Hazardous waste disposal facts
Hazardous waste is defined as waste that poses a substantial threat to public health and/or to the environment. Materials that fall into the category of hazardous waste include toxic chemicals, radioactive substances and biological or infectious wastes.
There are many types of businesses and organizations that generate hazardous waste, including dry cleaners, exterminators, automobile repair shops, refineries and many manufacturers. In addition, hospitals and medical centers produce medical waste, much of which must be processed according to hazardous waste disposal guidelines.
Hazardous Materials Disposal
Hazardous wastes from industrial sources are dealt with in various ways depending on the nature of the hazardous materials included in the waste:
- Recycling. Some industrial waste, such as batteries and electronic circuit boards, can be recovered and used in the production of new products. Recycling these products reduces the amount of hazardous materials going to landfills.
- Neutralization. Often hazardous waste can be processed in a way that renders the hazardous components harmless, for example, the addition of a substance to a corrosive acid to neutralize the acid.
- Incineration. Some hazardous wastes can be destroyed at high temperatures; incineration can sometimes yield energy, as in the case of burning oils and solvents to fuel cement kilns.
- Isolation. Industrial wastes may be sequestered in a hazardous waste landfill or a permanent disposal site. This facility often includes a physical barrier which contains the potentially toxic waste.
Medical Waste Disposal
The process of disposing of medical waste means implementing methods for safely dealing with biohazards, human waste, animal waste, infectious waste and sharps (used needles and sharp instruments). Improper methods for medical supplies disposal can lead to the spread of disease to anyone who handles or comes in contact with the medical waste materials, including janitorial staff, garbage collectors and possibly even curious children. Medical waste can be handled in several ways:
- Steam-sterilized and then disposed of as non-regulated waste
- Collected by an approved vendor for treatment off-site
- For liquid wastes, chemically decontaminated and then discharged into the sewer system
- Incinerated as a hazardous material.
Household Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste produced by residential households is referred to as household hazardous waste (HHW) and is not subjected to the same regulations as that which is produced by businesses and organizations. In most municipalities, it is legal for HHW materials, such as paints, solvents, fluorescent light bulbs, pesticides and batteries, to be thrown out with non-hazardous waste. However, these hazardous wastes should ideally be kept out of landfills, so it is recommended to check with your local government recycling and waste authorities on the proper disposal of these materials.
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