The reduction of household waste has been identified as a key component of waste management strategies throughout Europe. A number of theoretical approaches and research methods have been employed to investigate why people behave the way they do as the first step towards improving household waste behaviour. Typically these approaches have adopted some form of quantitative survey of attitudes and reported behaviour in order to generate statistical information on the relationship between values and actions and to identify the barriers and opportunities that mediate those relationships. However, within this body of work there has been little consideration of how particular methodologies themselves may act as a catalyst for improving waste management behaviour. Building on research findings from a study that investigated household attitudes and actions towards waste in Ireland, this paper considers an approach to investigating household waste management behaviour, and crucially behaviour change, through the active participation of householders in a waste minimisation exercise in the home. The paper evaluates the form and function of the exercise against criteria established for action research. While not a panacea for resolving household waste management dilemmas it is concluded that active techniques, such as the waste minimisation exercise, have the added value of offering enhanced learning opportunities for participating householders as well as nuanced information for policy makers. However, the ultimate impact of such active research techniques still relies on the commitment of waste service providers to respond to the findings of participants. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.