Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:54 AM
A Contractual Requirement?
In a previous MSW Editor’s Blog, I passed along a question one of my Editorial Advisory Board members voiced regarding the fate of waste and recyclable materials managed by or turned over to private operators: “Why don’t municipalities make accurate accounting a contractual requirement?”
The more I’ve thought about this over the past week, the more I’ve come to believe that this is not merely a novel idea, but one fundamental to the premise on which solid waste management is founded: public health and safety.
The public places in our hands the responsibility for managing materials that, were they left untended, would seriously compromise the quality of life within an urban environment. While the materials themselves may be handled, in part or whole, by private sector contractors, the public sector cannot outsource its fiduciary responsibility for fate of these materials, whether through disposal or diversion.
Subtitle D holds our feet to the fire when it comes to landfill disposal, and a host of air-quality regulations do the same with WTE, but when it comes to recyclables, all too often we find ourselves trusting to the good intentions of those in whose hands we place materials, content to take their money while reaping whatever diversion credits apply.
Is this what the public expects when it places its materials in our hands? I don’t think so. Even if no greater expectation of MSW management than its scheduled disappearance from in front of the house is involved, the fate of those materials is in our hands until they no longer represent a threat to public health and safety, no matter on whose turf the threat exists…ours, China’s, or the denizens of the bottom of the deep blue sea.
So along with the question, “Why don’t municipalities make accurate accounting a contractual requirement?” let me add another.… If you agree that the fate of these materials is our responsibility, how can we guarantee their proper disposition?