Mobile Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program Celebrates 20 Years

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s mobile Household Hazardous Waste Program is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013.


In 1989, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Solid Waste Planning and Recovery Act directing the State Planning Office to establish a comprehensive solid waste management plan for the state.

In 1991, the Tennessee General Assembly adopted two pieces of legislation, the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991, which provides for the establishment of the Household Hazardous Waste Program, and the Solid Waste Authority Act of 1991. As part of the program, households and conditionally exempt small quantity generators may dispose of wastes that may be flammable, reactive, corrosive or toxic.


The first mobile HHW event took place in Rutherford County on September 25, 1993 when 423 households disposed of 25,830 pounds of HHW at a cost of $13,776.32. Since the program’s inception in 1993, households have properly disposed of more than 20 million pounds of material.  Typical items to dispose of include cleaning fluids, pesticides, mercury thermometers and thermostats, fluorescent bulbs, lithium and button batteries, aerosols, adhesives, medications, brake fluid, swimming pool chemicals and paint thinner. 


“Our household hazardous waste mobile collection service provides the people of Tennessee with a safe, environmentally friendly way to dispose of unwanted household chemicals and other potentially hazardous wastes at no cost,” said Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian.  “We are pleased to have provided this service for 20 years and look forward to many more years of providing collection events in local communities across the state.”


HHW management in Tennessee has improved from a state-operated mobile collection service providing one day collection events to a combination of locally-operated year-round collection and state-operated one day events. In the 1990’s, over 85% of the waste collected at events consisted of batteries, used oil and paints. In the 2000’s, emerging waste streams such as compact fluorescent lamps and electronic scrap were on the rise.


In 2010, local governments expanded their solid waste and recycling programs to include household paint and electronic scrap collection, providing this service throughout the year. This substantial cost savings has enabled the state to offer a greater number of collection events for the truly hazardous materials. Also in 2010, the HHW program began providing services for conditionally-exempt small quantity generator wastes.  Small businesses that generate less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste per month may dispose of their wastes at a collection event for a fee and by appointment.


“Some small businesses may see a reduction in disposal costs by delivering it to an event and some may benefit by cleaning out a legacy of waste they didn’t otherwise know how to dispose,” Solid Waste Director Pat Flood said.


Today, Tennessee has four locally operated permanent collection facilities serving the most populated counties, with two new facilities opening in 2014 in Williamson and Montgomery counties. The mobile collection service continues to operate up to 45 one-day collection events per year and assists nearly 100 locally operated BOPAE collection sites with the cost for recycling household oil-based paint and mercury containing lamps (fluorescent lamps).


For more information on the household hazardous waste mobile collection service, please call 1-800-287-9013 or    

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