Our Business is “Picking Up”!

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA Kansas City Office

Solid Waste Management carries much greater responsibility today than when this slogan was first used by trash haulers years ago. Gone are the days of an open dump truck dumping galvanized garbage cans from the curb and hauling the materials to the city dump which was regularly set on fire to burn the debris, abate the stench, and make room for more garbage. Thank goodness!

Members of the APWA Solid Waste Management Committee, and our members who operate solid waste functions in the many agencies across the U.S. and Canada, now find it necessary to be extremely knowledgeable about a vast array of topics. No longer do they only operate packer trucks, dumping them at a designated and certified landfill. Now they must be constantly alert for hazardous materials from a wide variety of sources. Hospital/medical sharps, household chemicals, industrial wastes, as well as the potential for bioterrorism with the disposal of materials found to contain anthrax or any number of other potential hazards, require the utmost caution in disposing of the materials everyone takes for granted.

Monitoring these issues is one of the many responsibilities of the Solid Waste Management Committee. During their regular monthly conference calls, they monitor legislative issues that could impact the collection, disposal, or health/safety concerns that could impact our members. From siting landfills to regulations proposed for ergonomics, the list is lengthy.

One of the major projects for this year’s members has been to develop a publication, tentatively titled “Reclaiming our Landfills into Beneficial Reuses.” Members and volunteers from throughout the industry have written a manual, which gives all the aspects of reclaiming a closed landfill for the community’s good. Watch for this terrific publication during Congress in San Diego in August.

Promoting activities and awareness of America Recycles Day is another major emphasis this year. For several years, recycling was a major thrust and lots of programs were developed as pilot projects. As residents became involved in recycling, markets became less readily available and the push was lessened. After all, who wants to collect lots of stuff no one will buy? While this has been the age-old question from the beginning, new generations have been taught to protect the earth and have adopted recycling as a way of life. Work must be continued to find new markets and to make producers seek cost-effective reuses for the containers they use to package their products.

Many regions have developed specific thrusts for America Recycles Day, held in November each year. Recent programs have targeted electronic products and computers, with big box stores agreeing to take back used or unusable items to dispose of them after harvesting reusable parts. Committee members have spent time addressing how these programs work and how APWA members might make a difference if we all pushed these projects together.

Selection of topics for the upcoming Congress shows a wide variety of issues to be addressed. Demanufacturing and recycling of electronics, single stream collection and processing issues, and a session on the beneficial uses of closed landfills should provide materials that will interest everyone, regardless of whether solid waste is your area of responsibility or not.

This year’s committee is composed of: Karl Graham, Cincinnati, OH, Chair; Members George Crombie, Nashua, NH; Mary Ellen Lea, Columbia, MO; Jim Close, Harrisburg, PA; Ram Tewari, Broward Co., FL; and Keith Hunke, Bismarck, ND; and At-Large Director for the Environment Christine Andersen. Ann Daniels is the staff liaison.

Solid waste issues impact everyone. Stay alert to environmental concerns. Do your part to “reduce, reuse, recycle, and renew.” Even public works departments need to be aware of the opportunities, and responsibilities, available for good stewardship of the environment. Use recycling bins in our facilities; dispose of oil, batteries, hazardous wastes, tires, fluorescent light bulbs, paint, and on and on, just as you expect your residents to do. Set an example for other departments in your agency. Be a leader because it’s the right thing to do!

Ann Daniels can be reached at (800) 848-APWA or at