I received an e-mail this morning from my Editorial Advisory Board member, Brian Tippetts, wondering whether we in the waste management industry are spending enough time planning for the future.
I’d like to present some of his thoughts, asking you to respond with yours:
Landfill properties are huge assets; but more important than the landfill itself is that the space can also be used for processing and managing materials that don’t need to be buried. Look at the benefits landfills have:
* People in the waste materials management business know the landfills and their locations.
* Transportation logistics are known.
* Landfills have knowledgeable staff who can readily manage new activities.
* Infrastructure at landfills can readily support additional functions (roads, equipment, energy, utilities).
* Landfills are zoned in a way that would make it easy to do materials management and/or transfer.
* Landfills could easily have synergies with other businesses.
* It’s is much easier to expand activities at a landfill property than start at a new site.
Two consultants gave me their perspectives of the future of solid waste management. Allow me to grossly paraphrase and add some more substance to their thoughts.
As society demands more and more waste diversion from landfills while also focusing on financial austerity:
* There will be a push to maximize collection efficiency through organized collection and uniform services within a collection region (this will reduce costs).
* Landfills will not go away, but they will not be the industry’s cash cows of days past (landfills must transform themselves into waste management industrial business parks).
* And to organize efficient collection and waste diversion, local government will have to play a larger leadership role in planning (local government’s role will grow).
My question is: What types of solid waste professionals will it take to lead us into our next era?
Brian raises several issues ripe for discussion, and while all of us are involved in “the daily grind,” I see it as imperative we set aside time to dialog with our staffs, governing boards, elected officials, vendors, and other waste professionals to plan for a future that promises to be different from where we are today.