Understanding the Cradle-To-the-Grave Waste Disposal System
The proper disposal of hazardous waste is vital for the safety of the environment and all human life. Throughout various industries, many businesses categorize as a hazardous waste generator. If you fall under this category, it is your responsibility to follow the cradle-to-the-grave process. This covers the proper handling and disposal of your company’s hazardous waste. Start understanding the cradle-to-the-grave waste disposal system by reading below.
What Does Cradle-To-the-Grave Mean?
It’s important to break down and explain what the concept of cradle-to-the-grave means when it comes to a waste disposal system. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed by the US Congress to create a reliable system for controlling the process of hazardous waste handling from when it’s generated to its disposal, thus the term “cradle-to-the-grave.”
One of the main purposes of the cradle-to-the-grave concept is to hold hazardous waste generators responsible that their waste will be managed and disposed of correctly. Every hazardous waste generator needs to be held accountable for their waste production to ensure safety to the public, the environment, and themselves. Even when a company hires a waste management organization to work with them, they are still fully responsible that such material is properly taken care of. It’s vital that companies comply exactly as expected to avoid facing legal liabilities. Any accidents or damages that occur due to company negligence will require the payment for a response or cleanup, and possibly fines.
Since “cradle to the grave” works as a process, it’s vital to have a clear understanding of what each step is and how it works. In order to practice the process correctly, you must handle each stage correctly and safely. There are always five specific stages:
- Generation: All hazardous waste begins with the company’s generation of the material. The “cradle” refers to the generation stage since it’s where it all begins. The first thing for a company to do once they have generated such material is to identify whether it is hazardous waste or regular waste. Once the hazardous material is determined, you should document it and then ensure that it’s properly labeled. The correct labeling is vital for the safety of those on your worksite and the rest of the process.
- Transportation: The waste must be picked up and transported to the proper treatment facility for it to be safely disposed of. A major part of the transportation responsibility as a hazardous waste generator is to make sure the waste and transportation methods meet the requirements of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Shipping your waste to the DOT standards means that you must have the material properly labeled, stored in the appropriate containers, and sealed so there is no chance of leakage which could cause contamination to the environment around it. Any waste transportation provider must be compliant with DOT standards as well, as they may use public roads, highways, rails, or waterways to transport the material.
- Treatment: Certain wastes that don’t have hazardous properties can be recycled safely in their present state. When you’re dealing with hazardous waste, it’s quite a bit different. Such material needs specific treatment before it can be disposed of. This is vital to prevent any hazardous material from making it into the soil, groundwater, and air. This is when facilities use methods like solidification and stabilization. Solidification is the process used on many liquid and sludge wastes. They are mixed with special absorbents that turn them into solid waste, preventing any of the material from being able to get into groundwater. If hazardous material makes it into groundwater, it will eventually make its way into the water we drink, which could have dangerous results. When stabilization is used, special chemicals are mixed into chemically change the material so it can meet the landfill disposal requirements.
- Storage: Waste will often have to be stored for a period at various stages of the process of waste management. This could be onsite, during transportation, or during the treatment process at the facility. Wherever the waste is being stored, the area must be in a safe and secured location so that anything like spills and leaking can be avoided. It’s vital that it’s stored away from anything else that could get contaminated or could be dangerously reactive with the waste. The location should also be separate from where employees need to be working so the risk of contact with the material is minimal.
- Disposal: This is the final stage of the process, meaning that this is what the “grave” refers to. This comes after the waste has either been safely treated or has gone through enough reuse and recycling. When the waste is finally disposed of, it needs to be dumped in the appropriate landfill which keeps our environment and the public safe from any hazardous effects. The waste can also be burned for energy. The last major responsibility of the waste generator in this final stage of the process is to make sure the landfill will accept the type of waste, the amount, and that it is properly licensed to handle it.
The Necessity of the Concept
One of the most important parts of understanding the cradle-to-the-grave waste disposal system is its necessity. Decades ago, serious concern grew over the United States’ increasing solid waste generation, shrinking capacity of disposal, disposal cost increases, and resistance to the creation of new disposal facilities. The challenge of quality waste management is constant and everchanging. It still requires strong dedication to the effort of better waste management solutions. Due to this need, waste management officials have made it a priority to develop strategies to better manage waste safely. While waste disposal needs to be safe, it also has become important to make it as cost-effective as possible. If we have effective, safe methods but they are outlandishly expensive, we will see an increase of institutions cutting corners and dumping hazardous waste where it doesn’t belong. This process is one of the best current means to ensure that all generators are responsible for protecting the environment and human health.
If you are looking for environmental cleanup companies, consider Clean Management Environmental Group. Here, you can find offers for reliable hazardous waste disposal and industrial services that will help to ensure your company is following RCRA and DOT regulations.