Every human being and organization naturally creates some type of waste. Categories of waste include, municipal solid waste, agricultural and animal waste, radioactive waste, medical waste, industrial non-hazardous waste, construction and demolition debris, oil and gas production waste, extraction and mining waste, fossil fuel combustion waste, sewage sludge and hazardous waste.

What is Hazardous Waste?
The Environmental Protection Agency EPA classifies waste as hazardous if the waste has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Ignitability
  • Corrosivity
  • Reactivity
  • Toxicity

The following wastes are considered hazardous:

  • Cyanide waste
  • Metal finishing waste
  • Asbestos
  • Waste containing mercury, thallium, arsenic and cadmium
  • Solvents and non-halogenated hydrocarbons
  • Glue, painting varnish pigment wastes
  • Halogenated hydrocarbons
  • Wastes of dye and it’s intermediate

Hazardous waste is particularly harmful since it can “contaminate, land, air and water and negatively affect human health and environmental conditions,” according to the EPA.

How Exposure to Hazardous Waste Impacts Human Health

Temporary health effects of exposure to hazardous waste can include headaches, nausea and dizziness. Prolonged exposure to hazardous waste can lead to cancer, genetic interference, birth disorders, immune system breakdown, neurological imbalance, infections, irritations and other toxic or radioactive effects. Exposure to hazardous waste can occur through inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion or puncture wound.

How Hazardous Waste is Recycled, Treated, Stored and Disposed

Many hazardous wastes can be recycled, while others must be treated and disposed of in landfills or incinerators. The benefits of recycling hazardous waste include reducing the consumption of raw materials and the volume of waste that must be treated and disposed.

Improperly storing hazardous waste increases the risk of spills, leaks, fires and contamination of soil and drinking water. The EPA’s hazardous waste management program has been designed to help organizations safely and effectively recycle and dispose of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste can be processed using the following methods:

  1. Physical
    • Evaporation
    • Flocculation
    • Sedimentation
    • Electrostatic Precipitation
    • Absorption
    • Thickening
  2. Chemical
    • Pyrolysis
    • Chemical Oxidation
    • Ion exchange
    • Chemical reduction
    • Chemical precipitation
    • Neutralization
  3. Biological
    • Waste stabilization ponds
    • Trickling filters
    • Aerobic digestion
    • Activated sludge
    • Spray irrigation
    • Anaerobic digestion

Learn more about regulations that apply to treatment, storage and disposal facilities and hazardous waste recycling.