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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Solid Waste Management on Tribal Lands

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Developing Solid Waste Management Plans

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What is a Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP)?

A SWMP (also known as an Integrated Waste Management Plan) is a document that outlines how the tribe will reduce, manage, and dispose of its solid waste. A SWMP will assist and guide the development and implementation of a solid waste management program by establishing what actions need to be taken and by setting the criteria for decision-making.

Why might a tribe want to develop a SWMP?

Planning is the first step in designing or improving a solid waste management system. A SWMP assists in taking institutional, social, financial, economic, technical, and environmental factors into consideration when managing solid waste systems. A SWMP is a practical document that can help guide solid waste management efforts. A SWMP can:

  • Define current waste management practices
  • Identify problems and deficiencies with the current system
  • Identify opportunities for improvement in the current system
  • Set priorities for action to address problems and affect improvement
  • Measure progress toward implementing actions
  • Identify the resources needed and develop budgets and schedules
  • Support proposals for solid waste management grants

What is the Tribal Solid Waste Sustainability Evaluation Tool?

The Sustainable Evaluation Tool (Tool) was developed to assist tribal solid waste program directors and managers assess their solid waste program. This Tool includes a series of questions designed to evaluate how a tribal waste program operates and to identify the program’s strengths and weaknesses.  Questions are organized around seven key characteristics of a sustainable waste management program: planning, financial viability, management, staffing, operations, coordination, and compliance and enforcement. The Sustainable Evaluation Tool is available here: Tribal Solid Waste Sustainable Evaluation Tool (XLSX) (10 tabs, 110K).

Instructions for how to use the Sustainable Evaluation Tool are included in the “Introduction” tab visible on the bottom left of the Excel workbook. Briefly, the Tool contains a spreadsheet tab for each indicator and includes indicator-specific questions to be answered.  The Tool will calculate the results of the answers on the “My Results” tab visible on the bottom right of the Excel workbook.

What are the 5 critical elements of a SWMP?

Before drafting a SWMP, you should consider a few key parameters that will provide a strong framework for the future program.

  • Description of the community service area
  • Description of the tribe’s solid waste program structure administration
  • Description of the tribe’s current and proposed waste management practices
  • Description of the funding and sustainability and the long-term goals of the tribe’s solid waste program
  • Demonstration of approval by the Tribal Council

What are the suggested steps to develop a SWMP?

Solid waste planning is specific to each tribe – every tribe comes into the planning process at a different place. The following steps outline the general process required to develop a SWMP:

  1. Develop a profile of the planning area
    Include information on population, number of households, types of business, and estimated growth rate of the tribe. Identifying transportation routes, distance to solid waste landfills and other disposal sites, and infrastructure needs. This information will help when developing cost estimates for waste management activities.
  2. Define the solid waste generators within the planning area
    Examine all of the residential, commercial, and municipal solid waste generators in the planning area (include homes, tribal governmental buildings, schools, restaurants, casinos, health facilities, etc.). Also, determine whether you will need to handle solid waste from the cleanup of illegal dumpsites.
  3. Identify existing waste management practices within the planning area
    Determine where waste is currently going and how it is being disposed of. Identify any significant amounts of waste entering and leaving the planning area.
  4. Conduct a waste assessment/waste audit
    Characterizing solid waste that requires management in the community is the backbone of the whole planning process. Determining the quantity and composition of waste will allow evaluation of options and estimation of costs.
  5. Estimate future waste generation quantities
    Estimate using the projected growth information that was gathered in Step 1.
  6. Develop waste handling options
    Once a good picture of the current situation is determined, begin looking at the waste management options available. What percentage of discards could be prevented, reused, reduced, or recycled? Does the tribe collect residents’ waste, or will members have to take them to a transfer station or disposal facility?
  7. Identify existing regional programs or infrastructures
    Determine if there are potential benefits of developing or participating in regional programs. Planners and managers usually find that it is beneficial to participate in regional solid waste advisory committees or workgroups to gain an understanding of how others are dealing with their challenges.
  8. Develop costs for waste handling options
    Cost estimates should include both capital costs and operation and maintenance costs for each option.
  9. Compare options based on criteria defined by the tribe
    Look to your goals to assist in the development of criteria for comparing options and to prioritize criteria.
  10. Obtain approval by your Tribal Council or other appropriate governing body.

Are there any other key elements of a SWMP?

It is important that a SWMP identifies the goals and objectives of the plan and identifies any solid waste codes that may need to be developed. Developing goals will help guide solid waste management planning and keep priorities focused. Goals also can help set targets by which progress can be measured. When setting goals, look for problems that require solutions, and actively solicit input from the tribe. If it is determined that the solution to a problem is code development, include that in the plan.

Examples of Tribal SWMPs

Hoopa Valley Tribe Solid Waste Management Plan  Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Solid Waste Management Plan  Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

Assistance with Developing a SWMP

The Tribal Solid Waste Team is available to review plans and can provide templates and examples. For assistance, contact your Tribal Solid Waste Team representative.

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