The More You Know

OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) has developed a number of white papers on topics important to the waste industry. Four white papers are planned for 2006, including: “Modern Landfill: A Far Cry from the Past;” “Municipal Solid Waste Industry Reduces Greenhouse Gases through Technical Innovation and Operational Improvements;” “Rising Diesel and Commodity Prices Means Higher Garbage and Recycling Costs;” and “Alternative Technologies for Managing Our Wastes.”

Each white paper is briefly described below and can be obtained at the association's Web site ( or by contacting Alice Jacobsohn at (202) 364-3724.

“Safety and the Solid Waste Industry: An Improving Picture” reviews industry-specific safety data and initiatives being taken to improve safety. It also describes the positive impact the initiatives are having and addresses challenges the industry faces as it works to further reduce fatalities, injuries and accidents.

In “Managing Solid Waste Facilities to Prevent Odor,” NSWMA explains why garbage smells, the causes of odors at landfills, the factors that influence odor strength and the methods available to control odors from waste management.

“Residential Trash Collection: An Essential Service at a Bargain Price” highlights that: the average American generates about 4.4 pounds of trash per day; and the average cost per household for trash collection is $12 to $20 per month, compared to electric bills that average more than $73 per month and cable TV bills at $40 per month. In addition, the report explains that the household cost for waste collection includes recycling and the ultimate disposal of trash, a capital-intensive process that protects public health and the environment.

“Union Issues in the Solid Waste Industry” provides solid waste company owners and managers with an understanding of their rights and responsibilities when dealing with efforts by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other unions to organize employees.

Union membership has been in decline over the past 50 years, and as part of an effort to rebuild its ranks, the Teamsters Union has been focusing on the solid waste industry. Because the overwhelming majority of solid waste companies only operate in the United States and don't move facilities or jobs overseas, the industry is a logical target for union organizing activity.

In the soon-to-be released “Rising Diesel and Commodity Prices Means Higher Garbage and Recycling Costs,” NSWMA explains the causes of significant increases in diesel fuel prices and the impact on the solid waste industry. During 2005, as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, diesel fuel prices skyrocketed from $1.93 per gallon in January to $3.15 per gallon in late October. The cost increases cannot always be passed on to customers. While prices have gone down slightly since Katrina, they still remain high. The paper also discusses other commodity-related price increases, such as the cost of steel and resins.

To ensure that our garbage doesn't harm public health or the environment, today's modern, state-of-the-art landfills are technically sophisticated and highly regulated. Unlike old dumps, modern landfills now have sophisticated protective liners, leachate collection systems, groundwater monitoring, gas collection equipment and environmental reporting requirements. “Modern Landfill: A Far Cry from the Past” explains the history behind the development of modern landfills and provides details on how today's landfills are designed, operated and regulated to protect human health and the environment.

The municipal solid waste industry has made great progress in reducing the release of greenhouse gases. “Municipal Solid Waste Industry Reduces Greenhouse Gases Through Technical Innovation and Operational Improvements” summarizes that progress and describes future efforts and initiatives that will allow the success story to continue.

“Alternative Technologies for Managing Our Wastes,” which still is in its infancy, will review alternative technologies for the disposal of municipal solid waste, including gasification and pyrolysis. Each technology will be described along with its current status toward marketability.

Alice Jacobsohn is director of public affairs and industry research at NSWMA. She can be reached at (202) 364-3724 or