ATTENDANCE AT WASTE EXPO 2003 was rumored to be slightly off from the last year. Nevertheless, those who did make it to New Orleans experienced a terrific show and also were able to reflect on some of the National Solid Wastes Management Association's (NSWMA) activity. NSWMA provides a forum for people in the industry to network, learn and grow professionally. WasteExpo attendees heard and discussed a variety of NSWMA issues.
For example, the discussion on interstate business focused on Michigan, which has become the latest battleground between local and state officials trying to stop out-of-state trash. When Toronto closed its landfill in December 2002, it increased the amount of municipal solid waste it delivered to Detroit-area landfills. Opponents allege that imported waste will cause environmental contamination and fill Michigan's landfills. A recent state study, however, found that Ontario waste is “cleaner” than Michigan's waste, and therefore poses less of an environmental threat. Michigan also exports approximately 70,000 tons of hazardous waste to Ontario each year and has enough landfill capacity for both in-state and imported trash.
According to a recent published report, more than 25 bills or resolutions have been introduced in the Michigan legislature to control waste imports. Most of these bills would violate the Commerce Clause, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or a U.S.-Canada treaty governing cross-border waste movement. NSWMA is at the forefront of this issue, educating state and federal government officials and providing assistance to its members in Michigan.
The issue of flow control also received attention at WasteExpo. With many budgets deeply in the red, local governments are looking at solid waste as a source of revenue. While some government entities have tried to restore flow control, others have sought to enact new fees on the industry. NSWMA has successfully opposed some of these flow control efforts — such as those in Mississippi and North Carolina — and continues to be vigilant in opposing local governments' efforts to impose unfair and costly waste monopolies.
Safety is another important priority for NSWMA, as the organization continues its efforts to improve safety in the solid waste industry. A safety committee meeting was held at WasteExpo to discuss upcoming educational programs. “Coaching the Refuse Driver II,” the association's updated driver safety video, is selling like hotcakes.
Through an Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Washington, D.C., grant on ergonomics awarded to the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), Alexandria, Va., NSWMA has administered five training sessions, an online ergonomics training course, and ergonomics training materials were prepared in Spanish.
Our new e-newsletter was mentioned by many at WasteExpo. The weekly e-newsletter is a new NSWMA member benefit and contains current information on local and national solid waste issues; regulatory and legal proceedings; and general business ideas.
If you missed the networking opportunities at WasteExpo, NSWMA's state chapters hold golf tournaments and other functions throughout the year that provide ample opportunity to meet peers and regulators, discuss industry issues and plan advocacy. NSWMA also has its annual Executive Roundtable in October 2003 in Austin, Texas. This event, which attracts members of both NSWMA and the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC), includes compelling educational programs, a tour of a prominent landfill and exotic game ranch, networking opportunities and golf.
The association plays a key role in protecting the business interests of the entire industry. NSWMA provides timely and useful information to members to help them succeed and provides assistance to members who need help with complicated legal, political and regulatory issues. Call today to join: (800) 424-2869. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Biderman is general counsel at the Environmental Industry Associations, parent organization of NSWMA and WASTEC.