Hazmat: Common Waste Streams
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a waste is any solid, liquid, or contained gaseous material discarded by being disposed of, incinerated, or recycled. Managers must be able to properly identify and segregate each waste stream to minimize and properly manage their wastes. Common waste streams include:
• Hazardous wastes. These wastes are listed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations — referred to as listed wastes — or exhibit one of the four defined hazardous-waste characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.
• Universal wastes. EPA’s universal waste regulations streamline hazardous waste management standards for federally designated universal wastes. These wastes include batteries, pesticides, lamps, and mercury-containing equipment. EPA regulations govern the collection and management of these widely generated wastes.
• Electronic wastes. These items include computer equipment, monitors, printers, photocopiers, telephones, cell phones, fluorescent lamps and batteries. The preferred hierarchy for handling and managing electronic equipment wastes is first to reuse, then recycle, and finally dispose. Federal and state regulations and guidelines reflect this disposal hierarchy.
• Medical wastes. These wastes include any solid generated in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of humans or animals. Medical wastes generally fall into four categories — infectious, hazardous, radioactive, and general wastes from medical facilities. The first three categories represent only a small portion of all medical waste generated annually but garner the greatest amount of concern in organizations.
• Infectious or biohazardous wastes. This waste is contaminated with potentially infectious agents or tissues, including but not limited to blood-soaked bandages, culture dishes and other glassware, discarded surgical gloves and instruments, and needles. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration requires employees exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials to follow an established and implemented written exposure-control plan.