By Alan Cummins
He is executive director of the Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority.
The Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority (MRSWA) has asked its member jurisdictions to adopt a municipal solid waste “flow control” ordinance to require that certain municipal solid waste from the jurisdictions be disposed of at MRSWA facilities. Because some public discussion of this proposed ordinance has failed to mention or distorted important facts, I would like to help “set the record straight.”
MRSWA was created in 1995 by the towns of Christiansburg and Blacksburg, Montgomery County and Virginia Tech to take care of their solid waste disposal needs in an environmentally safe and economically sound manner. MRSWA is a nonprofit government organization run by a board of directors made up of representatives appointed by Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Montgomery County and Virginia Tech, whose main objective is to keep trash service costs low while expanding recycling services.
Over the past 25 years MRSWA has invested over $11 million dollars in capital investments and over $90 million in operational expenses to manage a 1.3 million-ton closed landfill, 18,000-square-foot transfer station, 45,000-square-foot recycling facility, and provide multiple recycling services. This has been accomplished with only a 3% trash disposal fee increase over this same 25 year period — not 3% per year but 3% over the total 25 years.
MRSWA does not provide collection services, but works in partnership with privately owned trash collection businesses that collect trash and recyclables to be brought to MRSWA. Through its fiscally sound approach, MRSWA has been able to keep disposal rates low, which has allowed a strong competitive environment among the trash collection businesses in the area. The volume of trash MRSWA manages at its facility produces “economies of scale” that has allowed MRSWA to grow recycling services, while keeping all services affordable. MRSWA now offers single-stream recycling along with other recycling services including cardboard, shredded paper, books, tires, clean wood and brush, metals, electronic waste, universal waste, household hazardous waste and educational tours, many which are free to the citizens of Montgomery County.
The flow control ordinance that is currently being addressed by the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors would allow MRSWA to keep a portion of the “economies of scale,” allowing it to continue the high level of services it currently provides to the citizens of Montgomery County. It would not turn MRSWA into a monopoly, because this ordinance does not cover all solid waste streams, such as construction and manufacturing waste or recyclables, nor does this ordinance prevent trash collection companies from providing services they currently offer to their customers. Should the flow control ordinance not pass, trash volumes currently managed at MRSWA would significantly decrease, causing a rippling effect of fee increases and the elimination of recycling services. As a nonprofit organization, MRSWA continues to be a partner to the citizens of Montgomery County, meeting needs that are not met by other organizations in the area. We are asking for your support on the flow control ordinance so that we may continue to meet all the solid waste and recycling needs and priorities of the citizens of Montgomery County.