Your question is similar to a previous one asked by nick_at_rh2o about What do you see/do to remove trash from the waste stream?. The response is a bit the same, although yours is more general and can be link to trash as well as chemical products, FOG, that are dumped in the sewers, toilet, drains. The response is not all on communications campaign and public outreach. Portions of it is also due to the 10s of thousands of new chemical produced every year by the industry. That takes more of a regulatory approach as well. This goes though more of a lobbying approach so that regulators are aware and act upon the chemical produced and their proper disposal. it is a complex question.
As an operator, you can work with your community on awareness. It takes time, but it works on the long run. On the regulatory side, you can work with your regional/national association to make your voice heard.
There is a great formula for generating change/ understanding why change is not happening – it is called Gleisher’s Formula:
In summary it states that change only happens when the left side of the equation below outweighs the right side: [N.B. All statements are from the persoective of the person whose behaviour needs to change – not yours]
(D) Dissatisfaction with the current situation x Clear (V) Vision of a better future x Understanding and feeling capable of taking the (N) Next steps > (F) Fear of Change.
Let’s break this down.
D = Why does a member of the public care – We can make the care by showing how much it costs to deal with their lack of discipline and/ore we can show the environmental damage done by the chemicals we cannot adequately treat. Share content that debunks the positive effects of cosmetics that only work superficially.
V = Estimate the cost savings to them if all the really bad stuff stopped flowing to the plants.
N = Make the next steps very simple – e.g. explain what to do with a baby wipe instead of flushing it. Promote products that do not contain harmful chemicals.
F = Understand what they may fear – e.g. If I don’t flush my baby wipe I will have a stinky house, If I don’t use XYZ cosmetic I’ll look ugly, If I don’t flush bleach down my sink on a daily basis I will die a horrible germ ridden death. All of these need to be treated with compassion but addressed. Typically it is community leaders and influencers that change behaviour not authority figures. Can we get celebrities involved in the education of the masses? Sad but true that it may be one of the fastest ways to shift perception at a level that all plants will benefit from rather than you leafletting your community in isolation (as an example).
Outreach is the way forward (as is regulation for sure – the microbeads is a good example of how that can work) but maybe not just at your level, outreach as an industry would be far more powerful because the cost savings nationally would be mind-blowing.