SWANA

Facing a Political Challenge with a Political Response





Publish Date: 1992

One of the most difficult political facts facing local government elected officials is municipal solid waste management (MSWM). Everyday elected officials through their policy, administrative and MSWM professional staffs face decisions which are guaranteed to be politically unpopular. Siting, increasing rates, building new facilities, recycling versus combustion versus landfill -- all of these issues raise their ugly heads to make life unpleasant for the local government official. Consequently, elected officials search for answers which will make the political facts of MSWM life a bit easier.


One approach is to try to "ship the stuff out of the jurisdiction". This approach is being met with increasing resistance from many political jurisdictions who don't want to be "someone else's dumping ground". This approach is really begging the issue of not taking responsibility for solid waste generated within a jurisdictions. Further, when this decision is made, it is almost irreversible and local governments who follow this course of action have lost control of their own MSWM destiny; a serious loss.


Local government elected officials need not be afraid of MSWM technologies and systems. Today, with existing and new regulations, we have the basis for determining design and operational requirements. Today, we have the technologies and systems to meet regulatory requirements, and protect human health and the environment. Consequently, officials need not make their decisions to get someone else to make the trash go away based on technology concerns. Rather, their decisions should be directed toward the question, "What is the best public policy for managing our municipal solid waste?".


When answering this question, many local governments are turning to regionalization. Regionalization provides a number of benefits, the most apparent being:

  • economies of scale
  • spreading the political risk
  • placing MSWM on a business like basis
  • maintaining local government oversight and control
  • controlling one's own destiny
  • doing the right thing at home


Establishing regional systems is a complicated process. The institutional arrangements, funding approaches, organizational structures and operations are the key steps to success. This SWANA publication is a series of case studies on regionalizing MSWM where these key steps are examined. SW ANA, through its Center for Regionalization of MSWM, has prepared these case studies to assist local governments in planning and implementing regional MSWM systems. It is the hope of the Association, that through information such as this, that local governments will address their responsibilities in MSWM and take control of their own destinies in MSWM, and embrace regionalization as a part of assuming those responsibilities .




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