If your business operation produces waste, you’ll need a way to remove it from your facility and dispose of it safely. If your business generates hazardous waste, the process gets a little trickier, with more requirements to meet and steps to follow. Every year, the United States produces 20 to 29 million tons of hazardous waste, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data from 2001 to 2017. Properly transporting and disposing of those tremendous volumes of refuse is critical for public health and safety.
Fortunately, you likely have several good options for transporting your waste securely and ethically. Below, we’ll walk you through the process.
What Is Hazardous Waste?
What is hazardous waste? The EPA defines hazardous waste as any waste that can harm human health or the environment. It can come from many sources and range from industrial manufacturing process wastes to seemingly innocuous items like batteries. Acutely hazardous waste poses an even more substantial threat, such as nitroglycerin or cyanides.
Hazardous waste often comes in one of two forms: liquid or characteristic waste. Liquid waste may be process water from manufacturing operations or substances like used paints, solvents and pesticides. On the other hand, characteristic waste typically exhibits one of four properties: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity. Here are those properties in more detail:
- Ignitable wastes: Wastes of this nature can catch fire easily.
- Corrosive wastes: Corrosive substances can eat through and weaken other materials. They often have extremely high or low pH levels.
- Reactive wastes: These substances are unstable and can easily react with other substances, give off toxic gases or explode or detonate when heated.
- Toxic wastes: This type of waste is harmful when ingested by living beings. It’s of particular concern because the toxic substances can often leach out of waste material and contaminate groundwater.
What are some examples of hazardous waste? Lithium-ion or mercury-containing batteries, chemical wastes, paints and solvents, cleaning fluids, pharmaceutical waste, petroleum processing byproducts and sludges from particular wastewater treatment processes, among many others, can all be examples of hazardous waste.
Do the Requirements for Hazardous Waste Disposal Apply to You?
Does your business produce hazardous waste? It might if it falls into one of the categories below. The following is a list of several common industrial operations and a description of the hazardous wastes they frequently generate.
Construction activities like carpentry, floor work, heavy construction, demolition, wrecking, paint preparation and painting often produce hazardous waste. So does cleaning and maintaining construction equipment. These wastes may be paint wastes, ignitable wastes, solvent wastes, toxic wastes and used oils, acids and bases.
Dry-Cleaning and Laundry Plants
Commercial dry-cleaning and laundry processes tend to generate hazardous wastes in the form of spent solvents, powder residues, spent filter cartridges, residues from solvent distillation and unused perchloroethylene — the colorless liquid used for dry-cleaning fabrics.
Equipment Repair Facilities
Repair operations such as brush cleaning, degreasing, equipment cleaning, paint preparation, painting, paint removal, rust removal and spray booth and spray gun operations often generate hazardous waste.
Laboratory testing procedures produce hazardous waste in the form of contaminated materials, reaction products, spent solvents, testing samples and unused reagents. The hazardous wastes are often chemical or biological.
Leather Manufacturing Plants
Leather manufacturing processes such as hair removal, bating, soaking, batting, buffing and dying all produce hazardous byproducts. These hazardous wastes are often acids and bases, ignitable wastes, solvent wastes, toxic wastes and unused chemicals.
Pesticide End-Users and Applications
Pesticide application and cleanup generate hazardous wastes like contaminated rinsewater, contaminated soil, empty containers, ignitable waste, solvent wastes and used and unused pesticides.
Photo lab activities like developing negatives and cleaning stabilization systems generate hazardous wastes. These wastes are generally acid regenerants, cleaners, ignitable wastes and spent silver.
Printing and Related Facilities
Printing processes such as plate preparation, stencil preparation, printing, photo processing and cleanup all produce hazardous wastes. These are generally acids and bases, heavy metal wastes, ink, solvents, toxic wastes and unused chemicals.
Vehicle Maintenance Shops
Auto and machinery shops generate hazardous wastes through brush cleaning, degreasing, installation of lead-acid batteries, oil and fluid replacement, paint preparation, painting, paint removal, rust removal, spray booth and spray gun operation and tank cleanouts. The generated wastes usually take the form of acids, bases, batteries, ignitable wastes, paint wastes, solvents, toxic wastes, used oil and unused cleaning chemicals.
