The ability to enhance the HHW collection infrastructure with a permanent HHW collection facility depends on available resources, existing or new. There are some experiences and analyses that can help conceptualize future operations with a
permanent HHW collection facility.
By David Nightingale, CHMM, S.C. and Kenneth Miller
Welcome to the NAHMMA Corner! The past two articles have covered mobile collection planning and unattended drop-off locations in the Region of Peel. This month, we conclude the mobile collections series by examining what factors to consider if your program is considering a permanent household hazardous materials collection facility.
When does it make sense to consider the development of a permanent HHW collection facility? This is a question that has been asked by local waste professionals across the U.S. for decades. The Waste Watch Center used to track the number of HHW facilities and collection events in the U.S. and counted 96 permanent HHW collection facilities in 1991with growth to 450 permanent facilities in 1998. The Waste Watch Center no longer exists and there have been no comprehensive estimates of the number of permanent HHW collection facilities in the U.S. or Canada since the late 1990s.
HHW Collection Events Lead to Permanent Facilities
The most common context in which the question of “Should our local community have a permanent HHW collection facility?” occurs is when there has been a history of HHW collection events. After some years of occasional HHW collection events, there
frequently emerges a local desire to find a more convenient, year-round opportunity to manage hazardous materials from the home.
As public awareness and participation in HHW collection events increases over time, so too does the logistical strain of hosting increasingly large or more frequent collection events. Managing hundreds or even thousands of customers over a weekend tends to be chaotic; sometimes traffic backs up onto surrounding streets; the need for speedy operations leads to not very efficient waste packaging; seldom is there time or space for any good materials delivered to be reused; and significant mobilization costs are experienced each time for set up and tear down. This naturally leads to local discussions of more cost-effective, more convenient, and less chaotic options for HHW collection and management.
Considering a Permanent HHW Collection Facility
The ability to enhance the HHW collection infrastructure with a permanent HHW collection facility depends on available resources, existing or new. Part of the local evaluation should compare the long-term costs of continuing collection events to the long-term capital and operating costs of a permanent HHW collection facility. Such analysis is subject to local conditions including facility design, labor, and construction costs, as welll as operating choices, which are beyond the scope of this article. However, there are some experiences and analyses that can help conceptualize future operations with a permanent HHW collection facility.
Operating costs per customer at permanent collection facilities are almost universally significantly less than per customer costs for collection events. A statewide cost analysis for 60 HHW collection events compared to 47 permanent HHW collection facilities in Washington found that you pay a premium for HHW collection events. Your excess cost of using HHW collection events is between 21 percent on a cost per pound basis, and 56 percent on a cost per customer basis,
versus using a permanent HHW collection facility.1 For example, if you are now paying $75/customer for HHW collection events, you might realize a cost savings of perhaps 30 percent to about $53/customer using a permanent HHW collection facility. Cost savings per customer at facilities is often attributed the following:
• Ability to divert significant amounts of good products to local community reuse
• More efficient packaging and consolidation of wastes, which reduce packaging supplies, shipping, and disposal costs
• Leveraging existing administrative and operational resources such as cross-training employees to reduce reliance on contractor staff
• Purchasing supplies and PPE in bulk quantities
• Avoidance of mobilization costs for setup and tear-down for each collection event
Of course, operating costs can vary significantly by location and how you choose to operate a facility. While your cost per customer will typically be less, your operating budget might increase due to the higher total number of households served per year. With more convenience, you will attract more customers per year. This can be managed by metering the participation through an appointment only system. For example, the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency in Iowa serves a set number of customers by appointment in 30-minute blocks from 7:30 AM until 3:30 PM on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.2 If you have hard and very limited budget constraints, an appointment system may be necessary.
For local programs that want to meet the local demand for service, I typically recommend planning for a future where at least 10 percent of households are served per year for an effective service level.3 The level of advertising or promotion of the HHW collection service can also have a dramatic effect on participation levels. Until you reach into the double-digit annual participation level, it is likely that the more the public is made aware of HHW collection opportunities, the more households will participate.
Finding Capital Funds
The hurdle that prevents or delays some local jurisdictions from instituting permanent HHW collection facilities is the capital cost of property, facility design, and construction. The most common method to fund HHW programs is through a solid waste tipping fee surcharge, although wastewater treatment programs, stormwater utility fees, wellhead protection programs, property taxes, and other funding sources are also used by some local programs.
Some state environmental agencies financially support the development of permanent HHW collection facilities with grants where there is a locally demonstrated need. USDA has similarly supported development of HHW collection facilities in some rural communities. In those cases, the financial capital threshold can be significantly reduced.
One method that several small and large local jurisdictions have used to generate the capital for an HHW facility is to create a dedicated fund to accumulate a positive balance from tipping fee surcharges or other funding sources. Depending on the rate of funding, it might take many years to generate sufficient funding. However, this savings method avoids the expense of issuing bonds or other financing methods.
Learn from Others
Instead of looking to hypothetical “what if” scenarios, it is often instructive to simply look to jurisdictions who have already developed permanent HHW collection facilities and learn from them. NAHMMA members, many of whom operate permanent facilities, consulting engineers, and industry specific consultants can assist you by connecting you with other jurisdictions of similar size and scope who have built permanent facilities. Reaching out to those facilities, via conference calls and site visits can help inform your planning process for the design, staffing, and material management expectations. In addition, the experiences and learnings derived from many local programs are collected in the HHW Collection Facility Design Guide available at the NAHMMA webstore (https://nahmma.org/catalog.php?cat=1). Finally, there is the just published compilation of HHW Corner articles entitled the Chronicle of the HHW Corner. This 100-page book contains additional insights and advice on development of HHW facilities, policies and programs, available at www.specialwasteassoc.com/publications.
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.
This is the third and final article in the second part of our NAHMMA Corner series, which is designed to tell you, the reader, more about mobile collection events. Future article themes will cover permanent collection facilities, hazardous material handling, other materials often managed, and member spotlights. | WA
David Nightingale, CHMM, S.C., is Principal at Special Waste Associates (Olympia, WA), a company that assists communities in developing or improving HHW and VSQG collection infrastructure and operations. They have visited more than 155 operating HHW collection facilities in North America. Special Waste Associates works directly for program sponsors providing independent design review for new or upgrading facilities—from concept through final drawings to create safer, more efficient and cost-effective collection infrastructures. Special Waste Associates also published the book, HHW Collection Facility Design Guide. David can be reached at (360) 491-2190 or e-mail [email protected].
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, Kenneth 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) – National Board Member, 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 www.NAHMMA.org.
1. Nightingale, David, and Ellis, Elizabeth, Moderate Risk Waste Collection System Report, Washington State Dept. of Ecology, December 2000, Table 6.
3. See the November 2020 HHW Corner article for a discussion of HHW Collection Effectiveness Metrics.