How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste, also known as hazardous material or hazardous substances, refers to any waste or discarded object that poses a threat to the environment and humans or other living organisms if improperly disposed of. Some hazardous wastes are flammable, while others are toxic and/or radioactive; most are both.

Disposing of Hazardous Waste Safely

Hazardous Waste Disposal
Image by Bob Hanson

Knowing how to dispose of hazardous waste safely is essential because improperly disposing of hazardous waste can result in large fines and penalties for businesses who generate it as well as negative impacts on human health and the environment at large.

1. Use A Recycling Center

The laws governing hazardous waste disposal vary depending on where you live, but if you have a run-of-the-mill business, there’s probably a local recycling center that will accept most of your materials.

Call ahead and find out what they can and cannot handle. Some centers also accept fluorescent lights—just make sure to wear protective clothing and not touch anything with your bare hands.

As always, never dispose of any kind of chemical in a storm drain or sewer system. That’s illegal and dangerous for everyone involved.

2. Dump Them in a Body of Water

When dealing with waste that can’t harm marine life, it is acceptable to dump some types of hazardous material into a body of water, assuming they are below a certain depth.

For example, water deeper than 500 feet cannot sustain most forms of marine life, so dumping any type of chemicals in water over 500 feet will have little to no effect on marine life.

There are plenty of places to dump trash without harming fish or other wildlife; just be sure you’re following local and state regulations before dumping anything. You should also check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if there are any exclusions for dumping toxic materials near your home.

If you don’t want to deal with hazardous waste yourself, find out what options are available for disposal in your area. Many companies offer services where they’ll come pick up your unwanted chemicals or old electronics and dispose of them properly.

Note that these services may charge a fee based on how much waste you’re trying to get rid of, but even paying $20 per trip could save you money compared to paying someone else to haul away your garbage later (or having them hauled away by law enforcement).

If nothing else, consider selling things online through sites like eBay or Craigslist rather than throwing them away when they break—you might be able to make back some cash while disposing of an item that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

3. Landfill Disposal

Typically, hazardous waste can be disposed of in a landfill. However, special care must be taken to ensure that it does not contaminate groundwater or drinking water sources. In other words, in addition to being properly packaged and labeled, you must make sure your waste is disposed of in an area that is protected from outside contaminants.

In some areas, certain materials are not accepted for disposal and require special handling procedures (such as PVC). As such, you should research local laws and regulations before transporting hazardous waste.

Make sure you check with multiple facilities before taking any sort of waste; they may have restrictions on what they will accept. For example, a facility might refuse oil-based paint due to environmental concerns.

Always remember: Not all landfills are created equal! If you’re trying to dispose of something like radioactive material, only licensed facilities will accept it—and even then, there may be additional fees involved.

Be prepared! Before taking any type of hazardous material to a landfill, confirm that they will accept it and whether there will be any extra fees associated with disposal.

4. Incinerate Them

Incineration is one of the most common methods for getting rid of hazardous waste. The process involves burning hazardous materials in an incinerator, a furnace that creates very high temperatures to reduce non-recyclable materials into small particles.

Incinerators are used both by hospitals and businesses to dispose of chemical and medical waste but can also be bought by individuals who want to burn up chemicals they no longer use in their homes or garage.

To dispose of chemical waste properly, contact your local state board to ensure you are handling dangerous substances correctly. For example, some states require special permits or licensing before using an incinerator.

NOTE: Do not carelessly incinerate hazardous waste in your backyard or home. Some hazardous waste are not fit for incineration while others can only be incinerated at a facility.

You should also check with your city about whether there are any zoning laws regarding where you can set up an incinerator on your property. Make sure you follow all regulations and precautions when setting up an incinerator in your backyard; These precautions include:

  1. Never set it up indoors or near a window because of the risk of toxic fumes escaping from it.
  2. Be sure to buy only quality equipment, as cheaper models may not have proper safety features such as ventilation systems to prevent harmful gases from escaping.
  3. Keep all combustible material away from flammable items such as dry grasses and trees;
  4. Place ash receptacles on-site so that once combustion has finished, hot embers do not accidentally ignite nearby flammables.

What is Considered Hazardous Waste?

There are two major categories of hazardous waste; universal waste and regulated waste. Universal wastes include items such as batteries, bulbs, fluorescent light tubes, mercury-containing equipment, and even asbestos products (though these are typically regulated).

See: How to Dispose of Light Bulbs

Regulated wastes can vary depending on where you live. In some areas, automotive fluids or pesticides may be considered regulated waste. In other areas, they aren’t.

It’s important to find out whether a product is considered a universal or regulated hazardous waste before disposing of it in an incorrect manner. The consequences for improperly handling hazardous waste can be devastating: health problems, hefty fines, and possible imprisonment.

See: How to Dispose of Batteries

What are the Types of Hazardous Waste?

There are four main types of hazardous waste:

  1. First is solid waste, which is classified as non-infectious discarded materials from industrial or commercial activities. These materials include household items such as used motor oil and paint cans.

  1. The second type of hazardous waste includes infectious substances including bloodborne pathogens (meaning diseases contracted through exposure to body fluids).

  1. The third category of hazardous wastes includes flammable chemicals such as gasoline and propane that if left exposed could catch fire and cause great damage to both property and humans.

  1. Finally, there are radioactive materials that can be sources of energy when placed in nuclear reactors but have no other practical use. These types of hazardous waste should always be handled by professionals who specialize in their disposal.

4 Steps You Can Take To Properly Dispose of Any Type of Hazardous Waste

  1. The first step is to make sure you have a proper container to store your hazardous waste in and then make sure it’s labeled correctly with a sign stating its contents and how it should be disposed of properly once full.

  1. Next, you need to find out where your local hazardous waste management facility is located so you can transport your filled containers there for proper disposal

  1. Once at your local facility, they will inspect your containers and then dispose of them safely away from any human or animal contact

  1. Finally, after disposing of your hazardous waste, you need to document that action by filing an EPA form 8700-12 within 30 days of disposing of said materials

What Are Some Things That Could Go Wrong If I Don’t Follow These Steps?

Image by Samantha Rose Alastriona
  1. If you do not properly label and contain your hazardous waste materials then people could potentially come into contact with them which could lead to serious health issues including death

  1. If you do not take care when transporting your wastes to their final destination then spills could occur leading to contamination of soil and water sources

  1. Not following these steps could result in heavy fines as well as possible criminal charges being brought against you by federal authorities such as OSHA or EPA who enforce regulations regarding the safe handling of toxic materials

  1. Finally, not disposing of your hazardous waste properly can lead to environmental pollution that will affect plants, animals, and humans for generations to come

What Should I Do If I Am Unsure About Any Part Of My Process?

  1. The first thing you should do is contact your local regulatory authority (EPA, OSHA) and ask them what they recommend doing with your hazardous waste

  1. If they are unable to help then contact a local waste management company that deals with the disposal on a regular basis and get their advice on how best to handle your situation

  1. Finally, if you still have questions or concerns, it’s always best to consult an attorney who specializes in environmental law as they will be able to advise you on what steps you should take

Safety Precautions to Take When Disposing of Hazardous Waste

  • When handling any kind of hazardous waste, it’s important to practice safety first.

  • Always wear protective clothing (i.e., gloves and goggles) when working with materials that are toxic or may irritate your skin.

  • When transporting hazardous materials, you should always take care to ensure they are properly secured within a vehicle; avoid driving through areas where there is high foot traffic or children playing (i.e., schools and playgrounds).

  • If you are unsure of how to dispose of a certain material, it is important to consult with local authorities who can provide instruction on handling said waste in a safe manner.

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