Vocational and Educational Shops
Shop processes like automobile body and engine repair, graphic arts-plate preparation, metalworking and woodworking generate hazardous wastes. The wastes often take the form of acids and bases, ignitable wastes, paint wastes and solvent wastes.
Wood and Furniture Manufacturing and Refinishing Plants
Facilities that manufacture furniture and other wood products produce hazardous wastes through brush cleaning, finishing, refinishing, painting, spray brush cleaning, stripping, staining, wood cleaning and wax removal. The wastes are generally ignitable or toxic paint wastes and solvent wastes.
If your business falls into one of these categories or a similar one, figuring out how to manage hazardous waste safely and reliably may seem like a challenge at first. Fortunately, both managing waste on-site and shipping it off-site for disposal become easier once you know the basics, especially if you seek professional guidance.
How to Manage Hazardous Waste On-Site
How can you best manage hazardous waste on your facility’s site? Let’s break the process down into a few different components:
1. Accumulating Waste
Accumulating on-site hazardous waste poses risks to the environment and nearby residents. Therefore, you’ll need to handle waste accumulation responsibly and store it safely.
Most businesses accumulate waste for only a brief period before sending it to a certified disposal facility. Before shipping the waste, your company is responsible for all aspects of its safe management, including secure storage, safe treatment, adequate accident prevention and effective emergency response.
How long can hazardous waste stay on-site, and how much can facilities safely accumulate? The answer varies. The EPA breaks waste-generating facilities down into three categories: large-quantity generators (LQGs), small-quantity generators (SQGs) and very-small-quantity generators (VSQGs). Here’s a closer look at what those three categories entail:
- LQGs: LQGs produce at least 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste per month or more than 1 kilogram of acutely hazardous waste per month. LQGs may accumulate waste for 90 days. They may store an unlimited amount of waste during that time, and they must manage it by storing it in the appropriate containers, drip pads, tanks or containment buildings.
- SQGs: SQGs produce more than 220 pounds but less than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste per month. They may accumulate waste for 180 days without a permit or 270 days if they plan to ship it more than 200 miles. They can never store more than 13,200 pounds of hazardous waste at one time, and they must accumulate it in tanks or containers.
- VSQGs: VSQGs produce less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste per month. They may accumulate waste without a defined time limit, but they may not store more than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste at one time. They must also identify all their hazardous waste and ensure its proper delivery to an individual or facility authorized to dispose of it.
2. Treating Waste
You will need to treat your hazardous waste to meet the land disposal restrictions (LDRs) governing your facility. Treating waste to these standards generally involves reducing concentrations of hazardous substances to the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) set by the EPA.
Many waste generators have their designated disposal companies treat their waste for them. If your facility chooses to do it on-site, be sure to follow the necessary procedures. Obtain the appropriate certifications, develop thorough waste analysis plans and deliver the proper notifications when your facility disposes of waste.
3. Preventing Waste-Handling Accidents
Preventing waste-handling mishaps is critical for keeping people and the environment safe. Your facility will need to minimize the potential risks of explosions, fires, spills and other accidents. Taking the following recommended steps can help:
- Set up an alarm system: An internal communications system or alarm system can notify you of small problems before they turn into catastrophic accidents. The system should provide instant emergency instructions, either through signals or voice commands.
- Make it easy to call for help: Your facility should contain easily accessible devices like phones or two-way radios that personnel can use to call for emergency assistance.
- Install fire- and spill-control devices: Ensure your facility contains an adequate supply of fire extinguishers and other tools for controlling the spread of fire. These can be specialized extinguishers that use foam, dry chemicals or inert gas. You should also have decontamination supplies and spill-control materials like absorbent cushions or spill-containment berms.
- Maintain a sufficient water supply: To prevent the spread of fires, you’ll need access to substantial volumes of water at a high enough water pressure to combat flames. You’ll need this water for hoses, sprinkler systems and fire-control equipment that produces foam.
