, the full-year profit of $2 per share partially shrugged off a sharp 12% drop in revenues. Bolstered in part by commodity prices for recycled materials that rose 20% during the fourth quarter, Waste Management beat expectations with adjusted earnings of $0.52 per share. The company expects recycled commodity prices to extend their recovery back toward their respective long-term averages, which also bodes well for metal recyclers like Sims Metal Management (NYSE:SMS) and Commercial Metals (NYSE:CMC).

Although Waste Management retains a trash heap of debt totaling more than $8 billion, the pile is better on a debt/EBITDA basis than that of rival Republic Services (NYSE:RSG). Although I consistently aim to steer Fools away from undue debt exposure in this uncertain economic climate, select sectors like waste haulers and railroad operators tempt investors to look the other way with their comparatively steady revenue streams. Accordingly, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B) didn't let Burlington Northern Santa Fe's $10 billion debt load derail its $44 billion acquisition.

Waste Management earned a little less green in the fourth quarter from converting landfill gasses to electricity ... as dirt cheap natural gas prices reduced electricity sales prices. Fools are already familiar with the impact those natural gas prices have had on coal companies like CONSOL Energy (NYSE:CNX) and haulers like CSX (NYSE:CSX). Electricity sales prices are expected to rebound somewhat during the second half of 2010.

Fortunately, investors choosing Waste Management for its innovative, environmentally friendly corporate culture have more reasons than just the green from being green to stick around. With a 3.6% dividend yield, a relatively stable revenue base, a proven commitment to rewarding shareholders for their loyalty, and a lean operating structure that generates profit during difficult times, this Fool is green with envy of Waste Management shareholders.

More than 1,500 investors in the CAPS community, including 489 All-Stars, have picked Waste Management to outperform the S&P 500. Join the free CAPS community today and share your views on this recession-resistant play.

Berkshire Hathaway New Com and Waste Management are Motley Fool Inside Value choices. Berkshire Hathaway New Com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Republic Services and Waste Management are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway New Com. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns no shares in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy produces no waste.