Waste Joins The Net Set

Solid waste professionals are meeting the information age head-on. Under a constant barrage of regulatory requirements and financial constraints, they know that locating information quickly is critical to their jobs. It's appropriate, therefore, that the industry has a thriving presence on the World Wide Web. (See "A Brief History" on page 40 and "The Web's Workings" on page 42 for detailed definitions).

Indeed, a recent Web search revealed nearly 200 sites devoted to municipal solid waste (MSW) issues, with many sites coming online within the last six months. Consequently, the solid waste professional now has at his or her fingertips detailed information such as state, national and international MSW policies, regulations, research, user rates and educational training programs.

Perusing MSW Sites * Professional Associations. Last year, the Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA), Pittsburgh, and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., rolled out their Web sites: (http://www. awma.com) and (http://www.swana. com), respectively.

Both sites feature membership information and dates for upcoming conferences. AWMA's site also offers detailed graphics and a listing of publications, conference proceedings and books. The SWANA site provides association news and updates on its technical divisions' activities.

Another must hit for MSW managers surfing the Web is (http://www.epa. gov), maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The site lists staff email addresses and documents that can be downloaded. Users also may perform an online search of the agency's national publications catalog. For example, a search on landfill technology reveals 87 EPA documents. The site also allows users to search the Federal Register and to download EPA rules and proposed rules.

* State Sites. On the state level, several Web sites merit visits by solid waste researchers and decision-makers.For example, Florida's Web site (http://www.dep. state.fl.us/) includes access to state statutes, proposed legislation and agency calendars. Florida site surfers also can download portions of the state's solid waste administrative code or e-mail questions to department staff throughout the state, including the agency's head, Virginia Wetherall.

The Web site maintained by California and the California Integrated Waste Management Board (http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/), Sacramento, also provides useful MSW information, such as meeting agendas and a list of agency publications available for online ordering.

* Universities. Academic institutions across the country also provide MSW information, with varying degrees of appeal. For example, most academia on the Web supply information about local or campus recycling programs.

However, the University of Wisconsin site (http:// study.engr.wisc.edu/course/landfill) offers extensive solid waste information, with an emphasis on professional training. In addition, the university's Department of Engineering offers the first Internet independent study course on solid waste landfills, with CEU (Continuing Education Unit) credit. The Web site allows online access to lesson files and an extended reading list, as well as information on enrollment requirements.

* Solid Waste Journalism. World Wastes' parent company, Intertec Publishing Corp., recently ventured online with its site (http://www.-intertec5.com), which features a brief description of this magazine as well as advertising and subscription information. Currently, World Wastes is developing its own homepage.

Meanwhile, to reduce the time required to perform detailed searches using Web search engines - a downside to the Web for which veterans and newcomers alike can vouch - Florida EnviroWorld (http://www.enviroworld.com) aims to group many Web resources at a single site.

For example, EnviroWorld provides a daily environmental news story from across the nation (often with a solid waste theme), columns and features from Florida Environments magazine, regulatory information and a classified section with job openings. The site currently offers a free subscription to the daily news story, which is delivered to your e-mail address or fax number by 10am Monday through Friday.

* European Sources. While most solid waste Web sites currently appear to be located in the United States, many useful sites are located in Europe, Canada and Australia. For example, surfers can visit sites of the World Resource Foundation (http:// www.wrfound.org.uk/) and Recycling World (http:// www.techweb.com/recy).

The Foundation's page allows users to search its research archives and back issues of the Warmer Bulletin for waste information and documents; Web surfers also may e-mail specific requests for information. What makes the site unique, however, is its series of general and technical information sheets on a wide range of solid waste topics.

Similarly, the Recycling World site contains a library of articles and frequently asked recycling questions, as well as listings of European conferences. The site also provides a hot link to Recycling World, which is a bi-weekly magazine published in the United Kingdom for commercial recyclers.

The Compost Resource Page (http://www.oldgrowth.org/compost/) is another addition to Web sites located outside the United States. This page provides detailed compost information and allows users to post new information. The site even has its own collection of composting poetry.

* Specialty Sites. Interested in finding information about other cities' recycling programs or those wanting to swap waste materials? Point your browser at two Web sites: the Index of Local Recycling Pages (http://best.com/~dillon/recycle/) and The Materials Exchange (http://www.earthcycle.com/g/p/ earthcycle/).

The Index site provides information on state and local recycling programs and currently includes several Web sites for curbside recycling programs across the United States. The Materials Exchange also includes extensive online listings (reportedly more than 10,000), but mainly focuses on matching scrap materials with potential users. Once a user has completed his or her search for a particular material, good or service, the search results are displayed with contact information.

Glimpse The Web's Future Both the Internet and World Wide Web are undergoing immense changes. New programming languages such as JAVA and virtual reality markup language (VRML) and new audio capability offer tremendous potential for information transfer.

However, while the World Wide Web and Internet are practical tools for solid waste research, navigating these labyrinthine systems still can be extremely time-consuming. Often, surfers are distracted by the wide variety of information available on the Web. Consequently, site developers must design their homepages with direct links to other pertinent sites on the Web. Inevitably, these well-rounded sites will obtain the most traffic.

An up-and-coming trend on the Web is commercial advertising for solid waste services. Sites like the Global Recycling Network (http:// www.grn.com/grn/) and Florida EnviroWorld already sell space for companies and organizations to advertise upcoming events and other information. As the Web becomes a recognized marketing tool, such sites will flourish.

In the meantime, more solid waste professionals are logging onto the Web and the Internet every day. The potential for online trash talk seems endless.