Insights into HHW facility design, operations, materials processing, and materials management.
By Kenneth Miller

After a quick pause last month to highlight a few exciting changes happening with NAHMMA in 2023, this month’s article will resume our discussion of Household Hazardous Material and Very Small Quantity Generator Collection Facilities, specifically as it relates to operational efficiencies.

Types of Collection Facilities and Hours of Operation
Our NAHMMA members who operate collection facilities generally fall into one of two types:
• Their facility serves residential customers only
• Their facility serves both residential customers and commercial customers who are Very Small Quantity Generators

In addition to falling into one of these two operation types, many of our members operate facilities that also accept electronics for recycling, universal wastes, and non-hazardous waste (latex paint). Some of our members also operate both permanent and satellite facilities, conduct mobile events in addition to collection at a permanent facility, offer curbside collection in addition to a permanent facility, or only conduct mobile events.

Reviewing the type(s) of customers and type(s) of material streams collected, is a logical first step when evaluating a way to improve a facilities operational efficiency. For example, if a facility only receives residential materials, the facility’s operational hours will likely need to differ from a facility that receives both residential and commercial materials. Optimizing a facility’s collection hours to meet the needs of the customer base ensures the facility’s staff time is used efficiently. Facility managers can evaluate a shift in hours in several ways, such as:
• Collecting data related to customer counts during current operational hours
• Survey current customers to gather the data
• Hire a third party to conduct a survey of current and potential customers

In each case, the best operational hours for a particular facility are likely to be influenced by local demographics, in addition to other factors mentioned. It is also important to remember what works best for Dubuque, IA, may not work best for Austin, TX, or Portland, OR. For facilities that accept materials from both commercial and residential customers or have both a permanent and other collection options, it may be best to have different service hours for each type of customer to better meet the customer’s needs, enhance safety, and improve staff efficiency. Facilities will often accomplish this by having commercial customers come in the morning before lunch and having residential customers come in the afternoon, or they may reserve the morning hours for processing materials previously collected and be open to receive materials in the afternoon only.

Once a facility has established the best hours to meet their customers needs, in order to improve and maximize efficiency and safety, the facility may need to consider whether they require appointments for customers or simply allow customers to show up any time during the posted operational hours. Choosing which option maximizes a facility’s operations will depend on several of the factors previously mentioned for choosing the best operational hours.

One operational advantage to scheduled appointments relates to data collection. When residents and businesses are required to schedule and appointment, it allows the facility to collect data on the customer before they arrive onsite, speeding up the drop-off process. Scheduling also allows the facility to collect data that is often required, such as name and location. In addition to required data, information on what types of materials the customer can be collected, which is important for facilities collecting multiple material streams as this can aid staff in planning, information on how they customers heard about the program, and other data which can aid facility managers in optimizing their facilities.

Operational hours and how customers can access a facility are an important first step in improving a facilities operational efficiency, but there are also several other factors, including facility layout, material management methods and packaging types, and procurement options. Facility layout has been previously covered in this article series and rather than cover that area again here, I would encourage you to look up NAHMMA Corner’s January 2023 article by David Nightingale (“Doing Your Homework Before Building or Reviving Your HHW Collection Facility”) to learn more about that topic. In addition, we are planning to close out this series next month with an article dedicated to packaging types and procurement options. That leaves us with one last item to discuss: material management.

Managing Material
How a facility manages the materials collected will depend on several factors, including staff time, facility space, and cost (both direct and indirect). For many of the items collected, the simplest option is to take the item as delivered and pack it into the appropriate container before shipping the material off for final disposition. However, there are often other material management options which, despite additional processing time requirements, offer operational efficiencies which can offset the additional processing time required.

For example, many facilities that accept oil-based paint choose to crush the paint cans using a purpose-built machine, with the contents “bulked” into a larger container before shipping this out. This method takes additional staff time, but it maximizes the amount of space required for storing this material before shipment. Choosing to bulk paint, instead of shipping it in its original container will most often result in material cost savings. However, if a facility has limited staffing resources, it may be more efficient for them to absorb the higher cost for shipping the material in its original container. The facility can then dedicate their staff’s time to receiving and packing, instead of receiving, processing, and packing. Choosing which option works best for each material category, based on the facilities constraints, improves overall operational efficiency.

Insights into facility design, operations, materials processing, and other topics related to materials management are covered by NAHMMA at our annual conference, chapter workshops and webinars. It may only by March, but it is not too early to plan to network, train and celebrate with NAHMMA at our annual conference in Tempe, AZ from September 17 – 22. | WA

Operating as a volunteer-run, non-profit organization, committed to pollution prevention, product stewardship, and the safe and effective handling of hazardous materials from households and small businesses, NAHMMA supports its members with exclusive training opportunities, relevant industry news, and access to a diverse and experienced multi-national network of people involved in the hazardous waste management industry.




Kenneth Miller began his duties as a scale operator with Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency (DMASWA) in May 2011. Prior to that, he served as a Logistics Team Leader with the Target Corporation. In his role as the Solid Waste Agency Administrator, Ken is a member or multiple professional organizations, including SWANA, the Iowa Society of Solid Waste Operator (ISOSWO – Board Member), the Iowa Recycling Association (IRA), the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association (NAHMMA) – Association Board President and NAHMMA Heartland Chapter President, the United States Composting Council, and the Iowa Composting Council – Board Member. He can be reached at (563) 581-2874, e-mail [email protected] or visit