According to a recently released National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSMWA) study, privatized waste services generate significant cost savings and lower financial risks for budget-stretched municipalities, and they are safer and more environmentally protective than their public sector counterparts. (For the full text of the paper, click here.
It’s not our intent here to debate NSWMA on these points; rather, our response is: “What’s at issue here?”
I’ve always liked SWANA’s Mission and Guiding Principle statements, which I’ll repeat here to put us on the same page:
Our Mission: Advancing the practice of environmentally and economically sound management of municipal solid waste in North America.
Our Guiding Principle: Local government is responsible for municipal solid waste management, but not necessarily the ownership and/or operation of municipal solid waste management systems.
So there’s no mystery about my feelings for SWANA Executive Director John Skinner’s response to the NSWMA study, the crux of which is:
“Solid waste management decisions must reflect community values and are therefore an essential prerogative of local government. Solid waste management is, first and foremost, strongly grounded in the need to protect public health, safeguard the environment, and conserve and recover material and energy resources. It is not a commodity like soap detergent or cable television that can be left to the whims of short-term profit-and-loss decisions,” adding that, “SWANA certainly supports privatization efforts that are supportive of local government’s public service authorities—but in the absence of that support, privatization will not be successful.”
The full text of SWANA’s response can be viewed at www.mswmanagement.com/the-latest/swana-response-nswma.aspx, but, in our humble opinion, it is public health and safety that sits on the bottommost line of the debate…a responsibility that is not transferable.