Characteristics Of Hazardous Waste

Environmental Blog

When thinking about hazardous waste, most people envision a generic green sludge, produced by a factory somewhere. But in fact, hazardous wastes are not all the same. They include such disparate materials as chlorinated solvents, oil-based paints and lead-acid batteries. Even a broken fluorescent bulb from your kitchen can qualify as hazardous waste.

But as different as these various substances are, they all represent a danger to the health, safety, and stability of both ecosystems and economies, so they must be handled in accordance with various laws and regulations.

These regulations define wastes in several different ways. Many are "listed wastes," meaning they meet specific criteria contained in the applicable legal language. But other substances are considered to be categorically hazardous; these do not have to be explicitly listed or described as hazardous. Their physical and chemical characteristics make them problematic.

The four primary categories of characteristic waste include:

  1. Corrosive wastes are those that have a very high or very low pH. In other words, they are very strong acids or very strong bases. Some of the most common sources of corrosive waste include batteries and strong cleaning chemicals, such as those used to clean ovens, fireplaces, drains, and pools.
  2. Ignitable wastes (which are sometimes called combustible wastes) consist of materials that represent a fire hazard. Some combustible waste materials, such as acetone and paint thinners, are widely recognized as being fire hazards, but others are not commonly thought of in similar terms. For example, some dry cleaning chemicals are also classified as ignitable waste. It is important to understand that materials can ignite in several different ways: Friction may cause some solids to catch fire, but other substances may ignite when they absorb water from the air.  
  3. Toxic wastes occur in a wide variety of forms, and few criteria characterize the entire group besides being toxic to humans, wildlife or plants. Many of these can accumulate in the body over time, meaning that they can be dangerous even in small quantities. The presence of metals, such as silver, lead or mercury, can make a waste product toxic, as can the presence of organic chemicals, such as benzene and chloroform.  
  4. Reactive wastes are those chemicals that are likely to interact violently with the external environment are classified as reactive. Many substances falling under this description produce toxic gases, while others are actually explosive. Most reactive wastes are unstable under normal conditions. 

For more information about hazardous waste disposal, contact a company like  TransChem Environmental.


12 October 2016

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