How Hazardous Waste Is Properly Composted and Disposed
When it comes to waste management, a large portion of the work involves disposal methods. Depending on the material your facility is generating, there may be multiple removal avenues to explore. If you’re operating in an industry that produces large amounts of hazardous waste, disposal techniques should be a top priority.
The phrase “one size fits all” doesn’t apply to toxic waste management and removal. Businesses can explore many different techniques to minimize their wastes’ adverse effects, such as composting. If you’re interested in learning about various waste management methods, here’s how hazardous waste is properly composted and disposed of.
What Is Composting?
Before diving into this complex subject, it’s helpful to define relevant terms first. If you don’t regularly incorporate sustainable practices in your personal life, you may not be familiar with composting. At its most basic level, composting is a natural process that turns organic waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Typically, individuals or communities will repurpose their food scraps to improve soil and use it in their plants and community gardens.
Industrial composting is similar but involves a more widespread effort across an entire industrial facility. These sites gather their compostable materials and process the waste to feed and revitalize the land, either through their own actions or with the help of a specialized company.
Can You Compost Hazardous Materials?
You might be wondering, “What does composting have to do with hazardous waste?” It might seem like using toxic materials to improve soil conditions is counterproductive. However, science and technology have come a long way, and experts have refined the composting process to include hazardous waste.
This is game-changing for businesses that generate large amounts of dangerous by-products. Not only is there a way to dispose of this waste safely, but you can use it to benefit the environment. So, if you find yourself asking, “Can you compost hazardous materials?” the answer is a resounding, “Yes, you can.”
How Hazardous Waste Composting Works
Composting works by allowing micro-organisms to break down waste into its most basic parts. These tiny organisms convert materials into nitrogen, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients through a naturally occurring process called aerobic respiration. Composting is an organic way to replenish the soil and recycle materials without needing artificial fertilizers.
Hazardous waste composting works in a similar manner. While the bulk of some toxic waste can damage the environment, some materials contain organic substances that are compatible with composting. By allowing micro-organisms to break down these dangerous compounds, professionals are able to turn some toxic substances into rich nutrients. Composting often makes hazardous waste safer to handle by neutralizing substances that make it harmful in the first place.
The Ins and Outs of Proper Hazardous Waste Disposal
Composting is just one of several hazardous waste disposal methods. Turning toxic by-products into compost encourages recycling and puts life back into the environment. Facilities can use other management and removal techniques to get their dangerous waste off their sites. However, there are several steps industrial facilities need to take before the disposal process begins.
Step 1: Identify Waste Types
First, you’ll need to identify all the different types of waste your facility produces. Not all waste is dangerous, so distinguishing between hazardous and nonhazardous materials should be your first step. From there, you should determine what class your hazardous waste falls under. Depending on the characteristics of your materials, they will likely fall under one of these lists:
Step 2: Calculate the Amount of Waste
Once you have correctly identified all of your waste, you need to figure out how much of it you actually have. Your business’s waste quantity defines its generator status, which helps determine specific disposal regulations at state and federal levels. Depending on how much hazardous waste your plant produces, it will fall under one of these three categories:
- Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs): Generates less than 220 lbs. of hazardous waste monthly
- Small Quantity Generators (SQGs): Generates between 220-2205 lbs of hazardous waste monthly
- Large Quantity Generators (LQGs): Generates more than 2205 lbs of hazardous waste monthly
Step 3: Alert the Proper Agencies
Now that you have adequately identified and quantified your waste, the next step in the waste disposal process is alerting the appropriate agencies. Because of the nature of hazardous waste, government agencies regulate management and elimination methods to protect humans and the environment. SQGs and LQGs need an Environmental Identification Number to report their debris to the government. Depending on your state, there are other guidelines you’ll need to follow to adhere to local and federal laws.
Step 4: Organize Transportation
Transportation is an essential component of the waste removal process. You can’t put your hazardous waste on any kind of vehicle and expect it to make it to the correct disposal location. It’s best to work with a company that specializes in hazardous waste transportation and disposal to ensure you’re doing everything correctly. They will take your toxic materials to the correct facilities to undergo composting, recycling, or another disposal method.
Step 5: Prepare for Disposal
After you’ve organized transportation for your hazardous waste, it’s time to prepare it for the next part of the journey. Your facility needs to package and store hazardous waste in proper containers to avoid any exposure or harmful reactions. You will also need to label these containers with appropriate signage to identify dangerous materials, so management companies know what they are handling.
Popular Disposal Methods
Regardless of what method you use, preparing hazardous waste for disposal looks the same. However, the waste management industry utilizes several different techniques to get rid of toxic waste in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner. We have already discussed composting as a form of waste disposal, but what are some of the other methods?
Some hazardous waste undergoes thermal treatments for disposal, like incineration. Professionals burn nonexplosive materials to keep them out of landfills and water sources. Some facilities repurpose this waste as fuel or use steam to power turbines and other heavy machinery. However, incineration does raise air quality concerns, so most states regulate this method with a watchful eye.
Landfills are some of the oldest forms of hazardous waste disposal. These locations house unused waste in large pits with heavy-duty lining to prevent leakage. Once full, professionals usually cover the landfill with concrete so something else can build on top of it. Waste management companies try to improve landfill conditions by educating facilities on disposal techniques to keep recyclable materials from taking up valuable space in these sites.
An alternative waste disposal method that closely aligns with composting is recycling. Recycling processing plants sort through waste and find ways to repurpose materials in the name of sustainability. Even hazardous waste has a place in recycling since many compounds break down into substances with other uses. Some might even view industrial composting as a form of recycling since it neutralizes dangerous waste and makes it compatible with repurposing initiatives.
Whether you’re composting your hazardous waste or using another form of disposal, Clean Management Environmental Group can help you make the right decisions. Our knowledgeable team knows how to handle and remove any toxic by-products from your site and follows all federal and local legislation. Now that you know how hazardous waste is properly composted and disposed of, contact us today and let us do the rest.