Brief Considerations on the Urban Waste Management Indicator System proposed by ERSAR – August 2012

Introductory note

  1. The objective of the present work is the synthetic analysis of some performance indicators that are part of the system of the 2nd Generation of Quality Assessment of Urban Waste Management Services. It should be noted in advance that we consider that this evaluation system constitutes an important piece of “self-assessment” for the management entities themselves, making sure that it will lend higher quality to the services provided, if they adhere to it and recognize the necessary credibility. and utility.
  2. The proposed reflection is based on the experience acquired by the author at a national level, at the service of the company ECOGESTUS, Residues Studies and Solutions Ltd., in several studies on the management of urban waste, carried out from north to south of the country in several municipalities. At the same time, it was compared with current practices in several European countries, and with other urban waste management indicators.
  3. We are also aware of the difficulty in finding reliable and comparable indicators in the sector of urban waste that serve a very varied range of downstream management entities (mostly City Councils) with disparate specific and historic intervention problems, submitted to upstream entities with different policies and strategies.
  4. Regulation is defined “as the establishment and institution of a set of specific rules, necessary for the balanced functioning of a given sector, depending on the public interest”. Based on this principle, it is assumed that the management indicators must above all strive for the common good, inducing the decision-makers of the management entities the need to make decisions aimed at environmental and economic sustainability. We know that often these decisions (tariffs, reduction of the frequency of collection, demand for civic behaviour, allocation of containers to entities and control of transfers, etc.) are unpopular and come up against decades of bad habits and lax in terms of environmental protection and civic development. In addition, the apparent individual benefit, user convenience, for example in the frequency of washing the containers, are often harmful to the interests of the community and to the environmental sustainability itself. The waste sector has high local inefficiencies with a mix of policy and technical management in decisions and a lack of transparency in both objectives and results to be achieved.
  5. The technical basis of the indicators is covered in a superficial way in the reference documents. That is, it is often not possible to discover the objective and concrete results that the indicator aims to measure, or the applicable scientific basis. The existence of reference standards and targets, namely for material recycling rates, optimal energy consumption per ton of waste collected, number of days off and personal accidents during waste management operations,… etc. In our opinion, they would allow complementing the work already done by ERSAR and allow a better orientation to the management entities.
  6. The management indicators are silent on measures to prevent the production of waste, for example, domestic composting, investment and commitment by management entities in this area; we still need to promote those management entities that have clear strategic objectives, such as Municipal Waste Plans.
  7. The number of indicators is excessive. The amount of data to be made available by management entities, especially at a low level, requires a significant administrative effort and the usefulness of so much information in this initial phase is questionable. The existence of key indicators is briefly suggested, as is the case with the “Sustainable Development Indicators System” (APA, 2010).