You might be surprised to learn that most businesses generate some form of specialized waste, which is a category of waste that requires special handling and disposal due to the potentially harmful properties of the materials. Specialized waste is broken down into hazardous waste, special waste, medical waste, and chemical waste. In this blog post, we dive into the specifics of each specialized waste category and look into what can happen when these materials are improperly handled or disposed of. Read on to learn more!
SPECIALIZED WASTE Categories
Hazardous waste is a type of waste that is capable of causing harm or potential threats to human health or the environment during handling or disposal. The EPA considers waste to be hazardous if it is included on their specific list of hazardous waste, or if it exhibits one of more of the following characteristics:
1. Ignitability: flammable liquid or solid waste
2. Corrosivity: waste that can rust or decompose
3. Reactivity: explosive waste
4. Toxicity: poisonous waste
Considering the risk involved in handling hazardous wastes, they are heavily regulated and cannot be disposed of traditionally. All organizations that handle hazardous waste must obtain a RCRA permit and follow state regulations. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act gives EPA the authority to oversee hazardous waste from "cradle-to-grave." This includes everything from the generation, treatment, storage, transportation, all the way to the disposal.
Special waste is a type of waste that requires customized handling, trained workers, and unique disposal methods. For example, manufacturing plants generate a significant amount of specialized waste including sludge waste, hazardous byproducts, or general wastes. Businesses that produce specialized waste are required to profile it, which is a form used for identifying the quantity, composition, origin, and destination of the waste. With this information, the accepting facility will know exactly what wastes to expect and can then determine the best disposal method.
Medical Waste is any type of waste that can contain infectious material. Common types of medical waste include Pharma Waste (vaccines and drugs), Sharps (anything that can create a cut such as needles), Trace Chemotherapy waste, bandages, gloves, and blood products. Due to the potential risks of handling infectious medical waste, health care facilities must follow proper waste disposal protocol to protect their staff, service provider, and communities. Medical waste is primarily regulated by the state and other federal agencies, and typically, all health care facilities must separate their hazardous waste from non-hazardous waste in appropriately labeled containers. Improperly managing these materials can put the health of your service provider and the general public at risk. Many different agencies oversee the handling of medical waste including:
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Regulates the manufacturing of sharp containers.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Regulates the handling of medical waste to ensure employee safety.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Issues guidelines for controlling infection.
Chemical waste is a type of waste that contains harmful chemicals. Solvents and chemicals used for lab purposes, batteries, and heavy metals from medical equipment are the most prevalent types of chemical waste. Although, things like pesticides, toner cartridges, and cleaning products can also fit into the chemical waste category. Most businesses have some chemical products that can be harmful if not stored or disposed of properly. Due to the safety risks of handling chemical waste, businesses must adhere to safety precautions and proper disposal methods. Along with the other types of specialized waste, properly managing chemical wastes is important to ensure the safety of your employees and the health of our environment.
CONSEQUENCES OF MISMANAGed specialized WASTE
To ensure businesses are properly handling their specialized waste, the EPA and its regulatory partners conduct regular monitoring and inspections of the facilities where the waste is generated. The inspection consists of an on-site evaluation of the business' compliance with RCRA regulations and relevant permits. The purpose of the inspections is to ensure the facility is handling the waste in the safest way possible to protect human health and the environment. Failing an inspection is not only costly for a business but it can disrupt the company's operations and negatively impact their reputation.
RISK TO HUMAN HEALTH
Failing to follow the proper guidelines when it comes to managing specialized waste can put your employees, service providers, and the public at risk. Potential outcomes of mismanaged waste include fires, explosions, accidents, spills, and exposure to toxic substances which can all lead to injury or even death. For these reasons, businesses are required to comply with regulations to protect humans and our environment.
One (often overlooked) element of mismanaging specialized waste is the monetary ramifications. Mismanaging hazardous waste can cost your organization money in the following ways:
- Failed inspections can result in hefty fines.
- If one of your employees or patients is injured or dies, your insurance premium will rise.
- A negative reputation can result in revenue losses.
- It can take a significant amount of time to rebuild your brand and clean up your operations after a fine or an accident.
Mismanaging specialized waste can be detrimental to the health of the environment. For instance, chemicals that are not disposed of properly can enter our waterways and make consuming, or using the water for agricultural purposes, unsafe. Also, pollution or toxins from the mismanaged waste can end up in streams, in the ground, and the air, which can lead to cancer and diseases in humans and death to animals and plants.
We hope you found this post to be informative. Let us know which kinds of specialized wastes your business produces in the comments below. Or, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us and one of our experts will be happy to speak with you.