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Hazardous Waste Management Services and Recycling can Help you Cope with the Great American Incinerator Shortage

November 9, 2022

Hazardous waste incinerator facilities are currently the hottest ticket in town, as most are backlogged for several months. Some are telling prospective customers that they will not approve or accept materials needing incineration for 60 to 90 days from the query date. 

This presents a problem for hazardous waste generators relative to the time restrictions set by the RCRA for onsite hazardous waste storage. So, this blog entry talks about some alternatives to incineration. Q&As include:

  1. What is hazardous waste disposal and recycling?

  2. What is fuel blending?

  3. What is solvent disposal and recycling?

  4. What kinds of solvents can be recycled?

  5. What is landspreading? 

  6. Where can you get help?

1. What is hazardous waste disposal and recycling?

One way to lessen the need for incineration is to recycle the valuable constituents of hazardous wastes for reuse. 

For example, a post-manufacture cleaning process that uses acetone will produce a hazardous waste containing the spent acetone and the solute it removed (e.g., electroplating residues such as chrome or cadmium). Recovering the acetone by distillation and using it again for the same process (or something akin) is a simple case of recycling for energy recovery.

Does that sound too easy? It probably is, which is why there’s something called “fuel-blending” (See Q.2).

2. What is fuel blending?

In the case of the recovered acetone (see Q.1), it likely won’t burn robustly enough in isolation. But it will do so more efficiently when mixed with other fuels (e.g., gasoline). The combination can then be used to power one or another industrial process.

You are likely familiar with the idea of fuel-blending from visits to your local gasoline emporium. For example, you find so-called E-10 almost everywhere, which is ten percent ethanol, E-85 is 85 percent ethanol, and B-2 5 is five percent biodiesel.  

There are others known as “on-spec” meeting the purity and proportional requirements specified by the EPA and “off spec” if they don’t (see source).

Recycling and fuel-blending can be viable alternatives to incineration. Still, the capital costs of hazmat management, pickup, transit, and distilling costs—along with copious regulatory requirements—must be factored into your ultimate decision. We can help you with that.

3. What is solvent disposal and recycling?

Solvent recycling is another possible alternative to incineration.

Saturated lacquer thinners, acetones, chlorides, degreasers, and other industrial solvents can be processed to render a percentage of their bulk into a reusable product—typically as much as 80 percent. In the simplest scenario, these are returned to your facility for re-use in combination with their more-expensive virgin counterparts.

Thereby, you can realize savings across the entirety of your operation by reducing your need for virgin solvent by 80 percent, commensurately decreasing your goods disposal and regulatory costs.

Or another way to look at it: if you’re an LQG disposing of 1 million gallons of spent industrial solvent per month, recycling that waste so that you can reuse 80 percent of it will effectively cut your hazardous-waste stream to only 200 thousand gallons. 

And since the recycled chemicals don’t wind up in your waste stream, they’re not counted against your generator status. Thus, you’re less likely to garner a wary eye from the EPA if your hazardous waste disposal generates numbers that are going down rather than up or from state and local agencies, which tend to be more restrictive and litigious about what’s going on in their own backyards.

In relatively rare cases where recycled solvents cannot be reused, there are hazardous waste management companies that can broker the recovered product for you. Thus, you still realize a monetary benefit relative to the cost of either incineration or some other form of hazardous waste disposal. We can help you with that, too.

4. What kinds of solvents can be recycled? 

Virtually any enterprise using significant amounts of industrial solvents can benefit from a well-executed chemical recycling service program. Such solvents include but are not limited to:

  • acetone
  • denatured ethanol
  • ethyl acetate
  • ink wash
  • isopropyl alcohol (IPA)
  • lacquer thinner
  • methyl ethyl ketone (MEK)
  • methylene chloride
  • mineral spirits (150 flash)
  • n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone
  • n-propyl bromide
  • propylene carbonate
  • tetrahydrofuran (THF)

5. What is landspreading? 

Landspreading is the practice of returning to the soil a portion of the organic matter that is removed by harvested crops. On the most superficial level, it’s what you do when you leave grass clippings on your lawn; or what farmers do when they “plow under” the leftover stems from a harvest. 

In both these examples, however, the composted elements were already there. A more illustrative (and aromatic) example is what farmers do when they spread liquified manure from livestock across their fields. 

No manure was on the field, to begin with. But by landspreading some, farmers get “free” fertilizer while avoiding any hazardous waste liabilities applicable to porcine, equine, or bovine “ordure.”

So, what does this have to do with your industrial widget factory?

While the eco-friendly benefits of spreading grass clippings or cow manure across the soil might seem intuitive, the ecological case for doing so with nonagricultural byproducts—most of it otherwise requiring hazardous waste disposal—might not be so evident. But much of the wastes secondary to nonagricultural activities are recoverable for farming benefits or ecological improvements. 

For example, the sludge and byproducts of many mining and industrial waste processes contain 45 to 80 percent organic matter capable of stimulating biological soil activity. Some of these byproducts are also rich in calcium, preventing soil from becoming acidic. And composted sludge helps maintain humus in the soil, which aids water retention and fights against soil erosion.

Of course, you can’t just dump your industrial sludge onto Farmer Gray’s soybean field and expect him to bake you a cake. In most jurisdictions, landspreading requires a preliminary study to assay the agricultural benefit of the waste under consideration, demonstrate its harmlessness, assess its impact, and determine the ability of the soil to receive it. So as with all operations involving hazardous waste removal, you need to get expert advice.

6. Where can you get help?

Hazardous Waste Experts is a premier source of simple, affordable, and sustainable solutions to hazmat challenges—the Great American Incinerator Shortage among them. 

We’re a nationwide hazardous waste management provider with a 20+ year legacy of assessing how businesses generate hazardous materials and developing ways to reduce and dispose of their hazardous waste streams.

Get expert advice today—or call us at 800-936-2311.

And thank you for reading our blog!

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.