It was 1961, the dawn of an era of rapid and significant social, political, and technological changes.
The Soviets send the first man in space. John F. Kennedy is elected president—the first Catholic holding the office—while the man who would become the first black president, Barack Obama, was born.
In 1961, Kennedy is confronted with the Bay of Pigs invasion and also in that year establishes the Peace Corps. The American civil rights movement takes shape; meanwhile, race riots erupt across the country. The Berlin Wall is constructed. The Cold War heats up; school children practice for the worst-case scenario by diving under their desks in practice drills.
And while it’s usually not found in history timelines, six sanitation superintendents in the Los Angeles basin—led by Grant Flint—gather together over concerns about safety because they had no mechanism to share ideas.
Their initial networking effort would come to change the face of solid waste management and launch a trade association that would elevate the industry’s knowledge base, practices, and image.
Around the same time, Lanny Hickman—who would eventually become the leader of the fledgling effort as it grew into an association—took a job with the US Public Health Service (USPHS) commissioned corps. He heard about the sanitation workers’ efforts and was awestruck.
“A sanitation guy could call somebody halfway across the country and say, ‘I’ve got a problem,’ and people shared information,” he says. “It was all public agencies, so they weren’t hurting the bottom line by doing that.”
The six sanitation supervisors would start meeting on a regular basis while reaching out to others to join their effort. They formalized their efforts in 1962, incorporated and created a logo.
Since its founding, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has offered its members opportunities to enrich their professional and personal lives through networking, training, research and development, and advocacy work.
It has provided the support members need to embrace and celebrate the pride that comes in working in a profession that elevates the health and well being of the environment, to say nothing of those who live in it. In contrast, there are parts of the world where improper sanitation practices lead to illness and disease.
With the association staff providing the backbone, the collaborative volunteer efforts of its chapter members have created a strong body of people who serve humanity as stewards of the environment.
Back in the early 1960s, they were known as the “garbage men” who picked up “trash.” As they organized, there were disagreements among them over their very own identity.
“They argued over the name of their group and finally agreed on Governmental Refuse Collection and Disposal Association [GRCDA],” Hickman says.
GRCDA, as implied by its name, was limited to government employees, non-private sector people.
“They realized not too far along the way they would step over on the private sector side, so they opened it up to the private sector, but they did not allow them to hold office,” Hickman says. “But they could be directors.”
Word spread north from Southern California.
“The guys up in the middle part and northern part of California started hearing about this and kept coming down to their meetings,” says Hickman. “Pretty soon the concept of chapters began to emerge. They formed the Southern California chapter. They had a Northern California chapter and split into two—the Northern Chapter and the Central Chapter—and then the Southern chapter.”
A membership association is only as good as its chapters, for it is the volunteer chapter efforts that extend the association’s reach and influence into the field on a day-to-day basis. The chapter effort continued to grow, and before long, the group started an annual conference and equipment show. Eventually, its location would circulate throughout North America, with various chapters serving as hosts and drawing attention to local solid waste needs.
“The next thing you know, there was an Oregon chapter and a Washington chapter. The guys up in Vancouver, BC, heard about them, and they started a chapter in Canada,” says Hickman.
By 1978, there were more than 10 chapters—still all of them were on the West coast. But as the saying goes, what starts in California usually migrates east. Yet it would be in the East—specifically Capitol Hill—where the association would set up its headquarters in order to be close to the politicians whose decisions would impact the industry.
Soon, chapters started popping up in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Meanwhile, Hickman was performing a number of duties for USPHS. He was one of the earliest hires to work in a solid waste program. After a stint in the personnel office where he recruited engineers, he followed his desire to return to the technical side and ran programs that interfaced with solid waste practitioners.
“I ran a technical systems program, a training program, and a survey analysis program, and we interacted with the American Public Works Association (APWA) and GRCDA. They only had about 800 members, but the dedication and commitment of those guys out there was just unbelievable,” he says.
