Back to All

Hazardous Waste Definition and Terminology

October 30, 2013

How is Hazardous Waste Defined?

The EPS simply defines it as waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. Hazardous waste is generated from many sources, ranging from industrial manufacturing process wastes to batteries and may come in many forms, including liquids, solids gases, and sludges. You can learn more about the basics of hazardous waste and how the EPAs Hazardous Waste Definition Here

Let’s face it – the world of hazardous materials and hazardous waste disposal can be frustrating, complicated, and difficult to digest.  There’s a great deal to navigate and understand, and most of it can be pretty labor and time-intensive without a basic understanding of the terminology so frequently used.

Here’s a quick glossary (both of terms and then relevant organizations) to help you make sense of things and put more context into the hazardous waste definition.

Acute Hazardous Waste:

Describes a subset of hazardous waste that has been determined to pose a greater risk to human health and the environment.  Very low quantities of acute hazardous waste subject facilities to the more demanding large generator requirements.

Best Demonstrated Available Technology (BDAT):

The treatment technology that best lessens or reduces the toxicity and/or mobility of the hazardous constituents for a particular waste.

Characteristic Waste:

Waste that is considered hazardous because it exhibits any four different properties: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR):

The codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States.


Repository used to accumulate waste from residential, commercial and industrial sites. Containers can vary in size and type according to the needs of the business or restrictions of the community.

Corrective Action Program:

A RCRA program that oversees the investigation and cleanup of nearly 4,000 hazardous waste sites across the country.  It is run by the EPA and 43 authorized states and territories, alongside responsible facilities.


Having the quality of corroding or eating away; being erosive.


Any business or individual whose act or practice creates or produces hazardous waste.  Typically listed as either a Large Quantity Generator (LQG), or Small Quantity Generator (SQG).

Hazardous Material:

A substance or product that is dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment.  Hazardous materials are regulated by DOT while in transportation.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER):

Refers to many types of hazardous waste operations and emergency services conducted around the world, especially those conducted under the auspices of the federal government of the United States.  HAZWOPER training is covered under OSHA.

Hazardous Waste:

Describes a solid waste that exhibits a distinct hazardous characteristic, or is otherwise listed as a hazardous waste in federal or state regulations.


The quality of being burnable, or capable of burning.

Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA):

Refers to the technique used to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from-cradle-to-grave.


Describes liquids that have come into contact with waste.

Listed Waste:

Wastes that are considered hazardous under RCRA because they meet specific listing descriptions.

Medical Waste:

Waste generated at health care facilities.  Some states are trying to expand their definitions to include over-the-counter and prescription products as well.

Mixed Waste (MW):

Contains both hazardous waste (as defined by RCRA and its amendments) and radioactive waste (as defined by AEA and its amendments).


The tendency of a substance to undergo chemical reaction, either by itself or with other materials, and to release energy.


The process of converting waste into reusable material.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA):

Refers to the federal statute in the United States that governs the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste, enacted in 1976.

Solid Waste:

A material (solid, liquid or gas) that has been disposed.  Management of solid wastes is subject to federal regulations, but are typically regulated at the state or local level.

Spent Materials:

Any material that has been used and, as a result of contamination, can no longer serve the purpose for which it was produced without undergoing regeneration, reclamation, or reprocessing.  This includes things like spent solvents, spent activated carbon, spent catalysts, and spent acids.


The degree to which something is poisonous.

Transfer Station:

A facility where both residential and commercial collection vehicles empty the contents of their trucks.


Any business or individual engaged in the off-site transportation of hazardous waste by air, rail, highway, or water.

Treatability Group:

Describes the grouping of hazardous wastes that can be treated to similar concentrations using identical technologies.

Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSD):

Facilities engaged in the treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous waste.

Universal Waste:

Category of waste materials designated as “hazardous waste”, but containing materials that are very common, such as batteries, pesticides, bulbs, and mercury-containing equipment.

Waste Analysis Plan (WAP):

Refers to any plan that outlines the necessary procedures to ensure proper treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous waste.

Waste Stream:

Cumulative flow of waste material from generation to treatment to final disposition.

Waste Minimization:

Describes the process of reducing the amount of waste produced by a person or business.

Here’s a list of some relevant organizations.


Center for Disease Control.


Department of Energy.


Department of Transportation.


Environmental Protection Agency.


Food and Drug Administration.


National Institute of Health.


Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Need a little more assistance?  Providing you with expert information is just one of the ways Hazardous Waste Experts can help you solve your hazardous waste disposal and regulated medical waste disposal problems. Contact us today or call 877.200.2029.

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