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Hazardous Waste: Understanding the Ooze

By Brian McFadden

Understanding Hazardous Waste

Despite what the movies would have you believe, hazardous waste does not make ordinary turtles grow to human size and learn kung-fu. It does not give people superhuman abilities and make them wear spandex and fight crime, and it does not turn minor criminals into power-hungry psychopaths. However, movies show one thing about these materials that turns out to be true in the real word: people who are careless with hazardous waste are in for a world of trouble.

What is Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous wastes come in many different “flavors”: toxic waste, chemical waste, nuclear waste, medical waste, and so on. Solvents, pesticides, cleaning agents, paints, adhesives, and used electrolytic fluids can all become hazardous wastes. Simply put, a hazardous waste is any material that has served its purpose, but still presents a danger to human health or to the environment. Because of this threat, hazardous wastes must be carefully handled and disposed of.

In the United States, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) assigns the legal responsibility for any specific hazardous waste to the person (or company) that generated it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) generates guidelines and regulations for the proper handling and disposal of that waste, and enforces those regulations with civil penalties and sometimes even criminal prosecution.

Regulations by Waste

Some of these regulations depend on the specific waste in question. Radioactive wastes, for example, fall under the regulations of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), while medical wastes like contaminated equipment are usually regulated by individual states. When being transported, these wastes become subject to the rules of the Department of Transportation (DOT) as well. It’s important to be aware of exactly what rules apply in your situation; the goal is always safety, but even “safe” practices that don’t meet the legal requirements can cost thousands of dollars in fines, sometimes from multiple different agencies.

Regulations by Facility

Some regulations depend on the type of facility that you work in. If your facility generates at least 2204 pounds (1000 kg) of hazardous waste in a calendar month, then you are considered a “Large Quantity Generator.” Facilities can also qualify as Large Quantity Generators if they generate more than 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of acutely hazardous waste — materials appearing on the EPA’s list of particularly dangerous ingredients — in a month. Facilities generating smaller quantities of hazardous waste are categorized as “Small Quantity Generators.” Small Quantity Generators are not permitted to collect more than 6000 kilograms of hazardous waste on-site, but are granted more time to remove the waste that is collected.

If the total hazardous waste generation of your facility is less than 220 pounds (100 kg) per calendar month, including no more than 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of acutely hazardous waste, then you may qualify for “Conditionally Exempt” status. A Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG) is not required to register with the EPA as a hazardous waste generator, and is excepted from some of the stricter rules for hazardous waste management. However, safety is always the goal of the EPA's regulations, and unsafe practices are dangerous and illegal, even when a facility is "Conditionally Exempt."

Learn about proper hzardous waste management, and download Graphic Products' free Hazardous Waste Management Guide.

How to Comply

The first and most important step that you can take in properly handling your hazardous waste is to understand the rules that apply. The next step is to label your waste so that everyone in your facility can tell what it is, how to handle it, and what to do in case of an accident. The free Introduction to Industrial Hazardous Waste Management from Graphic Products will help you understand exactly what you need to do, and DuraLabel printers and supplies are effective tools to help you meet these needs.

Get Your Free Guide

Graphic Products offers a free guide to help you understand your responsibilities regarding hazardous waste management, and to demonstrate how DuraLabel systems can help achieve safety and compliance with the applicable regulations. Don’t get stuck as the bad guy in a movie of your own—be the hero!—and request your free Hazardous Waste Management Guide today.