Hazardous Waste Management
Hazardous waste management is the whole process by which waste is identified, stored, collected and finally disposed of. This, of course can vary considerably depending on the type of waste being handled. For instance, hazardous waste such as mechanical oil has a different disposal route compared to a fridge freezer which has only certain components that are considered dangerous to humans and the environment.
Responsibility for Hazardous Waste
The responsibility for handling hazardous waste is different depending on whether you are a household or commercial enterprise. Businesses have to contend with very strict regulations association for the handling, storage and disposal of hazardous waste.
This can be a very complicated business as it involves companies making sure that the items they are disposing of are not classified as hazardous by the European Waste Catalogue (EWC). If they are, then they need to put in the right measures for disposal. For homeowners, there is less regulation when disposing of this kind of waste though you still have an obligation to handle your rubbish according to the guidelines provided by your local council.
The Waste Hierarchy
All waste, including hazardous waste, is handled in relation to a set hierarchy that is designed to help reduce the amount that we send to landfill or incineration. This is basically a set of stages that businesses need to follow when they are handling their own waste.
The first step in the waste hierarchy is prevention. That means making decisions not to use products that create hazardous waste in the first place. That could include using less toner for equipment like photocopiers, improving sustainable operational processes or reducing the need for toxic cleaning materials, even in some cases changing the type of hardware that you use. It’s probably not yet possible to prevent the production of hazardous waste entirely but businesses can significantly reduce the amount of harmful by-products. The same concentration on prevention should also work for households.
Preparing for Re-use
Preparing for reuse is another vital part of the hierarchy. This could include refurbishing computers and other technology and giving them to charity organisations rather than sending to the waste disposal service. It is something that can be done in house or there are specialist hazardous waste services that can separate or repurpose anything from solvents to electrical parts which can then be reused rather than thrown away or incinerated.
Most hazardous waste management involves recycling the components that are not harmful. This is essentially turning waste into a new product by breaking it down first. So, for instance, glass is crushed and melted and made to form new glass. Find out more about recycling here.
The next stage of the waste hierarchy concerns finding other methods of recovery for hazardous waste. That could be something like separating harmful elements out of oil sludge and then using a process such as anaerobic digestion to produce energy and fertilizer. We are starting to come up with more ways of sustainably disposing of our waste as technology improves.
Sending waste to landfill or incineration is the last resort for all hazardous waste, not least because of its possible short and long term impact on the environment. This is highly legislated and landfill sites often refuse particular waste because it is too hazardous to be handled in these circumstances or does not fit in with their operating license.
Commercial vs Domestic Hazardous Waste
There is a difference in the UK between the handling of commercial and domestic waste. While we all have a duty of care to make sure we dispose of our waste responsibly, there is more legislation for businesses to ensure that they follow the rules.
Most general waste for domestic households is handled by the local council and there will be waste collection from homes and the facility to send more specific waste to specialist areas. For commercial hazardous waste there are plenty of rules to be aware of and comply with.
- First of all, any business, however big or small, has a duty of care to dispose of their waste in a legal and sustainable manner.
- This means employing the services of a licensed waste handler.
- It also means having a clear audit trail that shows when hazardous waste was collected and where it was disposed of.
Commercial premises also need to make sure that they have the appropriate containers for hazardous waste which keeps it safe and prevents any cross contamination. Find out more about hazardous waste equipment here.
Finding the Right Hazardous Waste Disposal Service
For businesses, the management of all waste is a problem they needs to be take seriously. That means finding the right contractor to handle your waste, whether it is hazardous or not. Some waste disposal companies will offer a free audit to see what kind of waste you produce during your daily business and whether there are any special requirements you need to be aware of.
When choosing a hazardous waste disposal service, you need to check their licenses and make sure you know where your waste is being sent to. A clear audit trail is imperative if you don’t want to fall foul of the legislation or end up in criminal court.
Find out about different types of hazardous waste here.