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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<Municipal Solid Waste Management>

Sound Practices
Overview of the Sound Practices section

1.1.4 The need for planning

It should be apparent from the previous discussion that making sound decisions about MSWM issues can be a complex task. There are many questions that need to be asked and, in truth, the answers often lead to more questions. Meanwhile, untreated waste builds up and the problems get worse.

MSWM decisions take place in the context of limited resources. Solid waste problems are not the only environmental problems, and environmental problems are certainly not the only issues competing for attention and funds. In developing countries, where resources are particularly limited, decisions are even more difficult.

Moreover, decisions made now regarding MSWM practices have large effects on the future welfare of people in an area. Spending money on an ineffective technology shifts the burden of cleanup efforts to future generations. On the other hand, the wise choice of a sound technology or practice can sometimes resolve present problems adequately, while preserving funds for expeditiously resolving other environmental, social, or economic problems.

All of these considerations take place on several administrative levels at once: municipal, regional, national, and international agencies all have their own priorities, which often do not fully coincide. Increasingly, major private interests also have a say in the policies that are chosen and how they are carried out.

The complexity of the situation facing MSWM planners can be described in terms of the criteria that must be considered, the background factors that come into play, the limitations on resources, the long-term effects of present-day decisions, and the possibly competing agendas of many public and private interests. It is critical to weigh these considerations in developing an integrated MSWM plan that balances disparate demands and anticipates future requirements. A piecemeal solution may be all that is possible in a particular situation, but the goal should be to develop the administrative, technical, and financial capacity required to implement solutions that can be sustainable in the long term.

Both short-term and long-term plans can be oriented toward achieving results that can work within the given constraints. It is pointless to attempt to design the ÒperfectÓ technical system or set of policies if they cannot be implemented. By explicitly considering resource constraints, planners can avoid the classic error of determining what should be, and instead concentrate on what is possible. ÒResourcesÓ usually means money, but can also include expertise, authority, political clout, historic character, civic spirit, and other intangibles. The planning process can serve as a means of determining how to use a limited supply of resources, as well as a useful technique for broadening a communityÕs (or a whole countryÕs) understanding of available resources.

In order to develop a well-integrated and cost-effective MSWM system, planners must evaluate how well each potential piece of the system meshes with other existing or proposed system components. The fit of a particular component can be measured in terms of its purpose, size, location, ownership, operation, system of financing, and relationship to administrative and regulatory agencies. Specifically, individual components of the system should be: (a) chosen so they do not overlap or compete excessively; (b) sized so they can handle the portion of the waste stream they were designed for, without competing with other components; (c) located so that transportation costs between man-agement facilities are minimized and appropriate transportation networks are used; (d) owned, operated, and financed to minimize overall public costs, while ensuring responsible management and cooperation with other system components; and (e) administered by appropriate agencies, with adequate public oversight.

Development of an integrated plan requires coordination of public and private entities with expertise in management, MSWM technical matters, public health, environmental protection, public finance, urban infrastructure, and social issues. By discussing sound practices in MSWM, the Source Book aims to provide a common understanding of current issues that will facilitate the coordination of inputs from all of these sectors.

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