Every business produces waste, but if your organization creates hazardous waste such as oils, fuels, or chemicals, then you need to ensure that they are being disposed of correctly. However, while images of luminous green ooze in barrels might be the first thing that springs to mind, hazardous waste can also refer to household items such as batteries, motor oil, computers, and cleaning chemicals.
Over 400 million tons of hazardous waste are created each year, which is an incredible 13 tons a second. Failure to dispose of this safely and correctly is not only incredibly harmful to the environment, but it can also pose a major threat to human health; but what is the best way to dispose of hazardous waste?
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is a governmental agency in the USA that ensures private companies dispose of their hazardous waste correctly. In fact, businesses need EPA approval before they can dispose of it at all. The EPA works to ensure that businesses dispose of hazardous waste safely and efficiently whilst also preventing environmental degradation or health problems for humans as a result.
1. Identify your Waste
Before you can know how to safely dispose of hazardous waste, it is important that you know the type of waste you have. Typically, these items will fall into one of two categories, either characteristic or listed. Characteristic refers to those items that have harmful features such as being corrosive, ignitable, are toxic or are reactive. On the other hand, listed wastes are those items and substances that have been specified by the EPA.
2. Store it Correctly
Once you have established the type of waste you have, you then need to know how to store it safely ahead of disposal. This means storing them in compatible, leak-proof, and sealed containers, with steel being one of the most common choices of material. Your storage solutions should also be kept in a designated area away from regular activity.
You should also clearly label the containers, either by color or with written notes, to ensure that it is obvious what is inside. If the storage solutions are being kept outside, then you should also use waterproof covers to ensure rain does not result in runoff.
The EPA requires that businesses dispose of hazardous waste in a way that will not endanger workers who handle it or the environment. EPA regulations state that EPA-designated hazardous wastes, as well as other business generated wastes that exhibit toxic characteristics or contain listed components must be disposed of by EPA authorized treatment, storage or disposal facilities (TSDF).
Next, you need to determine how long the items can sit in storage. Hazardous waste items have different regulations and timetables for when they should be disposed of. This will vary from state to state, so you'll need to do a little research on your own to find the specific deadline in your area.
3. Handle it Properly
When handling hazardous waste, it is important that you follow all instructions, warnings, and disposal directions. For household items, these can typically be found on the labels, but for residual chemicals or dangerous objects, then it is best to liaise with the professionals who can help you to handle the hazardous waste correctly.
4. Methods of Disposal
When it comes to actually disposing of the waste, certain hazards are able to be put into landfills if they have been solidified and stabilized. This used to be a lot more common, but due contamination, the types of hazardous waste than can go into landfill has been significantly reduced.
Certain waste can be recycled effectively, which provides a range of benefits such as reducing raw material consumption and also the amount of waste being sent to landfills. However, it is crucial that recyclable materials are stored correctly beforehand; otherwise, they pose a major fire risk, while spillage or leaks can contaminate the soil and waterways. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined specific regulations when it comes to recycling hazardous waste.
For certain wastes, incineration is a method of disposal, and this can help to reduce the amount being placed into landfills. In certain states, the heat produced by incinerating is then used to produce steam to drive electric power turbines. However, this method can release harmful chemicals and substances into the atmosphere, which can be damaging to the environment.
While waste was once dumped at sea without any prior treatment, nowadays, there are strict regulations, and many environmental agencies have banned the practice. Underground disposal is also another common method and is often used to dispose of medical treatments, radioactive ore, and nuclear fuel.
If you need to dispose of hazardous waste and are unsure of the best practices, or you want to seek professional help, then search for a waste handler near you.