SWANA

The Benchmarking of Residential Solid Waste





Publish Date: 2008

Benchmarking can be defined as the systematic process of searching for best practices, innovative ideas, and highly effective operating procedures that lead to superior performance • and then adapting those practices, ideas, and procedures to improve the performance of one’s own organization. Benchmarking has been widely embraced by both the private and public sectors as an essential business practice for continuous performance improvement.


Solid waste collection managers rely on benchmarking data to:


  • Objectively measure the quality and levels of the services they provide.
  • Identify and implement best practices that will enable them to reduce costs and improve services.

The need for benchmarking residential solid waste collection services has long been recognized by solid waste collection system managers. In 1998, the Bureau of Sanitation of the City of Los Angeles conducted a collection services benchmarking study to identify best practices that might help the Bureau reduce costs and improve operating procedures.1 A major conclusion of the study was that:


“The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation collaborates with SWANA to lead an industrywide benchmarking study, which will develop financial performance indicators, with uniform guidelines on how to collect data, for a more accurate benchmarking survey on costs.”


Can local governments measure their costs and performance for residential solid waste collection services in a meaningful way? According to the North Carolina Local Government Performance Measurement Project, the answer is yes.2 This benchmarking project has been collecting and analyzing solid waste collection benchmarking cost and performance data for 16 North Carolina jurisdictions for the past eight years. Importantly, they have been utilizing a full-cost accounting methodology to track and report service costs.


In 2001, a courageous and farsighted group of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) solid waste collection system managers decided to address the industry need for meaningful and comparative benchmarking data by initiating the SWANA Benchmark Project for Residential Solid Waste Collection Services.




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