In our industry, newspaper headlines are rarely a good thing and nothing gains media traction like a cart deployment gone wrong, missed collections by a new hauler, or noise complaints from residents. Recently a few collection programs got off to bad starts and in typical fashion government operations were the focus in the media. The issues were largely due to limited education & outreach during the transition to ensure residents understood the new programs and thorough route training of new drivers. Whether it is phone calls to elected officials, op-eds in the newspaper or coverage on nightly news segments, few things can match the “buzz” of a flaw in the solid waste machine, underscoring the critical need for smooth transitions.

But how do you ensure a transition will be smooth?

Based on years of experience and a solid record of accomplishments, KCI has identified the keys to transition success include early preparation, strong partnerships, and ongoing communication. While early planning minimizes issues, no transition will be completely free of surprises.

To lessen the impact of surprises, a broad and multi-disciplined team must be assembled. Team members should come from the various local government departments affected including Public Works, GIS, billing, and communications. Even if you have a multi-hauler situation, the contracts have now been signed and everyone is on the same team with the same goals. Haulers, cart manufacturers and technology providers should be represented, and the group should be led by someone with an independent perspective with the ability to see all things from all points of view. KCI typically serves in this mediating role offering a third eye to the work being discussed and will often “take the bullet” to make sure everyone understands the importance of a particular topic.

Regular meetings, planning documents, timelines, and strong notes are a must, along with the ability to understand that unforeseen issues and surprises will pop up throughout the transition process, and they need to be managed. Hauler: “So how should we handle the commercial customers picked up on Sunday?” Government: “You run trucks on Sunday?” Working together this group of decision makers has the ability solve problems on the spot.

In those early meetings, the team should set goals together, attain buy-in from stakeholders including elected officials and residents, and set realistic timelines for activities. Solid data needs to be gathered and all parties, haulers included, need to be forthcoming with information. Without it, the process will be delayed and service issues will ensue. Transition meetings should be open environments that create opportunities for everyone to air their issues and concerns. In this setting, members put self-interests aside and together problems get solved!

As in everything we do at KCI, you must first measure in order to manage. For example in Manatee County, FL, a recent shift from dual-stream bin to single stream recycle cart collection, the early data gathering and planning ensured the project timeline was realistic and stayed on track; outreach and education programs were on-point and effective; and all parties, from haulers to residents to county staff, were well informed and committed to a successful transition. Manatee County’s conversion to single stream recycling was a shining example of a successful transition.

The keys to a successful transition are dedicated partnerships, strong and clear communication, early preparation, and ongoing coordination. Add to that a commitment to detailed data gathering and you will have an award-winning transition. When Hillsborough County incorporated these attributes into their 520,000 automated cart transition, the National Waste and Recycling Association recognized it as its Inaugural Sustainability Partnership Game Changer Award!

Waste is constant, as is change. When you are ready to make that change, think about the KCI keys to success and give us a chance to help you be award winning!

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