Improper disposal of unused human and pet pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are an emerging public and watershed health threat around the world. Although some waste stream reduction programs such as PPCPs "take-back" exist, there is limited research in current programs on reducing the entry of PPCPs into the environment that focuses on what motivates people - specifically pet owners - to take stewardship actions with their pet PPCPs.
To fill this knowledge gap, an online survey was conducted with veterinary care professionals and educational pet owners on the West Coast to first understand the motivations for pet ownership and the environmental desires for their pets and how aware pet owners are of the connections between PPCPs and the environment. Once pet ownership patterns were established, the connection between pet ownership and use and disposal of pet PPCPs was examined. Pet PPCP use and disposal status was then correlated with the respondents' use and disposal of human PPCPs. With this data, the study then observed how the HCAM (Human Capacity to Act Model) framework of applying rational choice, social proof, and institutional choice theories might be used to explain the triggers to PPCPs use and disposal behaviors/actions.
Overall, the findings from this research shed light on the current status in use and disposal of pet PPCPs and indicate a positive relationship between the disposal of human and pet PPCPs. The study found that a majority of unused PPCPs are disposed of in the garbage or simply stored in households. For the most part, the pet-owning educators and veterinary care professionals in this study responded similarly, but differences did exist. Veterinary care professionals were driven more by economic factors, while educators were influenced more by environmental motivations. We examined how to understand some of the drivers and outcomes to this emerging contaminant issue in the environment through the HCAM framework to improve communication with stakeholders that can lead to more effective programs, studies, and policies on PPCPs stewardship.