Household hazardous wastes (HHWs), the discarded pesticides, solvents, paints, lubricating oil, and similar products common to residences throughout the industrial world, create problems for governments charged with managing solid waste. When disposed of improperly in landfills or incinerators or if dumped illegally, HHW may contribute to soil and water contamination. A most common management tool for HHW is a special collection effort that segregates HHW from normal trash and disposes of it in an approved manner, all at a higher cost to the governmental jurisdiction. The Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) has undertaken a different approach, based on the use of extended producer responsibility (EPR).
BC's efforts began in 1992 with adoption of a regulation on used lubricating oil (lube oil). More than 40 million liters (L) of used lube oil have been collected annually through the EPR system established under this regulation. A regulation establishing producer responsibility for postconsumer paints followed in 1994. BC enacted an additional regulation establishing EPR in 1997 for solvents/flammable liquids, domestic pesticides, gasoline, and pharmaceuticals.
As a result of the application of EPR to HHW, local government costs for managing HHW and the amount of HHW identified in municipal waste have declined. Although the regulations appear to have mixed success in prompting consumers to avoid products that result in HHW, there are indications that they may be more effective than conventional management efforts.
Based on BC's experience with EPR, key factors for successful implementation include maintaining flexibility in program design, creating viable funding alternatives, aggressive enforcement to provide a level playing field, and adopting policies that maximize diversion of HHW from landfills, while minimizing waste generation, setting targets for reuse and recycling, promoting consumer awareness and convenience, involving local government jurisdictions, and monitoring outcomes.