Counties are authorized to provide refuse collection and disposal on a countywide basis. A county agency may be given this function, or contracts for the service may be made with "any municipality, any utility or other service district, any private organization, or any combination of such entities." Joint action with other counties and municipalities also is authorized.
As with fire protection, districts must be established where refuse collection and disposal service are to be provided. The full costs must be paid from a tax levy within the district or charges levied on service recipients or both. A countywide property tax levy may be used "only if all persons in the county are to be equally served." This is specifically prohibited if any city or special district within the county provides collection and disposal services to its residents. T.C.A. §§ 5-19-101–116.
Under the 1991 Solid Waste Management Act, counties are required to provide residents a collection system that consists, at a minimum, of convenience centers with certified operators and attendants. T.C.A. § 68-211-851.