This activity helps
students understand what can be done to reduce the amount
of solid and hazardous wastes that must be disposed of. Students
review the characteristics of hazardous waste and develop
an estimate of the amount of household hazardous waste in
is any effort to reduce or eliminate pollution and wastes. Efforts can
include reducing the release of pollutants to the air, reducing runoff
into streams, preventing releases of hazardous chemicals, and decreasing
the volume of solid and hazardous wastes we produce. This
activity focuses on preventing pollution by reducing solid and hazardous
Hazardous waste is defined
as any material that presents a threat or unreasonable risk of injury
to people or the environment when it is produced, transported, used,
or disposed of. Hazardous waste is categorized into four groups based
on its characteristics:
By far the most
hazardous waste is produced by industries and manufacturing. We also
produce some hazardous waste in our homes when we do not properly dispose
of items like worn-out batteries, paint products, cleaning agents, used
motor oil, pesticides, and fertilizers.
though industrial processes generate most hazardous waste, this activity
focuses on hazardous materials found in homes because students can collect
information on these materials more readily. Ideas for activities that
focus on pollution prevention efforts in industry are included in the
Extensions listed at the end of this lesson.
1: Defining Hazardous Waste is good preparation for this activity.
For more information on pollution prevention, see the Suggested
Reading list found at the end of the Haz-Ed materials.
Gather the following
- Read Fact Flashes
1 and 7
to prepare your lecture.
- Distribute Fact
Flash 7 and have students read it for homework.
- Discuss pollution prevention
in class using the contents of Fact Flash 7:
- Review with students the
definition and categories of hazardous waste. Ask the students for
examples of products in their homes that fall within each of the 4
hazardous waste categories.
- Distribute the Student
Substance Data Collection Form.
Give students a homework
assignment to identify all of the hazardous materials found in their
homes and record the following information on the Student Worksheet:
Note: Have students tell
their parents about the assignment before they start the activity.
Caution them not to touch any of the substances or open the containers.
- The name of the product
- The use of the product
- Hazardous waste category
of the substance (toxic, reactive, ignitable, corrosive-read label
- Estimated volume of
the material remaining in the container.
- Ask the students what
kinds of hazardous substances they found in their homes.
- On the chalkboard, compile
a list of products in each category found in the students' homes.
- Explain to the students
that their homes will be used as a sample of the homes in the community,
and that the sample will be used to estimate the total amount of hazardous
substances in all the homes of the community.
- Have students calculate
the number of gallons (or liters) of each category of hazardous substances
they have reported in their homes (1 fluid ounce equals 30 milliliters,
0.26 gallons equals 1 liter).
- Calculate a class-wide
average of the amount of hazardous substances in each category.
- Estimate the number of
households in the community, using population information and assuming
an average of 3.5 persons per household.
- Have students multiply
the class-wide average of hazardous substances in their homes by the
number of homes in the community to estimate the total amount of hazardous
substances in all of the homes of the community.
- Discuss how much of each
of these products might become hazardous waste-for example, by being
thrown away in the trash or poured down drains that empty into the
public water system. Discuss where these waste products end up.
- Ask the students for ideas
on what they personally can do to reduce the amount of hazardous waste.
Ask them to name some alternative products that do the same jobs as
products containing hazardous substances (for example, baking soda
is an alternative to using commercial oven cleaners).
- Distribute the Student
Handout, Chemicals in the Household.
Have students discuss the feasibility of changing people's habits
and convincing them to use the alternatives on the list.
- Assign a group of students
to identify the types and amounts of hazardous waste present in your
school. Use the Student Worksheet to record the information they collect.
Have them present their findings to the class and encourage the class
to discuss ways in which the school could reduce its use of hazardous
substances. Consider presenting these ideas to the school principal
and the PTA.
- Have students contact
the local health or environmental services department to investigate
how much industrial garbage is collected and disposed of each year
and what the community government is doing to deal with the potential
hazardous waste problems this creates.
- Have students contact
the local chamber of commerce, the county health department, or the
local or state government environmental agency to obtain the names
of local manufacturers and other businesses that have active pollution
prevention programs. Have students interview officials at these companies
about what they are doing to reduce waste and prevent pollution. As
an alternative, invite local manufacturers and business owners to
come to the class to discuss their pollution prevention programs.
Local businesses that are working to reduce their wastes most likely
would be quite happy to cooperate.
- Plan a field trip to a
local recycling center or hazardous waste collection center.
Check with the local chamber of commerce, or local or state government
environmental agency to see if there is a household hazardous waste
collection program in your area. More information on hazardous waste
collection programs can be obtained by calling the RCRA/UST, Superfund,
and EPCRA Hotline in Washington, DC, which is open Monday through
Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The national
toll free number is 800-424-9346; for the hearing impaired it is TDD
- Consider showing a videotape
describing pollution prevention. Check with your school or local librarian
and with local public television stations for educational videotapes
describing municipal, household, or hazardous waste management. For
example the League of Women Voters of California's Education Fund
produced two award-winning videotapes in 1990. Cleaning Up Toxics
at Home and Cleaning Up Toxics in Business outline ways
in which citizens and small businesses can significantly reduce pollution.
Each tape is available for $29.95 ($49.95 for both) and may be ordered
by calling The Video Project at 1-800-4-PLANET. Another video, called
The Rotten Truth, was produced by the Children's Television
Workshop for its 3-2-1 Contact program. The video is available for
$14.98, plus shipping and handling, by calling the distributor, Sony
Wonder, at 1-800-327-3494.