Likewise, the “Global Hazardous Waste Management Market” industry report predicts the industry is anticipated to grow at a healthy rate of more than 6.66 percent over the forecast period 2017 to 2025.
While most industry revenue is generated through commercial and industrial businesses, household hazardous waste disposal and handling is a growing segment of the industry. EPA categorizes household products that explode, react, catch fire or are toxic or corrosive as hazardous waste. As such, the increased focus on the illegal movement and disposal of hazardous waste – both from an industrial and consumer standpoint – will be a major trend for the next few years.
Jennifer Taylor, marketing manager at Solus Group, a material handling supplier to waste collection and recycling companies, said that hazardous waste creates a risk of environmental harm, but more importantly, potential injury to waste management workers collecting hazardous waste.
“Safety is always the first priority. Injuries at MRFs and landfills have actually been trending upward in the past couple of years, and that’s definitely a trend we need to reverse,” Taylor said.
The second big fear surrounding hazardous waste at landfills and MRFs is getting tangled up in EPA violations. As Taylor said, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), established more than 42 years ago, declare that the waste generator is responsible from “cradle to grave.”
“This means that, if you end up with contaminated wastewater running out of barrels into a private landfill, it’s the responsibility of the company that generated that wastewater to clean it up, not the landfill operator,” Taylor said. “But in a MRF situation, the generator isn’t always clear. That can create a lot of anxiety, with haulers and operators worrying that they’ll get stuck with an EPA fine.”
“Oftentimes we see hazardous waste mixed in with non-hazardous waste in the regular trashcan, which can ultimately lead to serious issues.”
According to Wade Scheel, director of governmental affairs at Stericycle Environmental Solutions, one of the biggest risk concerns is making sure waste, specifically hazardous waste, is disposed of properly.
“Waste must be managed and disposed of properly as insufficient waste management poses health, safety and environmental risks for individuals and communities,” Scheel said. “Outside of creating health and safety risks, improperly disposing of hazardous waste can lead to large fines. We’ve seen a recent increase of regulatory pressure, which has resulted in record fines for businesses that are improperly disposing waste.”
The EPA consistently evaluates and modifies the criteria established in the RCRA. Most recently, in February 2019 the EPA issued a final rule that created a new set of regulations for pharmaceuticals that are regulated as hazardous waste under the RCRA when discarded. This final rule imposes a new set of regulations on healthcare facilities and reverse distributors in lieu of the existing hazardous waste generator regulations.
As the EPA explained, these new regulations prohibit the disposal of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the drain and eliminate the dual regulation of RCRA hazardous waste pharmaceuticals that are also Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) controlled substances. The rules also maintain the household waste exemption for pharmaceuticals collected during pharmaceutical take-back programs. The rules become effective on August 21, 2019.
Education Is Key
Along with making sure hazardous waste and regular waste isn’t mixed together, it’s vital to make sure hazardous waste is properly identified and separated to keep incompatible materials segregated, including aerosols and flammables, corrosive acidic and alkaline items, toxics, oxidizers, universal waste and reactives. This can ensure the safety and well-being of waste management workers.
“This is challenging because there are dozens of household items consumers just throw away,” Scheel says. “As industry leaders, we need to assist in helping making that shift and educating others on the dangers of throwing away hazardous waste. This is a long and grueling process.”
Stericycle is seeing more municipalities partake in hazardous waste collection “take back” days. Whether it’s a drug take back day or household hazardous waste take back day, more and more cities are hosting these events on a local level to help communities dispose of hazardous waste. They are also making a significant effort in educating consumers about the proper disposal of household hazardous waste.
“Not only do these take back days provide an outlet for consumers and businesses, the program also raises general awareness about hazardous waste and how it can’t be mixed with normal waste,” Scheel said. “Smaller businesses can rely on these days to dispose of hazardous waste, where larger companies should consider hiring a third party to help manage all hazardous waste.”
Taylor stressed that the big shift in handling hazardous household waste comes from social media and online information educating residents on what can and can’t go down the drain or into the landfill.
“Take car batteries, for instance,” Taylor said. “Nearly 99 percent of all lead acid batteries are recycled in the U.S. these days. That wouldn’t be possible without awareness campaigns. Especially in the case of electronics, we need to make sure everyone knows that recycling is an option. We need electronics recyclers out front and center, letting residents know where they can drop off their old devices. Too many electronics end up in landfills. How to do that? Meet people where they are. Spread social media campaigns far and wide. Team up with local environmental groups. They love getting the word about recycling out there.”
Scheel is seeing more companies finding innovative ways for recycling electronics including TVs, computers, clocks, phones and more, is one of the fastest growing segments in U.S. hazardous waste streams.
“The innovations in e-waste will not only make it more cost effective for businesses and consumers, it will also help eliminate the need to send this type of waste oversees for processing,” Scheel said.
Areas of Improvement
One area of consumer education that could be improved upon, especially with the help of waste management companies, is with “point of sale” advertising at local household hazardous waste drop off programs.
“During these types of events, it’d be beneficial to provide more examples of the health and safety risks of household products,” Scheel said. Something as simple as throwing away lithium batteries could result in a dumpster truck or landfill fire. Waste workers can also be injured by exposure to splashes and spills from cleaning products, which typically have harsh chemicals. “As more and more consumers using smart phones or other electronic devices to consume information, using a digital or mobile marketing technique would be best when communicating these types of local collection events,” he continued.
Scheel predicts that the waste and recycling industry will start seeing more waste-to-energy initiatives in the future, along with an overall reduction of hazardous waste streams. In fact, hazardous waste collection has changed significantly in just the last five years alone.
“More organizations are taking an active approach in eliminating their waste streams and finding alternative solutions,” Scheel said. “We can expect to see more waste-to-energy plants in the future as well, which are a great alternative to just burying waste in landfills.”
The industry also is putting effort in changing the chemical ingredients of consumer products, moving toward less hazardous components and more “natural” ingredients.
“On a waste collection front, we are seeing the industry move toward more sustainable options,” Scheel said. “This includes recycling and recovering usable products and working them back into the product mix. This will help eliminate the potential for environmental, health and safety risks.”
*This content was generated by https://americanrecycler.com. To read the original article or for more information go to https://americanrecycler.com/8568759/index.php/news/waste-news/3667-hazardous-waste-projected-to-increase