The EPA has determined that incineration is the Best Demonstrated Available Technology for the majority of organic hazardous wastes. This is because the process destroys the hazardous characteristics permanently and reduces the volume of waste sent to landfills by more than 95%.
What is incineration?
Incineration is the process by which waste materials are heated to a high enough temperature to destroy the hazardous characteristics of waste and reduce both the mass and volume of the waste.
According to the EPA, the following are types of incinerators for hazardous waste:
- Rotary kilns
- Fluidized bed units
- Liquid injection units
- Fixed hearth units
How does incineration work?
Main components of waste incinerators
There are many different kinds of waste incinerators, but they usually consist of the following parts:
- Rotary kiln: The main combustion chamber
- Afterburner: Second combustion chamber
- Pollution monitoring system: Controls for air pollution
- Combustion: Waste is introduced into the rotary kiln, which is kept at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The kiln rotates like a cement mixer, ensuring that all parts of the hazardous waste are exposed to the heat. This process produces gases and ash, which go to separate places.
- Removal and treatment of gases: Gases flow into the afterburner and are exposed to even higher temperatures. This extreme heat breaks the gases’ chemical bonds, and they usually turn into water and carbon dioxide.
- Analysis: Both the remaining gases and ash are analyzed for hazardous traces.
- Disposal: Provided that the waste meets regulatory requirements for disposal, the ash is landfilled and the gases are released.
Common waste streams for incineration:
- Spent flammable solvents wastewaters
- Lab chemicals
- Paint residues
- Toxic or reactive chemical cleanup debris
- Off-spec or outdated commercial products
- Lab packs
Any time workers are near hazardous waste, there will be a host of safety regulations to consider. From protective equipment to appropriate breathing apparatus, workers must be prepared for every task that they encounter throughout the day. Both OSHA and the RCRA impose safety regulations for workers, including worker training in hazardous waste management and regular inspections of facilities.