All industrial processes produce some form of waste. In some cases, this waste doesn’t affect human health or pose an immediate danger to people, such as paper and cardboard waste or plastic waste from medical facilities.
However, some forms of industrial waste can be dangerous. Hazardous waste poses a potential threat, either immediate or long-term, to human wellbeing. It requires special treatment and disposal to ensure that it remains safely contained throughout its lifespan.
The EPA classifies hazardous waste into four main categories. These categories describe the dangers of hazardous waste and outline some disposal methods to safely handle the waste during its lifespan.
All hazardous materials have EPA waste codes that can guide manufacturers on best practices regarding handling and disposal.
Ignitability refers to the potential for the material to catch fire. While almost anything burns at high enough temperatures, ignitable hazardous wastes include:
The EPA waste code for ignitable waste substances is D001.
Corrosion is when a substance accelerates the degradation of another substance. Highly corrosive hazardous wastes can eat through containers, leading to weakened structures and potential leaks.
Corrosive hazardous waste is usually aqueous wastes that:
Common examples of corrosive wastes include battery acid from lithium-sulfur batteries, hydrofluoric acid, or sodium hydroxide.
The EPA code for corrosive waste is D002.
Reactivity is a catch-all term that describes unstable waste. The guidelines for identifying reactive wastes include compounds that:
Reactive hazardous wastes can be solids, liquids, or gases.
The code for reactive waste is D003.
Toxic waste is any compound that is harmful to humans when ingested or absorbed. Unlike the three other categories that present acute hazardous waste that’s only dangerous to people directly near it, toxic compounds pose a longer-term threat to the environment.
The EPA has several codes for toxic wastes ranging from D004 to D043.
In addition to waste characteristics – ignitability, reactivity, corrosiveness, and toxicity – the EPA contains several lists of wastes that fit a hazardous waste profile.
The two main lists are the F and K list and the P and U list.
The F and K lists contain wastes from non-specific sources (F-list) and waste from specific manufacturing sectors, including wood-preserving wastes and petroleum refining waste (K-waste).
The P and U list identifies certain pure and commercial-grade chemicals that are unused and targeted for disposal.
Mixed wastes contain hazardous and radioactive materials. They can be low-level, high-level, or mixed-transuranic wastes and require specialized disposal techniques appropriate to their composition.
Medical facilities produce many different types of waste. Many labs use strong acids and bases, while contaminated compounds are often toxic.
If you’re not sure you’re correctly disposing of your hazardous waste, contact INGENIUM today. We look forward to helping you find the right hazardous waste solution for your needs!