Taking the Reins

The last days of the year typically are a very quiet time, as seemingly the entire country goes on vacation. However, the end of 2006 brought some notable news for the waste industry.

First of all, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) announced that they are part of a coalition calling for an e-waste recycling rate of “nearly 100 percent” within the next 10 years and the “development of a comprehensive nationwide framework that will ensure that these goods are reused or recycled.” The Integrated Waste Services Association and the National Recycling Coalition are the other members of the alliance.

In unveiling their partnership, the organizations issued a call for “electronic product manufacturers; recyclers; retailers; federal, state and local governments; environmental groups, trade associations and other stakeholders to work together to attain this goal.”

The coalition is urging that governments provide financial incentives, such as tax credits, to consumers, recyclers, manufacturers and retailers for recycling discarded e-waste. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has proposed such legislation in the past.

“NSWMA and its members are committed to working with other associations to ensure that recycling electronics products does not become an unfunded mandate for local governments or their private sector recycling contractors,” said Bruce J. Parker, president and CEO of NSWMA, in a press release.

John Skinner, executive director and CEO of SWANA, voiced his enthusiasm for the partnership. “I am very pleased that the various recycling and solid waste management associations were able to reach some common ground on this important issue,” he said in a statement. “Perhaps this will encourage congressional action on financial incentives to increase e-scrap recycling.”

In other news, the Energy Security Leadership Council, of which Waste Management CEO David Steiner is a member, in late December released its recommendations on how to significantly reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil. Of particular interest to the waste industry is the report's recommendation that fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks be strengthened annually, with the use of federal subsidies as needed. The report also urges increasing the supply of and demand for biofuels, and increasing access to oil and natural gas reserves on the Outer Continental Shelf. The entire 64-page report can be downloaded at www.secureenergy.org.

It is heartening to see members of the waste industry work to address the problems of e-waste and foreign oil. Despite often being invisible to the general public, the industry is showing that it can provide valuable and high-profile leadership for some of society's biggest problems.

The author is the editor of Waste Age