The new head of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), David Biderman, stressed worker safety and member engagement as top priorities for the association.
Biderman, in an introductory webinar for members and industry professionals, discussed his vision for the Silver Spring, Md.-based association after becoming executive director and CEO May 1, succeeding the retiring John Skinner.
“Guided by SWANA’s new strategic plan, my vision involves a growing, younger and more dynamic association, with engaged members, that exceeds its members’ expectations for service,” Biderman said. “This vision includes making sure SWANA is recognized as the critical informational resource for industry professionals, the media, elected officials, regulators and the general public.”
Biderman, formerly longtime legal counsel and safety director at the Washington-based National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) talked about his emphasis on improving worker safety. While at the NWRA he established a strong safety program and obtained nearly $500,00 in grant funding toward that end. He plans to use that experience to develop a safety program at SWANA consistent with its strategic plan.
“I intend to help SWANA become the leading safety resource in the United States and Canada for waste and recycling professionals,” Biderman said. “There are a wide variety of funding opportunities for organizations seeking to improve the environment, public health and worker safety, and I intend to aggressively pursue them as SWANA’s executive director.”
Biderman said the long-term goal for SWANA, with more than 8,300 public and private sector professionals, is to continue to be the leading North American association in the municipal solid waste sector. Member engagement, he said, is key to achieving this goal.
“Member engagement is critical to our success as an association. Engaged members usually comprise the leadership of an association, and are much more likely to renew their membership,” Biderman said. “By continuing to provide members with meaningful and useful member services and benefits, we can not only maintain the members we currently have, but continue to increase our membership.”
Overall, Biderman said, “The waste stream is changing, and as the largest and oldest organization in North America representing solid waste professionals, we need to change we need to change with it.”
Biderman also announced that Kathryn Garcia, New York City’s Sanitation Department commissioner, will be a mega-session speaker at Wastecon, SWANA’s annual conference, in Orlando in August.
With Biderman’s unique connection to both of the industry’s primary waste and recycling organizations, talk also has increased about further collaboration between SWANA and NWRA.
“Some people will point out that there are issues where NWRA and SWANA don‘t agree,” said SWANA President Brian Tippetts in a recent Waste360 interview. “But on the vast majority of issues we do agree… We see this as a way of making the industry stronger by taking someone with David’s background.”
When Biderman accepted the position, he told Waste360 in an interview, “I am very humbled and excited that the board at SWANA selected me to be the new executive director. It’s a new opportunity and challenge for me personally and professionally. I'm thrilled to be able play a role in improving the industry.... I'm looking forward to meeting SWANA’s staff, talking to their members and implementing their strategic plan."
Given his tenure at NWRA, Biderman says he's optimistic that the two leading associations will increasingly work together.
NWRA President and CEO Sharon Kneiss told Waste360 she is looking forward to continuing to work with SWANA. “We're looking forward to continuing that productive work with them.”
A recent example of the two groups working together is their joint effort to establish new practice recommendations for contracting municipal recycling programs.