PROFILE: MSW Managers Wear Many Hats

WW: Describe MWA's origins, service area and tons collected.

BS: The Authority first began as a landfill operation that resulted in state-wide solid waste management planning requirements. Two years later, the state mandated significant waste volume reduction goals for all public and private agencies operating a sanitary disposal project.

MWA has become Iowa's largest integrated solid waste management system, providing services to 20 municipalities and one county. Serving about 15 percent of Iowa's population, MWA's landfill accepts approximately 400,000 tons of waste per year.

WW: Describe MWA's recycling and waste reduction programs.

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. The program also offers technical recycling assistance.

We have several business waste exchange services, which operate in conjunction with the state's By Product and Waste Exchange.

Our newest initiative, Build It! SMART, encourages responsible management of construction and demolition debris.

MWA's overall goal for its programs is to provide convenient options that encourage more people to produce less waste. To date, we have successfully diverted 35 percent of the waste stream from landfill disposal. Ultimately, we hope to reach a 50-percent diversion rate by the year 2000.

WW: How do the recycling markets' volatility affect your efforts? BS: Since all of our programs are voluntary, the economics of the 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 area 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 its ups and downs. That's why it's especially important for us 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 this system?

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

Managers will continue to cope with complex regulations in design, permitting and monitoring facilities.

However, it will be imperative that these professionals be creative and flexible in response to our changing industry. Future managers should be strong public administrators, technical experts, financial planners, communication specialists, activists and savvy politicians.

These managers must change hats often - or wear them all at once - to ensure that they meet their municipalities' needs.