An assessment of household hazardous waste collection

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Virginia Tech


Many civic groups and local governments are involved in campaigns to safely collect and dispose of "household hazardous waste." Although it is difficult to define, household hazardous waste is generally considered to be any chemical waste generated in a family dwelling which, if disposed of improperly, may be harmful to human health or the environment. Growing concerns are centered around the disposal of these potentially toxic wastes by burying them in landfills or pouring them down drains or storm sewers.

The most popular method of addressing the problem of household hazardous waste is that of holding "collection days," at which householders are encouraged to bring their hazardous waste to some central location for proper handling by responsible authorities. Although the availability of information about the total costs of holding these collections days is presently limited, it is apparent that the expense per household served is quite high. Some people have questioned whether the expense is justified, since there has been little documentation of the risks associated with the handling of household hazardous waste in the municipal waste stream.

This thesis presents the findings to date of a study examining the quantities of household hazardous waste present in the municipal waste stream (in order to assess the risks associated with their disposal) and the costs associated with collection days. A telephone survey was used to develop a preliminary estimate of the nature and quantity of hazardous waste generated by households in a Virginia city. Cost data from collection days held in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States are documented and discussed.