Solid Waste Lesson Plan: What in the World is a Solid
(Developed by the York County Solid Waste Authority © 2001)
Grades: 8 and Up.
Group Size: Up to 60.
Students learn about waste management from a public administration perspective. Why is the proper management of waste important to government officials? Students will learn the answer to this question and will understand the role a municipal authority plays in county government.
Students will learn what makes a solid waste authority different from other municipal authorities and what its responsibilities encompass.
Via a visual presentation, students "tour" the York County Solid Waste Authority, "visit" its different departments and facilities, and "attend" public meetings conducted by the Authority.
Laptop computer with projector or overhead projector, screen or blank wall.
Government, environmental studies, business. Discussion, deduction, real-life application.
40 minutes to 1 hour (adaptable to grade-appropriate length).
Public entity, municipal authority, municipal solid waste, Act 101, waste regulations, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, integrated waste management system.
The York County Board of Commissioners established the York County Solid Waste Authority in 1971 to assure the adequate and proper disposal of all municipal solid waste generated in York County. Even as early as 1971, the County recognized the need to emphasize waste reduction, reuse and recycling in its overall approach to waste management. To that end, the Authority developed a comprehensive integrated municipal waste management plan. This plan was updated in 1985 to enable it to keep pace with the growing needs of the County and advances in waste management technology.
To meet the County’s waste management needs, the Authority purchased a parcel of land in Hopewell Township that became the site of the York County Sanitary Landfill. In August of 1974, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (now known as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) permitted portions of the 306-acre site and operations began in November 1974.
In 1979, the Authority began to consider investigating alternative waste disposal options for the County. After analyzing the needs of York County and carefully investigating methods of waste disposal, the Authority selected waste-to-energy technology — a proven environmentally sound and economically equitable method of waste management. Plans for a waste-to-energy facility that could accommodate York County’s waste for 25 years were initiated. In 1987, construction of the Resource Recovery Center began at the Blackbridge Road site in Manchester Township. In October of 1989, the Center began burning York County waste and generating electricity.
While plans for the Resource Recovery Center were reaching fruition, another plan was about to begin. The passing of Act 101 (Pennsylvania’s Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act) in 1988 created a new law impacting solid waste management. Thus, the Authority began working in tandem with a Municipal Waste Advisory Committee (MWAC) to update the County’s 1985 waste management plan. The MWAC is comprised of individuals representing all classes of municipalities, citizen’s organizations, industry, private solid waste businesses, and the recycling industry. This two-year effort resulted in a blueprint for the management of municipal waste through the year 2015.
Because the Authority strives to serve the best interests of the citizens of York County, community representation is a major part of planning processes. The MWAC is responsible for reviewing the Authority’s implementation of the York County Municipal Waste Management Plan. This includes providing input and reviewing various tasks and studies being developed by the Authority.
In addition to facility operations, recycling and waste reduction programs are also important aspects of the Authority’s activities. The York County Solid Waste Authority also implements extensive public education and outreach programming to foster community understanding of waste management issues.
The Authority and its activities are self-supported from revenue generated through the sale of electricity from the Resource Recovery Center and customer disposal fees. The Authority’s annual operating budget is approximately $35 million with electric revenues making up approximately 40 percent of the budget. No York County tax dollars are used to fund the Authority. Additional funding for various projects is obtained through grant monies available from the state. This self-sufficiency enables the Authority to contain the cost of waste management in York County. The tipping fee (cost of disposal) at the York County Resource Recovery Center has remained at $56 per ton since 1992.
Throughout its history, the Authority has accomplished its objectives through the efforts of a small staff and a committed volunteer board. Today, the Authority employs 19 full-time and three part-time people in four divisions: the Engineering/Operations Division, the Administrative Division, the Specialty Wastes/Programs Division, and the Community Services Division.
A nine-member volunteer board is appointed by the County Commissioners and participates actively in devoting countless hours to forwarding the goals of the Authority. The Authority holds a public meeting the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30PM at the Authority’s Management Center, 2700 Blackbridge Road, Manchester Township. The public is invited to attend to learn more about Authority activities or to provide comment.
Using the visual aids provided, a speaker will combine a visual presentation with audience participation to communicate key areas of emphasis. Those key areas emphasize the structure and purpose of a municipal solid waste authority.
Quiz questions (and answers) will be provided for teacher use. Students will be able to describe what a solid waste authority is and what its role is in managing municipal solid waste.
How to Get this Lesson Plan Into Your Classroom
- Attend a public meeting of a solid waste authority to observe or participate in the public process.
- Interview key solid waste authority employees to learn what their roles are in the solid waste management process.
- What qualifications would you need to have to work at a solid waste authority?
This lesson is available at no cost to any York County school or civic group and is presented by a member of the Authority's Education Center staff. All materials and handouts associated with this lesson plan are provided by the Authority. Call 717-845-1066 to schedule a presentation of this lesson plan for your class or assembly program.