Hickman retired from the USPHS in 1978, but he didn’t retire from work altogether. He had an interest in serving as the GRCDA executive director, and he had the knowledge and contacts, leveraging relationships he had with the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, and state associations to do the job.
“I had gone into consulting right after I retired and had a pretty good size list of companies, and I represented their interests in Washington,” Hickman notes. “I knew everybody. GRCDA took a gamble on me, and I took a gamble on them.”
He was given a half-time position, boxes of files, and a checkbook with $13,000 in it.
“We opened an office in Washington and the thing just kept growing,” Hickman says. “When I left, they had more than 38 chapters with about 7,000 members and actually had money in the bank.
“I told the board of directors of GRCDA when I went to work with them that my target was to supplant the APWA and the National Solid Wastes Management Association [NSWMA], which represented the private sector in our field, as the lead technical association in solid waste management. NSWMA is a great organization, too, but their mission is not the same.”
As GRCDA’s executive director, Hickman focused his efforts on what he did best professionally and liked to do the most personally: helping local governments.
Meanwhile, his wife Kay, who would take on several roles in GRCDA, set up a work center in the family room where she and their children would put labels on the newsletter.
It has been that volunteer effort, starting with the Hickman family and extending throughout the organization, that has made GRCDA what it is today, Hickman points out.
“I spent a lot of time recruiting volunteers to do stuff,” Hickman says. “I kept telling the staff we’re only going to do as much as we can get the members to do with us, because we don’t own this thing, we’re stewards. We’re keeping it for the next generation of members. The ‘kids’ bought into that pretty well, and I think they still do.”
One example Hickman holds up as an exemplary volunteer is Steve Lippy, who helped form the Mid-Atlantic chapter.
“I gave Steve a two-page handbook that told him what to do and how to do it,” Hickman says. “He took it and ran with that. He’s very determined about how he wants to do things, as a lot of us are. He carried that Mid-Atlantic chapter and even when he went through all of the chair positions and ran our show in Baltimore, he continued to be a dominant member.”
There are only a few years in which Lippy was not working for his chapter or SWANA, Hickman says.
“The same is true for Steve’s involvement with the International Board of Directors, where he served several terms representing his chapter,” Hickman adds. “Steve has represented SWANA on the American Academy of Environmental Engineers Board of Trustees. He has been a key contributor to the WASTECON events held in his chapter area. He has been a constant, year in and year out, in his commitment to SWANA’s mission. Steve personifies the term ‘volunteerism’: the act of volunteering one’s time or services for a cause.”
Hickman credits one of his hires, Lori Swain, with the chapter development growth.
“She came to us with two degrees and great people management skills. Our organization evolved, and so we had a chief operating officer in her. Now she’s got her own association,” he says.
There had been a lot of great pride among the chapters, demonstrated in part by their offering of state flags to the association they received their charters.
The chapter flags were part of the SWANA landscape since 1978. As chapter growth surged, the flags became more noticeable.
That’s due to Tim Hunt. Hunt, an active member of the local APWA chapter became a GRCDA member in 1975 with the help of a friend, Ben Warner. He was the driving force behind the formation of the Florida Sunshine chapter in 1978, the first in the Southeast.
Hunt was an active member of the Kiwanis Club, where flags hold special meaning. He also was a 25-year Army Reservist who had been the color sergeant for flag ceremonies at Fort Ord. Hunt proposed that flags play a more integrated role in GRCDA/SWANA activities.
“It began modestly with a parade of the flags carried into the ballroom by representatives of the various chapters at the opening of the annual meeting. At that time, the host chapter for the annual meeting flag was placed in a place of honor location directly behind the US and Canadian flags. All other flags were placed in alphabetical order,” says Hickman.
In time, the flags were collected by chapter flag bearers and taken to the entrance of the grand opening of the equipment show on Tuesday morning. Finally, the flags appeared at the annual awards banquet, which was the official closing of the annual meeting.
