Just Don't Ask

When we ask the question, “How are you doing?” we really don't want an answer. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the rules. So occasionally, we become involuntarily trapped by a long response that makes us sorry we ever asked.

When asked about our industry though, I feel compelled to include some perspective. This inevitably leads to its complexities and occasional contradictions.

For example, when asked how most states manage their solid waste, I say “differently,” which usually elicits a “thanks for nothing” look. But if you read this month's cover story, “Red, White and You,” beginning on page 26, you will see that I'm right.

While most states focus on waste diversion of one kind or another, other factors — such as the rate of out-of-state imports in a large state like Michigan or the noticeable number of hazardous wastes generators in little New Hampshire — dramatically affect their waste management plans.

This story provides another good example of the lack of continuity that runs throughout our industry — which, by the way, isn't necessarily bad. Our report shows that states manage their solid waste differently because circumstances vary within them.

In fact, the story illustrates a key point I make when discussing one solid waste “solution” over another: What plays in Peoria may not be appropriate for Poughkeepsie.

When preparing your solid waste plan and choosing your alternatives, ask yourself which ones are appropriate for your community, not whether they have been successful somewhere else.

As you well know, there is no single solution to managing solid waste. And there are no simple solutions to a problem when those creating the problem won't cooperate. Put another way, more waste is generated each year than the next, and until that ends — and don't hold your breath — the best waste management solutions will be more difficult to find.

So, the next time someone asks how you plan to manage the solid waste in your community, say “differently,” especially if you don't want any details.

The author is the editorial director of Waste Age Publications.