Written by John Skinner
SWANA’s growth and development over its 50-year history is a testament to the dreams and vision of the early solid waste pioneers that formed the association. Today, SWANA has nearly 8,000 individual members from the public and private sectors, organized into 45 chapters in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean.
Over the years, SWANA members have created a wide range of professional development programs and services to meet their ever-changing needs:
- An extensive training program, including numerous technical courses that are offered at national and chapter events as well as through onsite training, home-study courses, and online electronic courses
- The premier solid waste professional certification program in existence in North America, including certification courses and exams in eight solid waste management disciplines
- An advocacy program that works to influence legislation and regulations at the federal, state, and provincial levels
- Seven Technical Divisions that develop programs for our conferences and symposia, provide faculty for training, run excellence awards programs, issue newsletters, and develop publications
- An Applied Research Foundation that carries out cutting-edge research and widely disseminates the results in the professional literature
- A wide range of annual technical conferences, including five specialty symposia, two training centers, several multichapter regional symposia and many individual chapter conferences
- Equipment and Truck Road-E-Os at the chapter and international level, where drivers, operators, and mechanics demonstrate their professional skills
- E-Sessions, which are online web seminars on current solid waste management topics that are held several times a month throughout the year
- The eLibrary, an online electronic library containing the papers from our conferences and symposia, as well as other important solid waste literature
- Opportunities to learn about solid waste practices worldwide through our national membership in the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA)
- Scholarship and internship programs, student memberships, and a young professionals program to help develop future generations of solid waste management professionals
- Social networking opportunities, including an online membership directory on My SWANA, and SWANA groups on Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook
- Our monthly electronic newsletter, I AM SWANA, and our official journal, MSW Management magazine
- WASTECON, our annual conference and equipment exhibition, which stands out from the crowd as the only conference and exhibition by solid waste professionals for solid waste professionals
Looking back at the changes in solid waste management that have occurred since SWANA’s inception makes you wonder what the next 50 years will have in store. Just from events on the near horizon, it looks like SWANA will have many national and global opportunities and challenges. International efforts to respond to climate change and energy needs could transform national economies and solid waste practices to fit within a low-carbon, renewable energy future. Product stewardship and extended producer responsibility could create new roles for manufacturers and designers in the management of discarded products. Such concepts as waste reduction and zero waste could redefine what we mean by solid waste management. Conversion technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion, and plasma arc could emerge from the drawing boards and provide a whole new suite of waste recovery options.
Regardless of the challenges and opportunities that may come up, there is one thing I know for certain: SWANA members will be leading the innovation, influencing the policies and shaping the future. We know we can learn from each other and can accomplish so much more by working together than we could ever dream of achieving alone. We understand that there is an undeniable strength when we embrace the diverse perspectives and knowledge of thousands of solid waste professionals and focus their talents on improving not only the working environment of our people but also the natural environment of our planet.
John H. Skinner, Ph.D., is the executive director and chief executive officer of the Solid Waste Association of North America.