Laws on the Disposal of Chemical Waste

If you’ve been keeping up with the news you know all about the recent spill along the Colorado River. This is definitely a teachable lesson and a reminder that the responsibility of disposing of chemical waste is a shared one.

What is Chemical Waste Anyway? 

Chemical waste – sometimes called industrial waste – is waste produced by mixing potentially harmful chemicals together. Various chemical solvents, paints, paper products and heavy metals might all be classified as chemical waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In fact, the regulation of chemical waste is a joint effort between the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as state and local governments. This makes sense in light of the fact that different states have different liabilities – as the example above with the Colorado River, unfortunately, illustrates.

It might surprise you to hear that OSHA is also involved in the oversight of chemical waste, but that also makes sense given that a lot of chemical waste is produced in commercial factories. As an example, a paint mixing facility or pharmaceutical lab might have to deal with an OSHA regulator and comply with local regulations as well.

Chemical Waste and Hazardous Waste 

There’s even more strict regulation when it comes to chemical waste that’s also hazardous waste – mainly because, if left unattended to and unregulated, hazardous waste poses a greater environmental and public health threat.

Now, going back to those venn diagrams in high school, we could say that all hazardous waste is chemical waste but that not all chemical waste is hazardous waste. If, however, chemical waste is hazardous waste then it has the following properties: toxicity, reactivity, corrosively and ignitability.

  • Hazardous Waste

Just from the sound of some of these words - ignitability, reactivity, etc. - you can get a sense of why responsibly disposing of these kinds of industrial byproducts is to the public good, and maybe good for your blood pressure numbers too.

In fact, a lot of chemical waste can’t even be recycled. Instead it will be, in the case of glassware from labs, stowed in plastic-protected boxes and deposited at a landfill. Because of the increased threat posed by hazardous waste, the EPA has urged state regulators to create their own hazardous waste disposal programs.

Although it doesn’t necessarily make for intriguing beach reading, you can find more about how hazardous waste like PCBs and dioxins are categorized and regulated, both federally and locally, here. There are even rules that states need to follow for safe disposal in landfills – found here.

  • Medical Waste

Another area in which sensitivity is definitely the order of the day is with medical waste. With medical waste, or other kinds of potentially hazardous waste, the waste is collected from clinics, hospitals and laboratories, then processed. Processing usually means that the waste is burned in an incinerator, made inert through chemistry, preserved in formalin or heavily disinfected with bleach.

  • Universal Waste

The EPA also regulates chemical waste that it’s categorized as universal waste. Universal waste are household items like batteries and lightbulbs as well as mercury-containing electronics and certain pesticides you may have sitting around.

You can find the EPA’s more comprehensive list of standards for universal waste management here, and discover more about how federal legislation interacts with your state’s regulations on chemical waste here.

The fact is that disposing of universal waste is everyone’s responsibility since universal waste comes from materials that are commonly sold and widely available in retail stores – hence the name universal waste.

Contact Junk-King Marin today if you need universal, e-waste safely disposed.