PROFILE: Abernethy Plans To Expand Services SWANA's Services

WW: What are your goals as president of SWANA?

JA: My primary concern is the continued growth of the organization. We are working toward in-creasing membership and the number of chapters as well as professional de-velopment op-portunities for our members through our training programs and technical re-search.

WW: How have you seen the industry develop since you began your career?

JA: It has radically changed. When I first started, solid waste was probably 10 or 15 percent of a local government's budget and time. Now, it is probably 120 percent.

We are seeing more planning activities, which are becoming much more difficult with the in-creasing number of players. We need to determine the function of each player, including who the de-cision-makers will be, and the basic terms and standards for solid waste management.

The industry is also seeing a lot more public involvement in determining what solid waste managers should be accomplishing. A central question is how solid waste managers can comply with regulations and meet all the various ob-jectives we are facing, many of which are competing. Somehow, we have to find a balance between the costs of putting the systems in place and the benefits that can be accrued to them.

There is also an increasing em-phasis on accountability, regulatory compliance and uniform standards of operation. Subtitle D was just the first set of regulations for landfill operation. We are going to see regulations throughout the en-tire solid waste field.

WW: What are the major issues facing public-sector waste professionals today?

JA: The paramount issue is flow control. We are working for a congressional decision on flow control that will also help to define the future role that local governments will have in planning and managing their waste systems.

Another important issue is in-creasing understanding and awareness of what solid waste management needs will be in the future. With states issuing mandates to divert large percentages of waste from landfills, we will see a lot more public/private partnerships and a lot of new players, especially on the manufacturing side.

The industry also needs to de-sign cost-effective integrated programs that are environmentally safe.

WW: How will the relationship between the public and private sector change during the next five years?

JA: This is a very difficult question because there are several possible scenarios depending on proposed federal legislation and future court rulings, but my best guess is that we will see more public-private partnerships, especially in diversion programs such as green waste, commercial recycling and special waste handling.

I also think we will see contracts based on performance standards as much as cost in order to meet recycling/diversion goals and environmental standards. The public sector will probably become much more entrepreneurial in its ap-proach to service delivery.

It also appears that the public sector will be more involved in re-gional approaches to solving solid waste problems, which means a greater separation of the management and planning function from the service delivery function.

such as materials recovery facilities operation, collection systems and recycling.

The next major regulatory effort will be in reduction of air emissions.

WW: What is the role of an association like SWANA in the industry?

JA: SWANA educates the public; acts as a clearinghouse for technical studies; develops industry standards; acts as a forum for industry discussions; provides training, certification and conflict resolution; and acts as an advocate for local governments in solid waste planning and management.

SWANA has been working on an aggressive strategic plan to prepare it for the 21st century. We have taken a serious look at who SWANA serves as a customer base and as a membership base and where there is potential for growth, both within the industry and in new areas.

I believe SWANA has become the industry leader in the development of standards for good solid waste principals and practices.