“More ceremony emerged when at the end of the evening of the awards banquet, the next year’s host chapter moved its flag from its alphabetical location to the place of honor just behind the US and Canadian flags,” says Hickman. “It was a grand scene at the official opening of the annual meeting, when to the stately and regal cadence of the pipes; the flags were brought in and placed on the platform behind the head table.”
While the chapter growth spread the mission of GRCDA in quantitative ways, the establishment of a trade show that would become known as WASTECON launched the mission in qualitative ways that would also include training and certification.
Credit Bob Lawrence for that. Lawrence was one of the major players behind the formation of what would be the Oregon Beaver chapter.
“Bob Lawrence’s contributions to GRCDA are legendary,” notes Hickman. “He served two terms as the international president. He was the driving force behind the formation of the Northern California Chapter.
“His most important contribution, however, is what is now WASTECON. Serving as the international seminar chairman, his vision of a conference and exposition just for solid waste people carried the meeting from ballrooms in small hotels to major exhibit halls in major cities.”
Lawrence would take on many leadership roles in GRCDA/SWANA. The Lawrence Lecturer award was established in his honor to recognize those who have made significant industry contributions.
Hickman has observed with amusement over the years as the words used to describe that which is thrown away change from garbage to refuse to solid waste to a renewable energy source.
“They’re just pandering,” Hickman says of solid waste facilities that use what they consider to be more “acceptable” terminology. “Call it what you want. A rose is still a rose by any other name.”
Yet Hickman says he’ll take the credit for embedding the term solid waste into the phraseology.
“The Congress passed the Solid Waste Disposal Act in 1965. It was called solid waste—it was not called refuse disposal,” says Hickman. “We refused to use the word garbage in any of our publications or correspondence. We started talking about nomenclature. We started talking about defining what we do in engineering terms.”
Hickman says GRCDA would give a planning draft to the states, and they would respond as a “refuse branch.”
“We’d come back and say it’s not the ‘refuse’ branch, it’s the ‘solid waste’ branch,” says Hickman. “The training programs we instituted and the certification has caught on so well that all of that has helped change the image.”
So has the work of the federal government.
“The US Public Health Service solid waste program started defining some of this stuff, doing time and motion studies on collection, and it started to take off as a scientific, technical-based activity,” Hickman says of solid waste collection. “That got us the trucks we have and the landfills and the fancy
At the time the federal solid waste disposal act was passed, there existed a half-million open-burning dumps, Hickman says.
“Today, we have 102,000 well-engineered sanitary landfills,” he adds. “It took a long time to get there, but institutions don’t move rapidly. They gradually evolve.”
Hickman says he’s cognizant that he was viewed as “anti-resource recovery.”
“I’m a pragmatic guy,” he says. “I said it is not a holy grail that we’re doing here with this recycling—we’re managing trash, for heaven’s sake, and it’s just another way to get rid of it. I would tell people if we’re going to spend $65 a ton burying it in the landfills, spend $65 a ton and recycle it, usually you have to pay somebody to take the stuff away. I think economic realities set in. They’re still managing solid waste. It goes out the other end—it becomes a natural resource, a recovered resource.”
Yet it hasn’t been just about the waste being managed—the industry’s history is also a reminder of the changes in the human labor it has taken to do so.
“Probably the most dominant strike by solid waste workers was in Memphis back in the 1960s, early 1970s,” Hickman points out. “I was talking with the sanitation superintendent in Memphis and he invited me to visit. They have three people there who are in their 40-plus years as members of the sanitation department and they were there when they had a strike.”
The strike is chronicled in a book—and movie—titled At the River I Stand.
“They went on strike over very simple things,” Hickman says. “They were forced to work in the rain, and our industry, from a safety standpoint, discouraged collection service during this time. A couple of their guys got inside the garbage truck to get out of the rain, and they somehow got trapped into the packer and it killed them.
“That was coupled with all of the other distresses. Of the 1,300 sanitation workers, all black, none was in a supervisory position. They were all supervised by what used to be the overseers in the plantation.”
