Why hazardous waste disposal can be a problem

Hazardous waste poses substantial or potential threats to the public health and the environment. It does not necessarily mean there is an immediate risk to human health, although with some waste this can happen.

Characteristic hazardous wastes are materials that are known or tested to exhibit one or more of the following four traits:

• ignitability
• reactivity
• corrosivity
• toxicity

They are normally classified by the regulatory authorities and can be orginated from non-specific sources, specific sources, or discarded chemical products. Hazardous waste is not only produced as by-products of industrial processes, even households generate potentially dangerous waste from items such as batteries, used computer equipment, and leftover paints or pesticides.

Hazardous waste, which can be found in different physical states such as gaseous, liquids, or solids, cannot be disposed of by common means like other by-products of our everyday lives. Depending on the physical state of the toxic waste, special waste management treatments or processes might be required.

Because this type of waste can harm humans, animals, and plants if they get in contact with the toxins, proper management and disposal of hazardous waste is paramount to reduce the health risks and inappropriate dumping of hazardous waste can have serious environmental and legal consequences.

Identify the types of hazardous waste:

The first step is to recognise the appropriate characteristics of hazardous waste. The European Waste Catalogue (EWC) provides classification codes based on 20 main categories. Within the list hazardous wastes are signified by entries where the code is followed by an asterisk.

Those that are ‘Absolute Entries’ (i.e. are always hazardous waste) are shown in red and the letter ‘A’ appears beside them. For some entries the judgment on whether they are hazardous depends on the threshold of any dangerous substance that is present.

These entries are ‘Mirror Entries’, They are coloured blue and the letter ‘M’ appears beside them.
The European Waste catalogue is available at
http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/waste/31873.aspx

Every business must establish an official process for identifying different types of hazardous waste found on their premises and remind employees about the right procedures and legal requirement for disposal. By creating a more educated workforce, businesses can prevent accidents and eliminate any confusion about the different types of hazardous waste.

Improper storing of toxic waste on land can mean that hazardous materials, like chemicals in paint or batteries, infiltrate the soil and plant systems. Such toxins can also enter the water supply with life threatening consequences for people, animals and plants.

How to dispose of toxic waste:

Businesses must educate their employees on the responsible hazardous waste management. Improper disposal can contaminate the soil and pollute the air with major consequences for the environment. Beyond leading to serious health risks, improper toxic waste disposal can also decrease the property value in a given area and expose your business to fines and/or lawsuits.

Here are some easy steps any business should follow when handling hazardous waste disposal:

Step One: Reduce hazardous waste production.

Before figuring out how to properly dispose of hazardous waste, see if you can make less of it. Try to think, “How do I prevent hazardous waste?” instead of “How do I get rid of it?”. Some ways to reduce toxic waste include substituting hazardous materials with non-hazardous materials, rethink your manufacturing or operating practices, training employees in proper manufacturing and handling processes, improving existing equipment and replacing old equipment with more efficient ones. Recycling and donating can also help you reduce hazardous waste. Consider if another company could use your hazardous materials before you toss them. This might include paint, pesticides, and cleaning products. This may not work in some cases– no company would have use for radioactive sludge, for instance– but see if recycling and donating will work for your business. If someone else can use the hazardous materials, then they won’t go to waste.

Step Two: Sort and store hazardous waste safely

In order to do this, you must store your toxic waste in a secure place, using suitable containers that will stop it from escaping and labelling containers clearly with the type of waste they contain. You must use covers to stop hazardous waste blowing away and use waterproof covers if rain could cause contaminated run-off or prevent the waste from being reused.

Step Three: Choose an authorised supplier to collect, recycle or dispose of your hazardous waste

You can easily check if a carrier, broker or dealer is registered with the Environmental Agency here https://environment.data.gov.uk/public-register/view/search-waste-carriers-brokers
Please don’t give your toxic waste to someone who can’t prove they are a legitimate waste carrier – they are likely to dump your rubbish to avoid paying waste disposal costs. Always obtain a waste transfer note as proof of the transfer to an authorised person. You must keep your transfer note for 2 years in case of inspections from an enforcement officer from your local council or the Environment Agency. Your transfer note must include enough information to help your designated waste management business handling your waste properly and dispose of it safely.

Have a ‘waste management plan’ and be prepared for emergencies

No matter what industry or the size of the business, every company should create a policy that clearly defines how the business reduces, handles, and disposes of hazardous waste. Putting your policy in writing will help you manage hazardous waste disposal and train employees on proper procedures.

Any organisation should also develop a plan in case of an emergency. Accidents can happen despite a business’s best efforts to follow the latest guidelines and having an emergency response plan in place can contain the problem and prevent illness and injury.

Because we all have a responsibility to keep the environment clean, hiring a professional company that can not only dispose of your hazardous waste safely and complying with the latest legislation, but that can also advise and help your business implement the right policies, it can save you time and money and go a long way in ensuring the health and safety of everyone around you.

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