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Household Hazardous Materials: Consumer Education
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Management Options
Where To Go for P2 Help
Consumer Education
Best Practice
Complete List of Links

According to the waste management hierarchy, collection and disposal programs offer the least effective waste management alternative. But these programs do offer face-to-face contact with a consumer who is at the proverbial "teachable moment." These programs offer officials an invaluable opportunity to educate consumers about how to reduce their production of waste.

Effective household hazardous waste management cannot be achieved without consumer awareness. To be effective the education must be comprehensive and widespread. If household hazardous waste education is limited to information about collection programs, then consumers will think the HHW problem is solved by collections. Collections minimize part of the problem but also exacerbate other problems associated with hazardous materials disposal. A good education program leads consumers to accept responsibility for products they choose to buy, and to understand the health and environmental impacts of product use, storage and disposal.

Education on household hazardous products and waste can be linked to other community efforts addressing indoor air quality, poison prevention, health, fire safety, non-point source pollution, and recycling. There are several key points that an education program should cover and resources to assist in developing these educational components.

  1. Hazardous product identification—Consumers should be able to recognize hazardous products and identify the main hazards associated with use, storage and disposal.
  2. Health and environmental effects—Consumers should learn to identify the risks involved with choosing products and materials that generate hazardous waste.
  3. Safer alternatives and least toxic products—Consumers need to know alternatives to resolve the issues identified.
  4. Safe handling—Not all hazards can be avoided. Techniques to safely handle hazardous wastes provide consumers with information to protect themselves.
  5. Waste management options—Consumers need to know that the disposal available at HHW collections represents least desirable alternative for waste management, while prevention represents the most favorable option.
Some excellent social research on behavior change, particularly regarding consumer decisions about household hazardous waste, have been described by environmental psychologist Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr. His website on community based social marketing discusses the barriers and provides tools that have proved effective in promoting environmentally sustainable behavior.


 

The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Household Hazardous Materials Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center
Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center
Contact email: ryoder@unomaha.edu

Hub Last Updated: 5/7/2009