Chemical waste management is critical if we are to protect the environment. Chemical waste is, simply put, waste that comes from harmful chemicals. These chemicals, if not disposed of in the proper way, could harm your health, your community’s health and the health of the environment.
Chemical Waste and Hazardous Waste
Most chemical waste is actually considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) here in the United States.
Both chemical waste and hazardous waste are regulated by the EPA’s Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act designed to protect human health and keep our environment free of harmful pollutants.
You can actually think of hazardous waste as a more potentially serious form of chemical waste in that hazardous waste is a solid, gaseous or liquid material deemed hazardous because of its reactivity, toxicity, ignitability and corrosivity.
These are things like industrial pesticides, diesel fuels, corrosive paints and harmful chemical solvents that if not disposed of properly could wreak some serious harm.
Disposing of Chemical Waste
Chemical waste is produced by industries around-the-clock and it’s actually a byproduct of the process that creates many of the appliance and conveniences of 21st-century life.
While these things are still dangerous, there’s a way to dispose of them safely so that consumers can reap the benefits of these products and companies can comply with the EPA’s guidelines.
- Three Classes of Chemical Waste
All three kinds of chemical waste can be disposed of via chemical waste containers, yet before knowing which container each one goes into you need to know what kind of waste you’re dealing with.
The first kind of chemical waste is what’s known as general chemical waste, and this can be handled by your local chemical waste treatment facility. The second kind of chemical waste is known as highly reactive chemical waste, which can also be handled by the same chemical waste treatment facility that handled your general chemical waste.
And the third kind of chemical waste is what’s known as chemically contaminated solid waste. This includes things like disposal lab-ware or tissue papers and towels soaked with chemical solvents. Oil-soaked rags and products containing mercury are other examples of chemically contaminated solid waste.
- Treatment, Storage and Disposal (TSD)
The Environmental Protection Agency has strict rules that factories need to follow in terms of how chemical waste is treated, stored and responsibly disposed of.
The treatment and disposal part of TSD refers to the fact that chemical waste can alter its shape or chemical composition in a way that could threaten human health or jeopardize environmental safety even after that chemical waste is put inside a chemical waste container. Because of things like vapor expansion some chemical waste can spill or overrun the chemical waste container itself.
To counteract that possibility, chemical waste containers should typically be filled to about three-quarters capacity so that vapor expansion or transportation of the chemical waste container doesn’t cause problems like spilling, leaking or chemical reactivity.
Chemical waste must also be stored in a safe way before its processed, recycled or disposed of at a chemical waste treatment facility. The chemical waste treatment facility will probably also require that you list the class of chemical waste in the chemical waste container – from the three classes above – as well as itemize a content list of everything inside the chemical waste container itself.
In terms of storage, chemical waste containers should be appropriately sturdy, leakproof, properly labeled and stored safely to forestall any problems. Screw tops with secure lids might be required for liquid chemical waste as well. California’s Toxic Substances Control department provides info on treatment storage and disposal facilities, found here.