Local governments must be proactive in establish- ing a solid waste management marketplace where the independent waste collection, transfer and transport companies can compete, survive and prosper. The current trend of increased consolidation and vertical integration of solid waste management companies raises legitimate concerns about the reduction of competition that could occur on a regional or even national basis.
We all know that competition is essential for the efficient operation of the marketplace, in order to provide the consumer with high quality services at reasonable cost. It is the driving force for higher levels of customer service and system-wide efficiencies that result in more economic delivery of those services.
Local governments should use their procurement policies and other public-policy tools to open up opportunities for independent companies to ensure a high level of competition. However, collection, transport, recycling and disposal services that are provided by local governments must also be preserved and supported. Together, service providers and municipal operators can provide services that are competitive with those of the integrated companies.
There are a number of good examples where the public sector has helped to open up more opportunities for independent companies, especially small haulers. These examples include providing information and training on health and safety issues, eliminating overly restrictive bidding provisions, establishing small business set-asides, helping to identify sources of capital and insurance, and establishing equipment lease-purchase programs.
In order to demonstrate the opportunities for local governments and independent companies to work together the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is presenting two new education programs specifically directed at the independent hauler on April 4 at Waste Expo 2001 in Chicago, Illinois. (Solid Waste & Recycling magazine’s Brad O’Brien and Connie Vitello will be in attendance.)
The first session, “Getting More for Less from Collection of Solid Waste and Recyclables” will show how dozens of local governments and companies across North America have successfully cut their collection costs while improving customer satisfaction. Based on real-life examples, this workshop will present strategies for improved efficiencies that include: changing collection frequency, improved routing, fleet management practices, automation, dual collection, personnel management techniques, public education strategies and tools for effective competition. This session will be invaluable to haulers that are wrestling with issues such as: keeping trucks on the road and out of the shop, motivating crews to meet performance standards, developing incentive awards programs and evaluating work practices in light of changing OSHA requirements. In addition, the greater issue of determining how changes in service levels and vehicle types will affect staffing and equipment needs.
The second session, “How to do Business with Local Governments” will show independent haulers how they can compete for the billions of dollars of solid waste services and equipment each year procured by local governments. This includes competition for contracts and franchises for solid waste and recycling collection, contracts for operating landfills, contracts for the design and operation of MRFs, contracts for long haul and transfer station operations, and contracts for purchasing equipment, supervising construction and providing maintenance of solid waste operations. This session should be helpful to haulers that are trying to increase their business through local government contracts or need help to determine the best way to respond to government RFPs. An expert panel of SWANA public sector members who are actively involved in purchasing decisions will conduct this session.
While local governments are responsible for solid waste management policies and programs within their jurisdictions, there are many opportunities for partnerships with the private sector for the ownership or operation of management systems. Local governments must put in place public policies that enlarge the field of competition for solid waste management services. Local governments can decide to contract out some or all of their solid waste operations but they can never contract out their accountability to the public.