The workers went on a 65-day strike that would come to be remembered as one of the pivotal events in the Civil Rights Movement, culminating with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and with President Lyndon Johnson’s order for Undersecretary of Labor James Reynolds to settle the strike.
“They were low on the totem pole,” Hickman says of the sanitation workers. “They did not have programs to support them. They did not have training to help them. It was the second most dangerous business in America at that time—mining being the most dangerous. It was all done on the backs of men, mostly black men.”
Thanks in part to the association’s efforts, the labor force and technology have changed all of that, Hickman points out.
“Another thing that has changed dramatically is workers are tossing cans in the back and they get in and drive the truck for awhile and then they rise to the level of superintendents. We gave them the management training to do that.”
While the labor force had its own challenges, so did Hickman as GRCDA’s executive director.
“The biggest challenge was to get the members to understand it was a business,” he says. “It was not the kind of business that closes down factories and lays people off, but it is a business where the costs kept going up because the technology was changing and the labor work force was changing.”
Part of operating GRCDA as a business meant hiring a marketing director who would make a commission on top of a salary, Hickman says, adding it was a tough sell (the marketing director would be the one who came up with the name WASTECON for the trade show).
“Many members—particularly ones that were running authorities and special purpose districts—were running real businesses, because they were self-funded through the fees they collected,” Hickman says. “They had a lot more business acumen than just the ‘born and bred’ employee—it was tough to get them thinking it was a business.
“The mission statement I helped write was that our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and economical solid waste management services to people who generate the solid waste. To do that, you’ve got to have trained people. You’ve got to have people who take pride in their work and who are smart enough to get the job done.”
Hickman says when he first got into the industry, “there were a lot of guys working in the sanitation and solid waste operations who were doing a hell of a job, but they had no prestige in the community.”
Nor did they have the training to be able to look a city council member in the eye and communicate that operations should be conducted in a different way, Hickman says. GRCDA/SWANA training helped to develop those skills, he adds.
“I would not demean those guys, because the guys who started GRCDA were those kinds of guys,” Hickman says. “They didn’t come out of a university with an engineering degree or a marketing degree or an MBA. They were the ‘salt of the earth’ and they had the idea and they knew what they wanted to do with it.”
Another challenge that had continued from the beginning was the organization’s name. In 1990, GRCDA became SWANA.
“It was painful trying to change the GRCDA name,” says Hickman. “It took us a few years to get that idea across. I had a half-dozen guys who were with me all of the way. A successful executive director needs to have people who sign on with what he wants and what they want. It’s the same as the solid waste superintendent or sanitation superintendent—he or she has to have the support of the town council or he or she is going to have trouble getting his or her programs going the way he or she wants them to do.”
Hickman says his crowning achievement in directing the GRCDA/SWANA was the establishment of the training and certification programs.
“That’s the foundation of what the association does,” he says. “That’s what they can hang their hat up on. The training and certification programs have always had the most impact.”
Hickman recalls being approached in airports by someone who recognized him as an instructor for a Manager of Landfill Operations course.
“They’d tell me they were using the training they got in their operations back home,” Hickman says. “It was always wonderful to hear that. Now we’ve got a guy who’s been trained and certified and he’s a candidate to carry on the good work. That’s what I take the most pride in.”
Hickman also relished the politics.
“I enjoyed messing around with the politicians up on Capitol Hill and the regulators,” he says. “We had some very great successes. When I went to work for them, I spent the first year talking to all of the people I knew in Washington.”
Hickman says there’s an old saying about leaving a woodpile higher than when you find it.
“That’s happened to me twice in my career—once was in my work with the federal government in the solid waste program. Everything I did with GRCDA, I did in the federal program, but it was more hands-on. It was great working with people.”
As a hands-on manager, Hickman had a great deal of interaction with the GRCDA staff.
“I loved the staff; they were just wonderful,” he says, adding with a chuckle that he “taught” many of them how to drink scotch.
