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What is Considered Hazardous Waste?

Many businesses have to process hazardous waste and it can be a challenge to know how to manage hazardous waste materials safely and in compliance with RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) under the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Industries that most commonly come in contact with hazardous waste are Construction, Dry Cleaning, Furniture Repair & Refinishing, Vehicle Maintenance, Agricultural, Equipment Repair and Maintenance, Commercial Printing, Photo Processing, Metalcraft, and Leatherwork. There are other industries that also encounter hazardous waste, of course. If you’re curious about your waste please contact a compliance agent, like us, or contact the EPA.

What is hazardous waste? Hazardous waste is waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. This definition isn’t necessarily helpful standing alone, but some examples of what hazardous waste are: batteries, fertilizer, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, certain inks, and more. There are some helpful lists online where you can search for your specific material if you know the corresponding waste code.

Typically, the best way to identify hazardous waste is by its characteristics. According to the EPA, characteristics that identify Hazardous Waste are:

  • It catches fire under certain conditions. This is known as an ignitable waste. Examples are paints and certain degreasers and solvents.
  • It corrodes metals or has a very high or low pH. This is known as a corrosive waste. Examples are rust removers, acid or alkaline cleaning fluids, and battery acid.
  • It is unstable and explodes or produces toxic fumes, gasses, and vapors when mixed with water or under other conditions such as heat or pressure. This is known as a reactive waste. Examples are certain cyanides or sulfide-bearing wastes.
  • It is harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed, or it leaches toxic chemicals into the soil or groundwater when disposed of on land. This is known as a toxic waste. Examples are wastes that contain high concentrations of heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, or mercury.

Now that we have given some tips on identifying hazardous waste materials, how do you safely dispose of hazardous waste? As part of your hazardous waste management plan, you should do an inventory of your waste by volume of mass monthly. If you do not already have a waste management plan, please contact us to discuss your business needs and whether a plan is necessary for your business. In the state of Wisconsin, you are required to obtain an EPA ID number and report the following:

  • Closure of a LQG (Large Quality Generator) facility or central accumulation area
  • Collection of household and very small quantity generator hazardous waste
  • Episodic generation events, planned and unplanned
  • Extension requests for accumulation time limits
  • Hazardous Secondary Materials (HSM)
  • Re-notification of activity or change in generator status
  • VSQG (Very Small Quantity Generators) to LQG consolidation of hazardous waste

Hazardous waste is named as such because it causes a risk to you, the environment, or those around you. It is a necessary part of many industries and can carry heavy penalties if not disposed of properly. If you still have questions, or want to confirm your compliance, please reach out to us at EHS Management for an assessment that will help you determine if you fall into the category of a Hazardous Waste Generator, and therefore are required to adhere to disposal protocols on a larger scale.