Public-private partnerships: a proven relationship for managing solid waste

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

Throughout the United States, municipal and county governments have realized the benefits of creating public-private partnerships to manage solid waste. The primary influences behind a municipality move toward privatization in the U.S. are the:

  • Pursuit of cost savings, given the pressures to not increase taxes
  • Ability to access new technologies while preserving capital expenditures
  • Desire to reduce risks associated with providing waste management services

For these very reasons, currently more than 75 percent of U.S. cities now contract all or part of their refuse collection and disposal services. This number has been increasing historically by 2 to 3 percent per year.

Roles and Responsibilities
Every successful public-private partnership requires a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the partnering organizations. Claims that privatization of solid waste services will eliminate government involvement in the solid waste management process and put the public at risk are nonsense. Experience has proven that privatization actually requires an important regulatory role from the municipality.

Government cannot disengage from its responsibility to protect public health, safety and the environment. Therefore, the primary responsibility of a city official is to protect the public. In municipalities where solid waste services have been privatized, city officials serve as watchdogs by monitoring performance and enforcing contracts. They are the foundation for planning activities directly associated with a successful, long-term management of solid waste.

The job of the private sector is to fulfill the terms of the contract, which has proven to be a quality-assured, cost-effective solution to solid waste services. The investment of capital to purchase collection vehicles, hire staff and construct facilities is the risk the private sector acquires to ensure the collection and safe disposal of societal waste.

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