Knowing how to handle and dispose of hazardous waste is an important topic. If you’ve stumbled on this blog post, there’s a good chance you already know why. If you don’t, to put it simply, you should know how to handle and dispose of hazardous waste for your own safety and the safety of those around you, as well as for the preservation of the environment. People often forget that contaminating the environment can have serious implications for the day-to-day life of many!
As a business owner, you should aim to minimize your impact on the environment anyway, and not just for the good PR! How are you supposed to know what you’re disposing of is hazardous, and how should you dispose of it? Depending on the nature of your business, you may or may not come across, use, and eventually throw away a number of different chemicals, substances, or contaminated items that are considered hazardous. Here’s everything you need to know about hazardous waste so you don’t make any mistakes:
Hazardous Waste Defined
The first part of defining it is to define waste, which is any solid, liquid, or contained gaseous material that’s being disposed of, burned, incinerated, or recycled. Waste is generally considered hazardous if it exhibits one or more of the following four characteristics: ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is the federal governing body that’s responsible for all things hazardous waste. If you’re not sure whether or not your waste is hazardous, try checking the agency’s published lists of hazardous wastes online.
Do Regulations Apply to You?
If your waste falls on the EPA’s lists, or if you’ve determined that it has one or more of the four characteristics listed above, then it’s likely that disposal regulations apply to you. Here’s a tip: they do, and you should make sure you’re in compliance.
Your next step should be to determine which removal category you and your business fall in. The EPA splits hazardous waste categories into three, including Very Small Quantity Generators, Small Quantity Generators, and Large Quantity Generators.
After you’ve determined your waste codes and category, know that the next step isn’t disposal! By law, you must store your hazardous waste in waste-compatible containers that are in good condition, properly labeled, kept closed at all times, and stored at or near where the hazardous waste was generated. The waste containers also have a volume limit of 55 gallons and must be stored in a chemically compatible manner.
Finally, disposal! Unfortunately, we’d need a whole separate blog post to outline the many different disposal procedures for the different types of wastes, and all of the methods of disposal available for each. If you’ve gotten this far and need to know, check out the EPA’s guidelines here, and a very useful Purdue University publication on the topic here.