“We hired a lot of young people right out of college. The first thing I discovered is they were all eager and willing to work, but they didn’t know how to work,” he says. “When you go to college, you take a course. They give you a syllabus and tell you what they’re going to cover and in what time.
“There’s no job that has a syllabus. They may have a manual. I could throw something on a desk, but sometimes the person had no idea how to do it.”
The staff would be a mix of technical and non-technical people. Hickman enjoyed teaching them about hard work and watching some of them launch off into their own endeavors.
“I’d send the staff out to take courses that we taught because they wound up teaching some of them—at least the soft part of the course,” says Hickman. “We always used real experts with the technical side.
“They traveled with me and were all at the WASTECON show. They dealt with the members. I felt seriously that’s who we were working for: the members.”
Hickman says when he first came onboard, “the GRCDA members were always hitting on the private sector side. I felt we shouldn’t be expecting the private sector side to be picking up the tab all of the time.”
Hickman says he operated the association based on experiences he had that he did not like when he was a member of other associations.
“I thought there was a better way to do some of that stuff,” he says.
Hickman also would help pick up the costs for an employee’s education if it was apparent that by doing so, that employee would have much to offer the association.
Case in point: Chris Voell.
“I knew his father, Tony, who was the chairman of the Hazardous Waste Committee,” Hickman says. “We got a hazardous waste grant that we needed somebody to work on. I told Tony I was looking for someone. He told me he had a son who was trying to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up.”
Hickman interviewed and hired Chris Voell, who would become an important member of the organization.
“He grew in stature as far as his skills, and he came in one day and asked me how he could get to be the head of technical services,” says Hickman. “I told him he had to go to college and get a degree. We sent him to the University of Maryland and he stayed on. By the time I left, he was the head of technical services.”
Though some may not agree with Hickman’s methods, Hickman says his philosophy about budgets was that they’re meant to be spent, not “worshipped.”
Chris Voell is now the national program manager–AgSTAR for the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change Division.
Voell had spent 13 years at GRCDA/SWANA. He started on June 1, 1986, with GRCDA with a staff of three at the age of 21 and left the organization, which by then became SWANA, in April 1999 with a staff of 27.
Hickman fostered an atmosphere that helped to create positive relationships among staff and members.
“The thousands of members I had the pleasure of working with and for were a true blessing,” he says. “Actually liking the members you work for, and believing in the work they had been charged with completing, kept me with the organization for so long. SWANA is a shining example of how any nonprofit organization can truly change an industry for the better. I'm glad I was able to play a part in that, and wish SWANA another successful 50 years.”
|Photo: GARY BRUNS
A 1969 view of the Washington County East Oakdale “Lake Jane” landfi ll, the fi rst permitted solid waste landfi ll (SW-1) in Minnesota. Because of groundwater contamination, the site became a superfund cleanup site and is now in the Minnesota Closed Landfi ll Program administered by the MPCA.
Hickman also credits N.C. Vasuki, former chief executive officer of the Delaware Waste Authority, as a “very dominant influence in the association in the latter half of the time I was there”.
Vasuki would play a key role to the service of GRCDA for some 15 years, including a stint as its president, conceiving the idea of the Applied Research Foundation, and helping to form the Mid-Atlantic chapter.
“The beauty of this organization is that these members want to do these things because they see the value of it,” notes Hickman. “They see what a chapter can do with the exchange of information. They can have an influence on state legislation. We did not come in from Silver Spring, MD, and try to drive legislation through their state. That was a chapter responsibility.
“The more perceptive members understood that. They can be a vital force as a chapter and they can be a vital force of 40 or 50 chapters as a united group, working for the good side of solid waste management.”
Hickman points to the Florida Sunshine chapter, formed by Tim Hunt, as an example. It would become a blueprint for many GRCDA issues. At the time the chapter’s formation, Florida was leading the country with more waste-to-energy plants than any other state.
