The EPA reports that approximately 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste is generated and disposed of by American industries each year. When it comes to waste though, not all garbage is created equally. Hazardous waste, such as corrosives and toxic metals, must be disposed of in compliance with strict regulations. But just because something is considered non hazardous waste does not give you free reign to toss as you please.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976, which governs how solid waste and hazardous waste must be handled, identifies characteristics of solid waste that requires specific disposal methods. These “regulated non hazardous materials” include items such as asbestos, antifreeze, grinding dusts, and waste water. If not disposed of correctly, these materials can cause dangerous air and water pollution.

Characterizing the type of waste you have is essential to legal and proper disposal, but navigating the detailed guidelines can be a daunting task. Use the steps below to act as a road map toward eliminating the waste management liabilities your business may have.

Step 1: Start a fact-finding mission. To manage the waste you have, you need to understand the physical and chemical properties of the waste, including how it is processed and how much is generated. This information may already be available in Material Safety Data Sheets, chemical engineering plans, manufacturer provided literature, or previous waste analyses. Trade associations are great resources as well. Contact them to see if characterizations are already available.

Step 2: Understand how your waste is generated. The process by which waste is created is just as important as the waste itself. By drawing input and output streams in a detailed flowchart style, you can more easily identify how the processing of raw materials creates waste at various stages, as well as even pinpoint what the composition of that waste may be.

Step 3: Test the waste. The most accurate approach to identifying waste is to have it scientifically tested and analyzed. While this option may be more costly to your business, you will have an exact look at composition levels of the waste generated, making it easier to choose the best disposal method possible. Testing types include leachate, extractions, and sampling. Before testing, be sure to understand state and local regulatory requirements.

Need Help? Call us at 800-936-2311

For more information about characterizing industrial waste management, or to become more informed about managing your industry’s waste, access the EPA’s Guide for Industrial Waste Management. If you need help navigating the regulations, Hazardous Waste Experts is happy to assist. We provide competent, knowledgeable assistance with your sustainability concerns and helping you manage your regulated non hazardous materials in a way that is safe, compliant, and low-cost. For more information on storage or hazardous waste removal concerns, call now at 800-936-2311 to speak with an expert.

Photo Credit: Maciej Dakowicz via Compfight cc

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