Promoting Proper Use of a Household Hazardous Waste Facility: A System Approach

EPA Grant Number: R825827
Title: Promoting Proper Use of a Household Hazardous Waste Facility: A System Approach
Investigators: Werner, Carol M.
Institution: University of Utah
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: October 1, 1997 through December 31, 1998 (Extended to June 30, 2001)
Project Amount: $128,211
RFA: Decision-Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice


The purpose of the proposed research is to use the new Salt Lake City/County Household Hazardous Waste Facility (HHW Facility) as an opportunity to study attitude, motivation, and behavior change. The target behavior is source reduction, not just proper disposal. The project uses a combination of individual persuasion and small group involvement to effect change and support the change on a long-term, internalized basis. Psychological research including research by the PI guides the analyses of the processes by which individuals change attitudes and maintain new behaviors. A small group project teaches church members to develop a HHW Exchange. It can serve as a model for other communities interested in reaching large numbers of citizens efficiently and effectively.

The proposed project addresses four weaknesses in previous efforts to manage household hazardous waste. In so doing, it contributes to our understanding of the psychological processes underlying long-term attitude and behavior change. First, it emphasizes proper use (source reduction, proper storage for extended shelf-life, proper disposal) whereas many communities have focused entirely on disposal of household hazardous waste. Second, it targets values about home appearance and upkeep that underlie the use of hazards. People use their homes to express personal and social values and to demonstrate their status in the community. Currently, achieving the ideal home and conveying that ideal image require the use of hazardous materials. Until the ideal image of home changes, use of hazardous products will continue. Third, the project uses education and persuasion at multiple social levels to embed attitude and behavior change in its social context. Extensive research indicates that norms and attitudes are supported or changed by input from friends and community, yet many programs focus entirely on individual level persuasion efforts. This project emphasizes social context at the community level (with messages from government health personnel) and at the small group level (church groups). And finally, the project uses attitude theory, research, and prescaling to design optimum message content.

Expected Results:

Study 1 examines relations among attitudes, intrinsic motivation (viz: ongoing phenomenal experiences, and task persistence. People who express strong attitudes early on should be more committed to success at reducing use of household products, more likely to learn and practice proper storage, more likely to transform tedious tasks into more interesting or pleasant ones, and more likely to continue more difficult or time consuming cleaning methods over the long term--i.e., to reduce their use of more convenient but environmentally hazardous products. Study 2 uses the findings of Study 1 to design optimum persuasive messages and then embeds this information in a significant reference group (church groups). It has three purposes. First, as a case study, it allows us to compare successful and unsuccessful groups and understand the correlates of success at reducing use of hazardous household products. Second, as a practical matter, it institutionalizes programs for reducing use and increasing proper disposal of hazardous products. And third, it provides a basis for development of booklets that can be shared with other communities interested in learning more about source reduction and in developing local HHW Exchanges.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 16 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Persuasion, Behavior Change, Reference Group, Intrinsic Motivation, Household Hazardous Waste., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Waste, State, Economics, Hazardous Waste, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Hazardous, Economics & Decision Making, Psychology, Social Science, hazardous substance disposal, hazardous waste disposal, hazardous waste management, hazardous waste treatment, social psychology, social impact analysis, valuation, community involvement, human activities, belief system, decision analysis, incentives, valuing environmental quality, Utah (UT), environmental values, preference formation, standards of value, environmental ethics, environmental policy, hazardous waste facility, psychological attitudes, hazardous waste site, source reduction, outreach and education, behavior change, household hazardous waste

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998 Progress Report
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000
  • Final Report