The state also required lined landfills for MSW, although not yet up to future Subtitle D standards. The chapter also was an early leader in developing formal training for landfill operators until it became a regulatory requirement in 1988. Several prominent members from the public and consulting sectors wrote the Landfill Operator Short Course.
“It’s just amazing that these people do these things,” says Hickman. “I’m proud of them.”
Under Hickman’s leadership, GRCDA/SWANA also advanced throughout the years in providing more extensive technical training and governance (see timeline story elsewhere in this issue for details).
Governance included the development of an International Executive Committee and International Board of Directors and the establishment as a 501c3 organization. Awards programs were established to recognize exemplary programs. GRCDA began advocacy efforts with respect to federal legislation.
Technical committees were formed to focus on specific industry needs. Surveys assessed members’ needs; staff-developed manuals helped them execute their programs. Resources such as a technical library were developed and made available to the membership.
Chapters would join to host regional symposia.
Hickman says most of the credit for GRCDA/SWANA’s accomplishments during his time of leadership from 1978 to 1996 goes to the staff.
“It couldn’t have been done without those folks and the willingness of people to stay with it as a volunteer and to do what was right,” he says. “There are a lot of people like that out there if you can just find them. It’s the most fabulous job to have—the executive director of a really good association.
“I could have done anything I wanted. But they place trust in you and you place trust in them and you’re a steward to them. Just like I thought I was a steward when I was with the federal program. They had a great impact on me and I hope I had some impact on a few people myself. I think I have.”
In 1996, Hickman passed the baton to John Skinner, who became SWANA’s next executive director and CEO.
In 1996, Skinner, the CEO designate, stated at the International Board’s annual meeting that he viewed creating unity in the association as his chief job through providing leadership, inspiration, and trust with democracy and transparency. He said there would be no hidden agendas; he’d continually upgrade the quality of management systems, develop and lead a staff that is innovative, be quality- and service-oriented, and engender member respect as well as support the International Board.
Before taking over the helm of SWANA, Skinner was the president of the International Solid Waste Association, with his term ending in October 1996. He served as past president for two years.
On the foundation laid by Hickman, the Skinner years were launched with the establishment of the Grant H. Flint International Scholarships Awards program to promote education and professional development.
Another major program established in 1996 to benefit young people was the SWANA Lanny and Kay Hickman Internship Program. The funds were established in 1998 to honor Lanny and Kay, who retired as meetings director, for their many years of service to the association and the field of solid waste management.
The program provides an opportunity for selected college and university students to integrate classroom skills with a supervised work experience including but not limited to investigative and analytical research, writing brief documents, and the development of technical reports.
Chapters would continue to join the fold. In the year Skinner took the helm, Kentucky, Nevada, and Arkansas were approved as provisional chapters. The International Board and Executive Committee evaluation process was being considered. Technical policies were being consolidated. The technical division chapter liaisons were being put in place for first time.
The Senior Executive Seminar was held for the first time in 1997 and has continued as a successful event. Another program of note is the Executive Committee’s Strategic Planning/E-Business Strategy. Its goal is to provide a series of member benefits online through online training courses, online E-Sessions (web seminars), an online membership directory, an E-library, an online jobs directory, a professional services directory, online registration for SWANA events, online membership application and renewal, online balloting, online marketing, online services for chapters, online technical division forums, and online policy development and governance.
Training courses would come to take a more significant role and over time would be offered through a variety of electronic media.
The SWANA Applied Research Foundation (ARF) was founded in 2001 to fulfill SWANA’s mission of “advancing the practice of economically and environmentally sound MSW management” by conducting collectively funded and defined applied research projects that address pressing solid waste issues identified by its subscribers.
ARF, headed by Jeremy O’Brien, is funded by member jurisdictions and other organizations through an annual subscription fee that amounts to a little more than a “penny per ton” of the solid waste collected or managed annually through their systems.
Through ARF research, SWANA members would learn several “on-the-spot” lessons in solid waste management as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake that devastated Haiti.
