Finding some common ground on trash

Colene Vogel
Technical Services Program Manager
American Public Works Association
Kansas City, Missouri

Some cities have their own crews picking up trash, recyclables and organics. Some have contracts for collection. Some allow their residents to choose any hauler with a license. And, some rural communities have nothing but open burning and self-hauling.

Some cities own landfills. Some have incinerators. Some rely on a county or district disposal facility. Some have transfer stations. A few have their own MRFs (materials recovery facilities) and composting facilities. Some have drop-off recycling centers. Some have special collection days for everything from Christmas trees to electronics. Some have citywide cleanups collecting everything including the kitchen sink. Some have household hazardous waste collection centers. And, some communities provide extensive public education programs on waste reduction and recycling.

Of course, all of these solid waste activities may or may not be carried out by the public works department. So, how does an association full of public works professionals address a topic that may or may not be handled, partially or in full, by some but certainly not all members? They appoint a committee, of course!

The Solid Waste Management Committee is challenged with pulling together information and resources on a topic so diverse that few members even address every part of it. How do they do it? They start with the issues that are most common. Issues such as illegal dumping and contracting for services are usually of interest to the greatest number of members. But, it seems like new recycling programs spring up daily since "going green" became trendy again. So, more and more members are interested in recycling collection methods, not to mention waste reduction initiatives. That's why this year's Congress will include sessions on rural issues in solid waste, illegal dumping, and green procurement.

Besides the usual work of preparing articles for this issue of the Reporter, putting together Congress sessions, reviewing position statements and commenting on legislation, the Solid Waste Management Committee has been working on a couple of new projects this year. There is a Click, Listen & Learn on solid waste set for July and there will be another new book come August. The Click, Listen & Learn is scheduled for July 17. It will discuss single stream versus dual stream collection systems. The book will cover basic estimates in solid waste management and should make its debut at Congress.

The hard-working members of the Solid Waste Management Committee are: Marc Rogoff, Chair, FL; Keith Howard, FL; Charlie Jones, PA; Ziad Mazboudi, CA; Cynthia Mitchell, MO; and Rick Person, MN. At-Large Director George Crombie serves as Board Liaison to the committee and Colene Vogel is Staff Liaison. More information on the committee can be found on APWA's website by clicking on "Technical Committees" and choosing "Solid Waste Management." You can find meeting summaries, position papers and contact information.

Colene Vogel can be reached at (816) 595-5221 or