Household Hazardous Waste

The Problem?

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.

A Solution 

The recent success of extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs for paint, electronics, and other products has sparked interest in similar approaches for other HHW. Source reduction, reuse, and recycling of hazardous materials that become HHW can decrease the production 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.

While there is no current legislated EPR program for HHW in the U.S., such programs have been operating successfully in Canada since the 1990s. PSI, with member and partner funding, has conducted research on three of these Canadian programs to evaluate options for developing EPR for HHW in the U.S. 

Based on this research, Metro, a regional government in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, worked with legislators to introduce, in February 2015, a bill (
HB 3251-1) to establish an EPR program for HHW in Oregon. An informational hearing was held in the legislature on the bill, and Metro has been undertaking a series of stakeholder meetings to get feedback on the approach used in the bill. An overview of the bill can be found here.

PSI's Role in Delivering Solutions

Conducts Research

PSI offers research and analysis services to inform and shape product stewardship policy. In 2014 and 2015, we conducted research on existing legislated EPR for HHW programs in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. This work included the examination of program operational aspects such as product scope, funding mechanisms, and collection issues, as well as program development key challenges and lessons learned. The purpose of the 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. It was also an opportunity for Canadian provincial governments to learn from each other. PSI plans to continue to explore how EPR for HHW programs have been initiated, developed, and implemented in other jurisdictions with the intent of advancing the development of model legislation for U.S. states. The research reports, available to PSI members and partners, can be accessed on PSI’s website.


Provides Technical Assistance

PSI has hosted, and will continue to host, briefing calls to inform stakeholders about EPR for HHW, discuss key stakeholder issues and interests, share information about existing programs in other jurisdictions, and provide expertise on technical options in designing legislation. In 2014 and 2015, PSI held national calls on this issue which brought together local and state government officials, as well as representatives from the waste management industry and Canadian governments. In 2015 and 2016, PSI has provided technical support to Metro on its EPR for HHW bill, including support for its stakeholder process.


Advocates for EPR Legislation

PSI monitors, informs, and advocates for product stewardship legislation for HHW. We also offer expert testimony supporting EPR legislation for hearings.


Brings Stakeholders Together

PSI works to bring various stakeholders together so that state and local governments can create programs and develop solutions that address the need for convenient, safe management of household hazardous waste.


Provides Resources

PSI provides resources for governments, NGOs and other stakeholders that wish to start or promote EPR for HHW. PSI’s CEO and founder, Scott Cassel, wrote and published a comprehensive book chapter on managing HHW through product stewardship, "Product Stewardship: Shared Responsibility for Managing HHW" in Handbook on Household Hazardous Waste (edited by A.D. Cabaniss). This work outlines a brief history 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. 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.).


We provide exclusive resources for PSI Members and Partnerslogin here or learn more.


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

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