WW: In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the solid waste industry today?
HF: The struggle between principles and profits is our biggest issue.
Most government organizations are mission oriented and base success in terms of how well they accomplish that mission. The private sector, on the other hand, is profit motivated, basing success on financial gain.
I believe that in this era of competition between public and private entities, instead of focusing on our differences we must discern that there are as many opportunities for harmony as there are for conflict. The challenge for the solid waste professional is to define those opportunities and act on them to the benefit of each community.
WW: Aside from the basic requirements, describe the ideal candidate for SWANA's new director.
HF: Almost every issue in solid waste today is a public policy issue, whether it relates to regulatory standards, interstate commerce concerns or local community service issues.
On the local level, solid waste decisions are based on local economies and markets, particularly with recyclables, energy and land. Every community's solid waste programs nationwide are unique. However, in this country, we have state-wide or national regulations and standards for what is acceptable.
A big challenge facing SWANA is to help blend public policy decisions with national and state-wide standards while, simultaneously, providing the flexibility to local officials to tailor waste programs to their own specific needs.
Therefore, our executive director must be able to work with all types of people, including public officials, private contractors, industry regulators and legislators. In addition, the individual must provide education to officials in terms of other happenings in this country and around the world, outlining options and potential impacts, assisting in deliberations and, finally, helping coordinate programs and making them work effectively.
Thus, the prospective candidate must be able to run an organization like this, providing motivation and leadership, while having that ability to facilitate local decision making.
WW: What is the role of the government sector in managing solid waste? How does privatization affect this role?
HF: The principal role of the government sector is to regulate the means and methods for managing solid waste to protect the health and welfare of each community. The government must decide what needs to be accomplished. Privatization is one means of accomplishing these goals.
The private sector has become more prominent in today's solid waste world than at any other time in the past 20 years. The availability of competent, capable private contractors is a real benefit to our society, allowing us to have more extensive resources. However, it is this availability of competition that has caused the conflict we are experiencing today.
Although focus tends to center on those communities where conflict is prevalent, there are many more communities across the country where the public mission and private initiatives are in perfect harmony and things are working well.