By assisting charitable organizations with proper HHW disposal, they can better allocate funds to serve a purpose by aiding those in need.
By Julie Mitchell and Kiana Sladicki

Welcome to NAHMMA Corner! In our profession as hazardous waste materials managers, we work with a variety of sectors that qualify as generators of hazardous waste. Charitable organizations are one of those sectors and they serve a valuable function in our communities. Often, these organizations will get stuck with unwanted or hazardous materials that they have to pay to properly dispose. Properly disposing of these materials results in the charitable organizations using funds that would otherwise go to helping vulnerable communities and their members. In King County (Seattle metropolitan area), WA and Pinellas County (central Gulf Coast), FL, we have developed programs to assist charitable organizations in allocating funds to their missions rather than waste disposal costs.

King County
King County has a program where its hazardous waste facilities can accept limited amounts of household hazardous waste (HHW) from qualified charities in the county. The charities must meet acceptance criterion and implement best management practices. Highlights of the charity disposal program criterion are:

  1. The waste must be a household hazardous waste as defined by Washington State regulations and have been generated by a household.
  2. The King County Hazardous Waste Management Program must approve the charitable organization’s plan to properly manage hazardous waste and minimize generation.
  3. The HHW must have been accepted unintentionally.
  4. Charities must adhere to the best management practices developed by the King County Hazardous Waste Management Program. These include, but are not limited to, actions such as developing plans of how the charity will minimize hazardous waste accepted at their locations, ensuring their staff receive annual hazardous awareness training, placarding all receiving areas to clearly illustrate acceptable and unacceptable items, and not allowing out of county HHW to come to King County facilities.
  5. Quantity and disposal frequency limitations will be developed on a case-by-case basis in coordination with the disposal facilities.

Pinellas County
Pinellas County Solid Waste’s program takes a different approach, focusing on reducing charities’ solid waste disposal costs for all the unwanted materials they receive through donations and illegal dumping. We try to divert as many materials from our solid waste disposal complex—which includes a 3,150 ton per day waste-to-energy facility and landfill—as we can by promoting the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management hierarchy. We also like to build collaborative partnerships to assist us in this goal, and thus the Charity Free Disposal Allowance Program was born. Starting in 1982 via a Pinellas County Board of County Commission resolution, the objective of the program is to “encourage the recycling and reuse of usable materials and to support the recycling operations of charitable organizations that operate reuse programs such as thrift stores and food banks.” This program assists local charities with a solid waste disposal fee allowance (i.e., credit to their financial account at Solid Waste), should they apply and meet certain following criterion.

Charities must be a qualified 501(c)3 that achieved at least a 50 percent diversion rate in the previous calendar year. If approved, they can receive up to a ratio of 1 ton disposal waiver for every 3 tons they divert. Charities must self-haul their solid waste to our disposal complex and once they exhaust their allowance for the year, they pay the regular disposal fees.

To calculate their diversion rate and apply for the program, they fill out a form annually, which includes:

  1. Tons of materials (i.e., cardboard, electronic waste, metals, household items, paper, textiles, food, etc.) that are recycled.
  2. Tons of materials that are reused, including items that are sold at the thrift store or donated elsewhere.
  3. Tons of materials that are disposed of at both Pinellas County Solid Waste and any other facility.

These three numbers are used to calculate the diversion rate (i.e., tons diverted divided by tons diverted plus tons disposed of). The charity must achieve at least a 50 percent diversion rate to qualify for any disposal allowance, or 75 percent to receive the maximum amount of allowance.

In fiscal year 2022-2023, we had seven approved charities. These charities not only assist the underserved communities, such as veterans, pregnant women, and the economically, residentially, and employment challenged population, but they also aid in our efforts to divert potential waste from our disposal complex by reusing and recycling materials and food. And while the greatest possible revenue loss for us was $569,165.61 last year, it is a small price to pay for increased diversion from our disposal complex, preserving the life of our landfill, and being able to assist our charity partners with disposal costs.

Responsible Waste Management
Both King County and Pinellas County have the same mindset, assisting those in need and responsible waste management. With programs like these, charities are able to better allocate funds that would otherwise go straight through the organization by paying for waste disposal to instead serve a purpose by aiding those in need.

On February 15, 2024, you can join us for a presentation as part of NAHMMA’s monthly webinar series that will continue this discussion and go into more depth on these programs. We look forward to continuing this discussion with you all. | WA

Julie Mitchell is a member of the NAHMMA Board of Directors and Project Manager at the King County Hazardous Waste Management Program, Solid Waste Division. She can be reached at (206) 477-5283 or e-mail [email protected].

Kiana Sladicki works at Pinellas County Solid Waste as a hazardous and solid waste inspector for the Pinellas County SQG Program and is a member of the NAHMMA Communication Committee.
Kiana can be reached at (727) 464-7548 or e-mail