In 2005, ARF released the report, Hurricane Katrina Disaster Debris Management: Lessons Learned from State and Local Governments, immediately following the hurricane. ARF compiled a report detailing effective local government disaster debris management procedures and policies. The report was provided free of charge to the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.
Five years later, ARF published Municipal Solid Waste Collection Needs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Following the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, ARF formed a SWANA Haiti Response Team to assist the local solid waste collection agency in Port-au-Prince in responding to the dire MSW and disaster debris management problems resulting from the quake.
After the turn of the century, SWANA focused many of its efforts on legislative advocacy in such areas as federal tax credits for the utilization of landfill gas in the final comprehensive energy bill.
During the first decade of the 21st century, SWANA drastically changed its method of communicating information to members by incorporating the new eLibrary and eSessions into the fold.
In 2007, SWANA created a Body of Knowledge (BOK) to identify the critical skills and knowledge required for managers operating in specific disciplines.
The first BOK developed was that for the Manager of Landfill Operations (MOLO).
In 2010, all exams were edited to include metric measurements, a Canadian-specific metric version was completed for MOLO, and a Spanish version of the MOLO exam for US and metric was completed.
Chapter partnering is another program with ongoing improvements. The program’s intent is to offer training opportunities at the regional/local level, build visibility for SWANA and chapters, increase membership, certify more solid waste professionals, and generate revenue for the chapter. SWANA and the chapters participate in a revenue sharing partnership. SWANA sells training materials at a reduced price negotiated each year.
Contract training is an offshoot of the chapter partnering and was rebranded in 2011 as SWANA Training@Work. The program’s intent is to expand training beyond SWANA training centers at major conferences and symposia, build visibility for SWANA and chapters, increase membership, certify more solid waste professionals, and generate revenue.
SWANA Training@Work has two options: in-house training and onsite training.
SWANA began offering certification courses via webinar in 2011 with MOLO, Recycling and Composting.
Over the years, SWANA has had partnerships and joint certifications with several industry associations. The US Composting Council is a joint sponsor of the managing composting programs exam.
The North American Hazardous Materials Association is a joint sponsor of the HHW/CESQG collection facility course and exam. The Construction Materials Recycling Association is a joint sponsor of the managing construction and demolition materials course and exam.
In 2011/2012, SWANA established a new process for exams. A psychometrician is expected to review all exams and deliver a report on their validity and reliability. A professional item writer is expected to work with SWANA’s faculty to create a new bank of questions for each exam so that they are fair, valid, reliable, and defensible. The rollout date for the new exams for MOLO, C&D, Collections and Transfer Station is WASTECON 2012.
Skinner says there are several elements of SWANA growth under his leadership of which he is proud. Primary is the continued membership growth.
“Even through the recession, our membership held and is now around 8,000 members,” he says.
Another is the shift in SWANA’s training delivery to include online training.
“The change in the Internet and communications in the late 1990s and early 2000 brought all of that about,” he says. “In addition to our classroom training, we now provide a range of electronic training opportunities ranging from web seminars which we do on a weekly basis to full courses we’re doing electronically, so that’s a very significant shift.”
Another aspect is continued chapter growth and the increase in chapter involvement.
“Early on, we realized we could train a lot more people if we had the chapters delivering the training where we would provide them with the training courses, give them the appropriate faculty member to teach it, and they could then teach the course locally,” he says. “It’s much less costly to their attendees because they don’t have to travel to a remote location and stay in a hotel. We are able to deliver the training to our members through the chapters at a much more affordable cost.”
Hickman’s advice for SWANA’s next 50 years is “don’t forget the basics.
“There’s a new generation that comes into solid waste just like everything else,” he says. “They’re going to have to be trained. If you don’t want them going the wrong way, you’ve got to help the professionals do the job they have to do. I don’t think the mission should change. How they do it, of course, does.”
That is accomplished through training, education, certification, validation, and recognition, he says.
“That’s what makes a professional organization,” he adds.