PROFILE: Managers Will Wear Many Hats

WW: Describe your service area, amount of waste generated and any relative changes in recent years.

BS: MWA is Iowa's largest integrated solid waste management system providing services to 20 municipalities and one county. It serves approximately 15 percent of Iowa's population. About 400,000 tons of waste per year comes through the landfill gates.

MWA first began as a landfill operation, but, as a result of state-wide solid waste management planning requirements established in 1987, a range of options were developed. In 1989, Iowa mandated significant waste volume reduction goals for all public and private agencies operating a sanitary disposal project.

WW: What recycling and waste reduction programs are you currently directing? What are their goals and the results so far?

BS: Residential programs range from our curbside recycling program, Curb It!, to scrap tire collection, to one-on-one assistance in redirecting usable materials from the landfill. Our Waste Options program is designed to help businesses resolve individual waste management issues and hard-to-handle waste and offer technical recycling assistance. We also offer business waste exchange services in conjunction with Iowa's By Product and Waste Exchange Service. Our newest initiative, Build It! SMART, encourages responsible management of construction and demolition debris.

The goal for all of MWA's programs is to provide convenient options which encourage more people to produce less waste. To date, we have successfully diverted 35 percent of the waste stream from landfill disposal. The ultimate goal is 50-percent reduction by the year 2000.

WW: How does the volatility of the market affect your efforts?

BS: Since all of our programs are voluntary, the economics of recycling markets drive participation in our waste diversion efforts, especially among businesses - almost 70 percent of waste coming to MWA's landfill is commercial waste. If businesses must pay to recycle or reduce waste, they are less inclined to establish programs. If their recyclables have value, the impetus is there to participate.

In a broader sense, markets affect landfill life favorably or unfavorably depending on the ups and downs. That's why it is especially important to participate in efforts to create stable and accessible markets for our customers.

WW: What does the future hold for the municipal solid waste manager in the overall solid waste system?

BS: I foresee the solid waste system moving toward public-private partnerships.

Managers will continually cope with the complexities of regulations in design, permitting and monitoring facilities. It will be imperative that these professionals be creative and flexible in response to a changing industry. All future managers will be strong public administrators, technical experts, financial planners, communication specialists, activists and savvy politicians. They will change hats often...or wear them all at once to ensure the needs of their municipalities and customers are met.