- Test and maintain all prevention equipment: Be sure to test smoke alarms and fire alarm systems regularly and keep them in good working order.
4. Responding to Emergencies
If an emergency occurs despite your best efforts, knowing how to handle it can make a tremendous difference in the outcome. The EPA does not require waste-generating facilities to develop formal emergency response plans, but having a response strategy in place can help you control emergencies more efficiently. At the minimum, you should craft basic safety guidelines and train your employees on the proper response procedures to follow if an emergency occurs.
How to Ship Hazardous Waste Off-Site
If you plan to ship your hazardous waste to an off-site disposal facility, what is the best way to do it? Below are a few steps you’ll need to take:
1. Select a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility
The first thing to do is to choose a reputable, environmentally conscious facility to treat, store and dispose of your company’s hazardous waste. In making your selection, you’ll want to look into the facility’s permits and certifications. Most disposal companies must have either a state or an EPA permit. Some operate lawfully under regulations that do not require a permit, so check with your local authorities to see what the rules are in your area.
How is toxic waste disposed of off-site? Most disposal companies have dedicated facilities that can treat toxic waste and render it less harmful. They then send the treated components to specially lined landfills for safe disposal.
2. Prepare Waste Shipments
When you’re preparing waste shipments, be sure to package and label them appropriately. Contact the Department of Transportation (DOT) or your state’s waste management authority if you need assistance with figuring out these requirements. You’ll also need to prepare the correct Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest, which both the DOT and EPA require. This manifest contains multiple parts and should include information about the type and amount of the waste, instructions for handling the waste and the signatures of all partners involved in its treatment, storage or disposal.
3. Adhere to Land Disposal Restrictions Reporting Requirements
Abiding by land disposal restrictions is vital for environmental and health protection, and you’ll need to report your hazardous waste disposals to ensure you’re compliant. Send your disposal facility a notice of the intended waste shipment and include an LDR notice that contains the LDR treatment standard and EPA hazardous waste code. You may also be required to provide certification in some instances.
4. Provide Export Notifications
If you plan to export your waste, you must obtain permission from the EPA by providing written notice 60 days before the intended shipment date. You will receive an “Acknowledgement of Consent” form that must travel with the shipment at all times.
5. Ensure Proper Closure
If you close your facility, make sure you have removed all hazardous waste from your waste tanks, discharge confinement structures and discharge-control equipment. You must also clean up any contaminated sites according to the applicable regulations.
Tips for Decreasing Hazardous Waste Production
One of the easiest ways to manage hazardous waste is to decrease production of it. Here are a few steps you can take to minimize your waste generation and make the job of handling and transporting it more convenient:
- Avoid mixing wastes: Store different wastes separately. Chemical reactions between different types of wastes can pose a danger to your employees and necessitate challenging, expensive cleanups. You also should not mix nonhazardous waste with hazardous refuse. If you do, it all becomes hazardous waste, and you’ll need to dispose of it accordingly.
- Alter processes or materials: Wherever possible, change your operations to minimize waste generation. You could switch to nontoxic detergents instead of hazardous cleaning solvents, for instance.
- Reuse and recycle: Manufacturing materials, in particular, offer ample opportunities for reuse and recycling. You can often use materials like oils, acids and metals more than once. You may also be able to sell products like scrap metals to other companies for reuse.
- Store hazardous containers and other products safely: You can also decrease the need for hazardous waste management by reducing the risk of leaks and spills in your facility. Be sure to check containers regularly for cracks and store them in secure areas where the likelihood of damage is low.
Partner With ERC for Dependable Hazardous Waste Management
To gain peace of mind by obtaining sustainable waste transportation services for your industrial facility, work with Environmental Recovery Corporation. We offer a full suite of environmentally responsible waste transportation and disposal services. We can treat many waste streams in our dedicated facility before sending them to a certified landfill for safe, compliant disposal.
Contact us today to schedule hazardous waste transportation or learn more about our services.