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SWANA, NWRA Split on Nonprofit’s Municipal Waste Contracting Guide

The NWRA is disappointed in what it sees as a “gross mischaracterization of the private waste management industry,” while SWANA praised the useful guidance for local governments included in the report.

In the Public Interest (ITPI), a nonprofit that does research in both policy and advocacy, has released Is Your Waste Contract Putting Your Municipality At Risk?, a best practices guide for municipal waste contracting, which has drawn divergent responses from the industry’s two major associations.

An official with the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) said the association is disappointed in what it sees as a “gross mischaracterization of the private waste management industry,” while the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) praised the useful guidance for local governments included in the report.

For the guide, ITPI examined and compared contracts between city governments and private waste companies in 10 U.S. cities to create recommendations for improving municipal waste contracts.

“We thought the waste and recycling sector was a good sector to analyze because most of the work in the industry is contracted out across the country,” says In the Public Interest Executive Director Donald Cohen. “We support responsible contracting practices and after reading through the contracts we gained access to, we were able to come up with the rubric for the guide, which will help government agencies and service providers create better contracts.”

The guide focuses on four main categories: municipal control, good management, workforce stability and environmental protection. The municipal control category includes information on clear pricing, disposal plans and fleet standards; good management highlights complaint resolution and consequences for performance issues; work stability covers labor requirements; and environmental protection includes details on education, waste audits and routing requirements.

“For this industry and others, we think that government agencies often don’t do a good enough job in contract development and contract management,” says Cohen. “Developing and managing contracts is hard work. It requires skills to do it right, and it’s costly to do it right. With this guide, we hope that government agencies, both policymakers and policy doers, will follow the tips to help strengthen their contracts.”

While this guide aims to serve as a tool for waste haulers and government agencies, one of the waste and recycling industry’s major associations—the NWRA—views the guide in a different light.

“NWRA is disappointed at the gross mischaracterization of the private waste management industry in ITPI’s press release promoting its guide,” says Anne Germain, NWRA’s director of waste and recycling technology. “The hardworking men and women representing hundreds of companies across the country work daily to pick up the detritus left by the rest of us and do not deserve this. Thousands of private-public partnership arrangements exist across the country, which result in excellent service for the overwhelming majority.

“NWRA has long recognized that changes in contracting for municipal waste services is desirable and has taken numerous steps to address transparent, effective contracts that will serve both parties, protecting public interests and developing sustainable contracts,” Germain adds.

In 2015, in conjunction with SWANA, NWRA developed a Joint Advisory on Designing Contracts for Processing Municipal Recyclables. And in July 2016, two attachments were released to supplement the original document and to provide tools to help structure better recycling programs. NWRA has since continued its work on developing contracting guidance and is currently in the process of developing a document on collection contracts.

SWANA, meanwhile, said it believes the guide features some helpful advice for local governments.

“The INPI report contains useful guidance for local governments that provides best practices concerning contracting for solid waste services. SWANA has recently been more active in this area by developing guidance on recycling processing contracts in conjunction with NWRA,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman says. “We agree that waste-related services are critical municipal services that require local governments to take reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure that their interests, and the interests of their residents, are adequately protected. These include provisions that ensure continuity of service, protecting the environment and providing for the health and safety of workers and the communities being served.”

If you have any feedback on the released guide, please leave a comment in the section below or tweet us @waste360.

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