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The Layperson’s Guide to Hazardous Waste Disposal

August 5, 2014

Some of the people we work with are extremely knowledgeable about hazardous waste disposal – they understand the unique challenges, they’re informed about regulations, they recognize environmental concerns, and they’re conscious of safety issues. These people are cognizant of what they’re dealing with – they just need our help in getting rid of their waste.

But not everybody we work with is so lucky. It’s not uncommon that we’ll get calls from office managers, property owners, administrative assistants, nurse’s assistants, managers, or other personnel that have simply had the burden of hazardous waste disposal placed on them by someone else. It’s a tough position to be in – the world of hazardous waste removal is complicated, heavily regulated, and simple answers are frustratingly hard to come by.

For those of you that need to know about hazardous waste disposal – but have little or no experience, this guide is for you. We want to give you the simple answers to complicated questions.

How do I know this waste is hazardous?

Your waste is considered hazardous if it is solid waste (solid, liquid, or gas material that has been disposed of) that exhibits a distinct hazardous characteristic, or is otherwise listed as a hazardous waste in federal or state regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency lists these characteristics as:

  • ignitability, or something flammable,
  • corrosivity, or something that can rust or decompose,
  • reactivity, or something explosive,
  • toxicity, or something poisonous.

(For more information about the characteristics of hazardous waste, check out this article.)

How is it regulated, and by whom?

Management of solid waste is subject to federal regulations, but is typically regulated at the state or local level.

Hazardous waste, on the other hand, is governed by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), a United States mandate that supplies the protocol for the waste management program conceived by Congress. The laws regarding disposal and the system for controlling hazardous waste can be found under RCRA Subtitle C. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces these laws, as well as individual state regulatory agencies.

Compliance comes with incentives, and non-compliance can equate to both civil and criminal enforcement actions.

 How do I determine my generator category?

Once you know that your business does indeed generate hazardous waste, you will need to measure the amount of waste you produce per month. The amount of hazardous waste you generate determines your generator category.

EPA has established three generator categories, each of which is regulated differently:

  • Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators:
    You are considered a CESQG if you generate less than 220 pounds per month of hazardous waste. You are exempt from hazardous waste management regulations provided that you comply with the basic requirements for measurement and handling of the waste.If you are a CESQG and you generate no more than 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste (or 220 pounds of acutely hazardous waste spill residues) in a calendar month, and never store more than that amount for any period of time, you may manage the acutely hazardous waste according to the CESQG requirements.  If you generate or store more than 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste on site, you must manage it according to the LQG requirements (see below).
  • Small Quantity Generators:  You are considered an SQG if you generate between 220 and 2,200 pounds per month of hazardous waste.  SQGs must comply with EPA requirements for managing hazardous waste.
  • Large Quantity Generators: You are considered an LQG if you generate more than 2,200 pounds per month of hazardous waste.  LQGs must comply with the full set of hazardous waste regulations.

Where does hazardous waste go when it leaves my facility, and what happens to it?

That depends. If you can believe it, hazardous waste used to be disposed of in standard landfills, but that’s thankfully no longer the case. There are currently several different options available for hazardous waste disposal, including:

  • specially-designed hazardous waste landfills,
  • recycling,
  • fuel-blending,
  • incineration and waste-to-energy, and
  • pyrolysis.

Hazardous Waste Experts cares about ultimate disposal practices, and we are proud to let our customers have a say when it comes to ultimate disposal.

How do I find the right vendor to work with?

Finding the right vendor for your hazardous waste disposal issues is very important – because you are responsible for your waste from “cradle to grave”, it’s essential that you consider reliability over anything else. Interview potential vendors to determine both that their services meet your needs, and that their values align with yours. Ask about references, insurance, how your waste will be handled, cost, and ensure that paperwork and documentation will be provided.

Hazardous Waste Experts is happy to provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions. If you have more questions, just ask – we’ll be happy to help you however we can. We can also assist you with your hazardous waste disposal process. Give us a call today at 800-936-2311.

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