Household Hazardous Products

Solid Waste Lesson Plan: Household Hazardous Products:
Is “Mr. Yuk” Living in YOUR House?
(Developed by the York County Solid Waste Authority © 2001) 

Ages: 4 and up
Group Size: Up to 60

Students learn about different waste types generated and understand that many products used in the home can be hazardous if used or disposed of improperly. Students will learn to identify products that are hazardous, and will be introduced to non-hazardous alternatives.

Students will understand how to properly manage and dispose of hazardous products and will be introduced to an overview of wastewater treatment.

Students will learn how to use the “Household Hazardous Waste Wheel” and/or the household hazardous waste chart to assist them in managing this waste stream. Students will also learn where their regional poison center is located and understand the significance of “Mr. Yuk”.

Using a presentation and group discussion format, students will analyze a variety of today’s common products to determine which are hazardous and which are not.

Laptop computer with projector or overhead projector, screen or blank wall. Examples of a variety of products. All materials provided by the Authority.

Science, environmental studies. Discussion, deduction, comparison, analytics, real-life application.

40 minutes to 1 hour (adaptable to grade-appropriate length).

Indoors. Classroom.

Vocabulary Words
Household hazardous waste, toxic, flammable, corrosive, reactive, contamination, source reduction, groundwater, wastewater, neutralize, recycle, incinerate, Mr. Yuk, poison center.

Household hazardous waste includes any products from the home which are corrosive (drain cleaners or bleach), flammable (gasoline), reactive (chemistry kits) or toxic (pesticides). Many products we use in our home and routinely discard with garbage are similar to hazardous wastes produced by business and industry.

Pennsylvania produces nearly 800,000 tons of hazardous waste annually. While the majority of hazardous wastes are generated by industries, individual consumers contribute to the problem by using products that are considered hazardous either to human health or the environment (or both).

It has been estimated that in an average city of 100,000 residents, 3.7 tons of toilet bowl cleaner, 13.75 tons of liquid household cleaners and 3.44 tons of motor oil are discharged into city drains each month. Just one gallon of improperly disposed motor oil can contaminate more than a million gallons of fresh water (a year’s supply for 50 people). Improper use or disposal of common products that contain hazardous ingredients often occurs because consumers are simply not aware that the products they use pose a hazard risk.

The key to preventing and reducing pollution from household hazardous waste is to learn to recognize household products that contain hazardous ingredients and to reduce reliance on them by choosing non-hazardous alternatives. Proper storage and use of products containing hazardous materials is also important to the safety of children and pets and the environment at large. If products containing hazardous materials must be purchased, buy only what is needed and use all of the product for its intended purpose so there is nothing left to discard.

Using the overheads and provided materials, a speaker will combine a visual presentation with audience participation to communicate key areas of emphasis. Those key areas emphasize the ability to identify hazardous materials by their labels (key words: toxic, corrosive, reactive, flammable), understanding how to properly store and use products containing hazardous ingredients, recognizing that non-hazardous alternatives to hazardous products are available, and understanding how improper use and disposal can negatively impact human health and the environment.

Evaluation Tool
Quiz questions (and answers) will be provided for teacher use. Students will be able to define what household hazardous waste is, why it poses a risk to human health and the environment, how to reduce use of hazardous products by using alternatives and how to safely use and manage household hazardous products already on hand. Students will be able to use the household hazardous waste wheel and/or chart to determine if a product has hazardous properties and to identify what those properties are and how they should be managed.


  1. Tour a wastewater treatment plant to observe how everything you pour down the drain is treated.
  2. At home, go to your garage, shed or sink storage area and examine what is stored there. Using the hazardous waste wheel or chart, determine which items are hazardous and label them. Make sure they are stored out of the reach of children and pets.
  3. Create an informational flier to teach people about hazardous waste. Include information about alternatives to hazardous products. Go online and find out more about hazardous waste at: (directLink Household Hazardous Waste).
  4. Remove old or outdated hazardous products from your garage, storage shed and cabinets and bring them to the York County Solid Waste Authority’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Days (held in the spring and fall of each year). Call the Authority at 717-845-1066 for event dates.

How to Get this Lesson Plan Into Your Classroom
This lesson is available at no cost to any York County school or civic group and is presented by a member of the Authority’s Education Center staff. All materials and handouts associated with this lesson plan are provided by the Authority. Call 717-845-1066 to schedule a presentation of this lesson plan for your class or assembly program.