Winter 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW1

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Waste Management: New Directions for Home Economics


Marie S. Hammer
Associate Professor
Home Environment Specialist
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
University of Florida-Gainesville

Extension home economics has a history of meeting the ever-changing needs of families. This tradition is currently being reinforced by the priorities identified as National Initiatives, including a most recent initiative - waste management.

Many states are passing legislation to address the solid waste issue. In the Summer of 1988, Florida passed one of the most comprehensive solid waste bills in the nation. The bill not only mandates technological solutions to waste management, but also provides for educational programming to support waste reduction by 30% by 1994.

Restructuring Traditional Roles

Programs are now being restructured to meet the challenges of solid waste, including public policy education and the human dimension of this issue. In Florida, home economists are breaking away from existing structures and traditional linkages and taking risks in forming new partnerships. They're becoming the local experts in the macro environment that surrounds the waste issue, including the technological factors, economic forces, socio/demographic trends, and the political climate.

They're receiving support from home economics disciplines and tapping the knowledge base of disciplines in natural resources and throughout the land-grant system.

Home economists in Florida are:

  • Providing the leadership to develop comprehensive educational programs in tandem with county government to support mandated source reduction/recycling.
  • Conducting public forums and seminars for citizens, business, industry, and government agencies that are both cooperators in tackling the problems and also audiences to receive educational information.
  • Working with business, industry, and academic teams to design systems for recycling in central Florida's 80,000-room hotel/motel/resort industry.
  • Training volunteers and youth from a myriad of groups to provide enrichment activities in waste management for schools and special events.
  • Promoting source reduction, recycling, and managing household hazardous waste through consumer education programs.

Results in Florida

A statewide home economics program in waste management began in early 1989 to encourage and support educational efforts in waste management in Florida's 67 counties. Now, over two-thirds of Florida's counties are providing leadership for multidisciplinary programming in waste management. Counties have applied for and received more than a half million dollars in grants to design educational programs to support the state mandated source reduction/recycling program. An additional 20 counties are planning to apply for grants in 1990.

New Directions

The waste management issue has provided opportunities for team building, collaboration, and problem solving within Extension, as well as with new cooperators and potential supporters. Agents report they're building extensive contacts in government, business, industry, and education channels that have been previously out of their realm. As a result, the agents working in this area are establishing credibility and respect. This issue is opening doors for creative programming and funding sources, and giving Extension home economists the opportunity to break into a new field of family-related concerns. The ultimate benefactors are the people and the environment.