After Hurricane Katrina and Rita severely damaged the Gulf region, the work began as residents attempted to rebuild their homes and lives. But before they could begin the rebuilding process, the area had to go through an intense cleanup. All types of hazardous waste that included everything from oil to medical waste had to be disposed of properly to help eliminate the potential of health issues. And of course there was the standing water that caused even more cleanup issues and brought into play the mold factor, which can be very dangerous.

Hazardous and Medical Waste
Clean Harbors
Clean Harbors is one of the leading providers of environmental and hazardous waste management, and it was also one of the first companies called in 2005 after Katrina and Rita and is probably on speed dial again this year. After the storms ripped through the Gulf region, CLHB was responsible for helping the cleanup efforts in the wetlands. The company used everything from marsh draglines to airboats to collect the debris.

The items that were found in the wetlands ranged from a 20,000-gallon oil tank to household hazardous waste. Clean Harbors' efforts were rewarded in 2005 as more than $15 million in revenue was generated from the cleanup efforts over the third and fourth quarters. Since Hurricane Katrina hit, the stock is up more than 225% and is not the value it once was, but it is a major hurricane cleanup play.

Stericycle (Nasdaq:SRCL)
Not all cleanup involves oil and debris. A potentially very dangerous issue is medical waste from hospitals and medical centers. After the 2005 hurricanes devastated New Orleans, Stericycle was called upon to help in the cleanup efforts of the medical waste from the destroyed hospitals in the region. Similar to Clean Harbors, Stericycle has had a great run since Hurricane Katrina hit, gaining more than 100%. Because medical waste can be so hazardous, I would imagine Stericycle would be ready in the event another strong hurricane makes landfall.

The Shaw Group (NYSE:SGR)
This company is likely more well-known for its engineering and construction business than its environmental division. I have liked the company for its ties to the power industry and construction of nuclear facilities, but it was also a major player in the cleanup efforts after the 2005 hurricanes. The Shaw Group will do everything from keeping the water contaminant free to restoring the land so it is usable again. When it released first quarter statements in January 2006, the company reported net profit that tripled. This was due in large part to the hundreds of millions of dollars the company received for cleanup and restoration after the hurricanes. The stock has been struggling lately, but is still up nearly 200% since Katrina hit.

Garbage Haulers
Waste Management
There was plenty of hazardous waste scattered after a hurricane, but how about the normal everyday garbage? That is where Waste Management comes into play. The largest waste management firm in the U.S. was a major player in previous hurricane cleanup efforts and will be again in the future. The revenue generated from the cleanup will not have as big an impact on the bottom line as the other stocks, but it could give the stock a boost. (For information on how you can reduce your environmental footprint, read Less Trash For More Cash.)

Market Vectors Environmental Services ETF (AMEX:EVX)
If you like all of the stocks mentioned above you can save yourself some money through lower commissions by buying EVX. All four of the stocks above are included in this exchange traded fund (ETF) along with 20 other stocks. The one problem with the ETF is that you will get exposure to stocks that will not benefit from a hurricane cleanup. (If you want more information about EVX and its components check out Great Returns From Garbage Stocks.)

Hedging not Hoping
I'm certainly not sitting at my desk hoping for a hurricane to make landfall so the cleanup companies can swoop in. The reason for this article is to educate investors on how they can hedge their portfolio against the possibility of a major hurricane.

To learn how to bet against natural disasters, read Event-Linked Bonds: Competing Against A Catastrophe.