Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

22.7: Hazardous Wastes

  • Page ID
    153937
  • Learning Objectives

    • List the different types of hazardous wastes based on their classification.
    • Describe the handling of hazardous waste.

    Hazardous waste is waste that has substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment.  Hazardous wastes may be found in different physical states such as gaseous, liquids, or solids. A hazardous waste is a special type of waste because it cannot be disposed of by common means like other by-products of our everyday lives. Depending on the physical state of the waste, treatment and solidification processes might be required.

     

    Statutory Definition of Hazardous Waste

    A discussion of the definition of hazardous waste should begin with Congress' original statutory definition of the term. RCRA (Resource Recovery and Conservation Act) §1004(5) defines hazardous waste as: A solid waste, or combination of solid waste, which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may (a) cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (b) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.

    Listed, Characteristic, and Mixed Wastes

    Listed hazardous wastes (see Table \(\PageIndex{1}\)) are materials specifically listed as hazardous wastes which are from non-specific sources, specific sources, or discarded chemical products.  Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in section 261 provides four lists (the F, K, P and U lists) of hazardous materials.

     

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) List Hazardous Wastes.  Source US EPA.

    List Type Section Description of Waste
    F List 40 CFR section 261.31

    Wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes

    • Spent solvent wastes,
    • Electroplating and other metal finishing wastes,
    • Dioxin-bearing wastes,
    • Chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons production,
    • Wood preserving wastes,
    • Petroleum refinery wastewater treatment sludges, and
    • Multisource leachate.
    K List 40 CFR section 261.32

    Source specific wastes from 13 various industries and manufacturers namely:

    • Wood preservation,
    • Organic chemicals manufacturing,
    • Pesticides manufacturing,
    • Petroleum refining,
    • Veterinary pharmaceuticals manufacturing,
    • Inorganic pigment manufacturing,
    • Inorganic chemicals manufacturing,
    • Explosives manufacturing,
    • Iron and steel production,
    • Primary aluminum production,
    • Secondary lead processing,
    • Ink formulation, and
    • Coking (processing of coal to produce coke).
    P List 40 CFR section 261.33

    Acute hazardous wastes from discarded commercial chemical products.

    • The chemical in the waste must be unused; and
    • The chemical in the waste must be in the form of a commercial chemical product.
    U List 40 CFR section 261.33

    Hazardous wastes from discarded commercial chemical products

    • The chemical in the waste must be unused; and
    • The chemical in the waste must be in the form of a commercial chemical product.
    • Characteristic hazardous wastes are materials that are  dangerous because it is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive.   Detailed information provided by the US Environmental Agency (US EPA) is summarized in Table \(\PageIndex{2}\).

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\) Characteristic Hazardous Wastes.  Source US EPA.

    Waste Characteristic EPA Waste Code Section Description of Waste
    Ignitability D001 40 CFR section 261.21 Liquids with flash points below 60 °C (e.g. used solvents and waste oils), non-liquids that cause fire through specific conditions, ignitable compressed gases and oxidizers
    Corrosivity D002 40 CFR section 261.22 Aqueous wastes with a pH of less than or equal to 2 (acids), a pH greater than or equal to 12.5 (bases) or based on the liquids ability to corrode steel. Example: battery acid 
    Reactivity D003 40 CFR section 261.23 Wastes that are unstable under normal conditions, may react with water, may give off toxic gases and may be capable of detonation or explosion under normal conditions or when heated.  Examples: lithium–sulfur batteries and explosives.
    Toxicity D004 through D043 40 CFR section 261.24 Wastes that are harmful when ingested or absorbed.  Toxic waste can be reactive, ignitable, and corrosive.  Examples: old batteries, pesticides, paint, and car oil

     

    Mixed wastes is the term for hazardous wastes that also contain radioactive material and is regulated under the EPAs Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Department of Energy's Atomic Energy Act.

     

    EPA's Cradle-to-Grave Hazardous Waste Management Program

    https://www.epa.gov/hw/learn-basics-...ous-waste#hwid

    In the mid-twentieth century, solid waste management issues rose to new heights of public concern in many areas of the United States because of increasing solid waste generation, shrinking disposal capacity, rising disposal costs, and public opposition to the siting of new disposal facilities. These solid waste management challenges continue today, as many communities are struggling to develop cost-effective, environmentally protective solutions. The growing amount of waste generated has made it increasingly important for solid waste management officials to develop strategies to manage wastes safely and cost effectively.

    RCRA set up a framework for the proper management of hazardous waste . From this authority, EPA established a comprehensive regulatory program to ensure that hazardous waste is managed safely from "cradle to grave" meaning from the time it is created, while it is transported, treated, and stored, and until it is disposed:

    22A6.jpg

    Hazardous Waste Generation

    Under RCRA, hazardous waste generators are the first link in the hazardous waste management system. All generators must determine if their waste is hazardous and must oversee the ultimate fate of the waste. Furthermore, generators must ensure and fully document that the hazardous waste that they produce is properly identified, managed, and treated prior to recycling or disposal. The degree of regulation that applies to each generator depends on the amount of waste that a generator produces.

    Hazardous Waste Transportation

    After generators produce a hazardous waste, transporters may move the waste to a facility that can recycle, treat, store or dispose of the waste. Since such transporters are moving regulated wastes on public roads, highways, rails and waterways, United States Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations, as well as EPA's hazardous waste regulations, apply.

    Hazardous Waste Recycling, Treatment, Storage and Disposal

    To the extent possible, EPA tried to develop hazardous waste regulations that balance the conservation of resources, while ensuring the protection of human health and environment. Many hazardous wastes can be recycled safely and effectively, while other wastes will be treated and disposed of in landfills or incinerators.

    Recycling hazardous waste has a variety of benefits including reducing the consumption of raw materials and the volume of waste materials that must be treated and disposed. However, improper storage of those materials might cause spills, leaks, fires, and contamination of soil and drinking water. To encourage hazardous waste recycling while protecting health and the environment, EPA developed regulations to ensure recycling would be performed in a safe manner.

    Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs) provide temporary storage and final treatment or disposal for hazardous wastes. Since they manage large volumes of waste and conduct activities that may present a higher degree of risk, TSDFs are stringently regulated. The TSDF requirements establish generic facility management standards, specific provisions governing hazardous waste management units and additional precautions designed to protect soil, ground water and air resources.

    Comprehensive information on the final steps in EPA’s hazardous waste management program is available online, including Web pages and resources related to:

    Summary

    • Hazardous waste is defined as solid waste, or combination of solid waste, which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may (a) cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (b) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.
    • Listed wastes are wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes, specific industries and can be generated from discarded commercial products.
    • Characteristic wastes are wastes that exhibit any one or more of the following characteristic properties: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity.
    • A waste that has a hazardous component and a radioactive component is called a mixed waste and is regulated under both the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Atomic Energy Act.
    • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a hazardous waste management program to ensure proper handling of hazardous waste from recycling, treatment, storage, and disposal.

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Was this article helpful?