When SWANA first hooked its Recycling and Landfill Symposia together a while back, I had my doubts as to the fit. But in retrospect I’ve decided that in linking them back-to-back, as SWANA has fashioned for the end of this month, attendees have been offered a wonderful opportunity for meaningful dialog between these two disparate members of the MSW community. The key questions are those of (1) how many attendees will recognize the opportunity and (2) seize it as a steppingstone to better understandings of issues that affect both constituencies.
The central problem both face is funding, and until we figure out viable options for addressing the situation, neither side—and more importantly the public—is going to be well served.
Historically, landfills have been cash cows, not only to other ISWM activities, but often to municipal budgets far removed from waste management. Now, in an era of decreased waste receipts and increased diversion efforts, disposal fees often are unable to cover programs dependant on their largesse. Moreover, the public—much of which remains ignorant of waste management activities and the costs associated with them—is little inclined to endorse increased tip fees as a solution.
The value of SWANA’s Symposia initiative depends on how willing the proponents of these competing activities are to step across the barricades and discuss the issues. Unfortunately, so long as both camps view the situation as a win-or-lose proposition, it’s hard to envision an early resolution to the problems we face. But by its back-to-back agenda in Atlanta, with its “Road to Zero Waste” program (February 25–26), followed by the Landfill Symposium (February 27–28), SWANA is presenting us with a gilt-edged opportunity to move forward.
I’ll be there, looking forward to talking with people from both factions.