Household Hazardous Waste

What are the Issues?

Many products commonly used in the home contain hazardous components -- ingredients that are corrosive, toxic, flammable, reactive, and/or physically or environmentally hazardous. This list of products may include such items as varnish and paint remover, fuel additives, lighter fluid, lubricants, rust and tar removers, pool chemicals, fuel cylinders, gasoline contaminated with oil or water, pesticides, and other products. Because of the potential hazard, special handling is often required when managing these products once they are no longer needed by the consumer. Such leftover household products are considered to be household hazardous waste (HHW) and can pose significant risks to human health and the environment. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has set stringent requirements for hazardous waste generated by industry, it does not regulate similar wastes generated in the home. These wastes are, therefore, often disposed of in the regular trash.

The recent success of extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs for paint, electronics, and other products has sparked interest in similar approaches for other HHW. Reduction, reuse, and recycling of HHW can reduce the generation of additional hazardous substances. Appropriate disposal protects human health and the environment. EPR programs for products categorized as HHW are also intended to create economic and operational efficiencies in the collection and management of toxic products that are not currently addressed by product-specific EPR legislation (e.g., paint, batteries, thermostats, fluorescent lamps). One significant benefit of EPR programs for HHW is the ability to address the inefficiencies of the growth of multiple, distinct EPR programs. 

Latest Research

What is PSI Doing to Help?

PSI has worked on developing EPR solutions for individual HHW products since its inception. In fact, PSI’s past President and current board member, Dave Galvin, who works for the King County Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in Washington State, coined the term “household hazardous waste” nearly 35 years ago. Dave became the first President of the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association (NAHMMA), and Scott Cassel, PSI’s CEO, was NAHMMA’s third president. This association focuses specifically on HHW. Dave and Scott now work on applying their experience on HHW to EPR systems. They have been joined in their effort to establish an EPR system for HHW by PSI board member Scott Klag, along with NAHMMA board member, Jim Quinn, both of Metro regional government in Oregon. Below are some important highlights, starting with the most recent:


While there are currently no EPR programs for a range of products currently managed as HHW in the U.S., PSI has been working with Metro Oregon and other local and state governments to learn about existing EPR systems for HHW in Canada. PSI has completed initial research related to options for implementing EPR solutions in the U.S. This work has primarily focused on examining existing programs in two Canadian jurisdictions, and covered topics related to: 1) the scope of products included under the HHW designation; 2) funding mechanisms; 3) collection issues; and 4) the organization of producer responsibility organizations. PSI Full Members and Sustaining Partners can view the report, Extended Producer Responsibility for Household Hazardous Waste: Phase I Research, by logging in here. The purpose of this research is to help U.S. state and local governments determine whether a similar HHW umbrella category should be used in the U.S. for a range or hazardous products. PSI plans to continue to explore how EPR for HHW programs have been initiated, developed, and implemented in other jurisdictions with the intent of helping the development of model legislation for U.S. states.


In 2008, PSI’s CEO and founder, Scott Cassel, wrote and published a comprehensive book chapter on managing HHW through product stewardship (see Cassel, Scott. "Product Stewardship: Shared Responsibility for Managing HHW." In Handbook on Household Hazardous Waste, edited by Amy D. Cabaniss, 159-214. Lanham, MD: Government Institutes, 2008). This work outlines a brief history and context of the topic, the relevance of product stewardship to HHW, how key elements of a product stewardship system apply to HHW, and HHW product stewardship and EPR programs in other jurisdictions (e.g., in Canada and Europe). Former president of PSI’s Board of Directors and current Honorary Board Member, Dave Galvin, also contributed to this edited volume on HHW with chapters covering how HHW is defined and why it is problematic, as well as the history and current status of HHW (see Galvin, Dave. "The History and Current Status of Household Hazardous Waste Management." In Handbook on Household Hazardous Waste, edited by Amy D. Cabaniss, 39-85. Lanham, MD: Government Institutes, 2008; Galvin, Dave and Philip Dickey. "What Is Household Hazardous Waste?" In Handbook on Household Hazardous Waste, edited by Amy D. Cabaniss, 1-37. Lanham, MD: Government Institutes, 2008.)


To view existing extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws in the U.S., visit our Map of State EPR Laws page. To view pending and active EPR legislation in the U.S.—privileged content available exclusively to PSI Members and Partnerslogin here.

For more information, please contact Suna Bayrakal at (617) 671-0616. 

Household Hazardous Waste

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