Each year about 60 kg (132 lb.) of hazardous waste is produced by a person globally, and the amount is increasing slowly. There has been a 40,000% increase in the production of man-made chemicals from 1 million to 400 million tons in just one generation.
Hazardous waste is likely to pose serious threats to human health and the environment. The Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (RCRA) established a framework for proper hazardous waste management.
“Over 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste were recycled (recovery, solvent, or metals) in 2017.”
Meaning of hazardous waste
Hazardous waste can be classified as per its physical, chemical, and biological properties. These properties produce either radioactive, infectious, corrosive, ignitable, reactive, or toxic materials. The toxic wastes are poisons, even in small amounts.
The varied effects of hazardous waste make it dangerous and leave a lasting and harmful impact on human health and the environment.
Hazardous waste comes from many sources ranging from used batteries to the waste produced from the industrial manufacturing process. The waste produced has many forms like sludge, solid, gas, and liquid.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a regulatory process that can quickly identify specific substances as hazardous. In addition, it provides objective criteria to include other materials in the regulated hazardous waste universe. However, the identification process can be complex, so the EPA encourages waste generators to adhere to the following steps:
- The first step in the hazardous waste identification process is determining if a material is solid waste.
- The second step is to examine if the waste is excluded from regulation as hazardous or solid waste.
Once a generator determines that the waste meets the definition of solid waste an investigation is conducted to confirm whether the waste should be characterized as hazardous waste.
EPA’s Hazardous Waste Management Program
In the mid-twentieth century, solid waste management issues rose to new heights of public concern in many areas of the US because of the increase in solid waste generation, rising disposal costs, shrinking disposal capacity, and public opposition to the building of new disposal facilities.
Even today, it is a challenge. Many communities are struggling to develop cost-effective, environmentally protective solutions. In addition, the growing amount of waste generated has made it increasingly essential for solid waste management officials to develop strategies and manage waste costs effectively and safely.
Hazardous waste management has become essential, and RCRA has set up a framework for it to function. The EPA has established a comprehensive regulatory program that helps ensure the safe management of hazardous waste from its creation to transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal.
Hazardous Waste Generation
Hazardous waste generators are the first link in the hazardous waste management system. Every generator must determine if the waste is hazardous and then oversee the ultimate fate of the waste. Furthermore, the generators must fully document and ensure the hazardous waste they produce and confirm that the treatment is proper, managed, and identified before disposal or recycling. The degree of regulation applicable to each generator depends on the amount of waste a generator produces.
Hazardous Water Transportation
As generators produce hazardous waste, transporters might move the waste to the facility that disposes of, store, treat or recycle the waste. Since the transporters are moving regulated wastes on waterways, rails, highways, and public roads the rules for transportation are very strict.
Hazardous Waste disposal, storage, treatment, and recycling
The EPA tried hard to develop hazardous waste regulations that can balance the conservation of resources. It also ensures the protection of human health and the environment. It is possible to recycle most hazardous wastes or treat them in incinerators or landfills.
Recycling hazardous waste comes with a variety of benefits. They can include ultimately reducing the consumption of raw materials (because some materials can be re-used). The waste materials that need disposal and treatment must be properly stored to prevent contamination of drinking water and soil. Proper storage and handling also prevent fires, leaks, and spills. To encourage hazardous waste recycling while protecting the environment and health, the EPA developed regulations to make sure recycling would be performed safely.
TSDFs (Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities) provide final treatment or temporary storage of hazardous wastes for disposal. They manage large volumes of waste and are stringently regulated. They are required to establish facility management standards, including the specific provisions governing hazardous waste management units and additional precautions designed to protect air resources, groundwater, and soil.
Protecting the environment and humanity
Specific waste regulations help to provides adequate protection of the environment and humans at the same time. Making the regulations clear and enforceable enables:
- conservation of resources
- allowing for environmentally sound recycling
- facilitating compliance
- providing flexibility for the management of specific, complex hazardous waste streams
Role of CWE in hazardous waste recycling
Clean Water Environmental’s entire operation is under RCRA-permitted areas and operates under our Waste Analysis and Acceptance Plan (WAP) procedures. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at both Mansfield and Dayton facilities are heavily influenced by hazardous waste procedures. At CWE, we treat all aspects of our receiving, permitted or not, the same way we treat the most complex materials.