HAZWASTE: A Curbside Hazwaste Success

What do you get when you marry curbside recycling collection with household hazardous wastes (HHW)?

Orange, Calif.-based Curbside Inc.

A company founded in 1995, Curbside's owners were looking for ways to expand their business. They realized that improper hazardous waste disposal almost has become a thing of the past - except among the general public.

Curbside also knew that about 5 percent of all communities in the United States organize annual HHW collection programs, collecting between 1 percent to 3 percent of its area's HHW. Even fewer communities have permanent HHW sites.

Yet, the potential for HHW collection is huge: 100 million households produce up to 75 pounds of HHW annually creating millions of pounds of HHW that potentially are being improperly disposed each year.

About five years ago, Curbside began working with state-supported public agencies to collect used oil and oil filters from homes. After an overwhelming response, Curbside's owners decided to broaden HHW management programs.

By then, residents already had been recycling paper, plastic and cans at the curb. Curbside realized that, similar to recyclables, residents wanted HHW collected at their homes. The company created a door-to-door program, including year-round collection.

Following a period of rapid growth, a portion of Curbside was acquired by Safety-Kleen Corp., Columbia, S.C., in 1997.

"Our primary expertise is marketing and service," says William Anderson, Curbside's president. "Safety-Kleen's expertise is customer service and recycling. We maintain the marketing staff, and Safety-Kleen maintains the collection infrastructure."

Today, Curbside offers a turnkey program that allows a community to start a program without burdening or adding to existing staff.

Curbside says that seniors and disabled citizens particularly benefit from this program. Service representatives enter garages, basements and other areas of their customers' homes to assist those incapable of lifting or moving HHW.

The company tracks its service quality with a "report card," and states that 97 percent of survey responses indicate the program is very good or excellent, a pattern that holds true for all Curbside programs.

Because Curbside uses trucks to transport waste from homes to the Safety-Kleen facility, it can collect larger HHW quantities. In fact, the highest amount collected annually is about 225 pounds from homes in two counties in Pennsylvania - more than double the national average.

With 100 million households available for HHW collection, more opportunity exists than ever before. The company currently is developing a HHW collection system that will reduce cost to public agencies and residents substantially, while increasing the quality and frequency of service.