State and local governments have always had special provisions regarding the disposal and storage of hazardous waste. As a business owner, this is important to know, but what type of material or substances are classified as hazardous waste? If your business or company utilizes industrial products, it is important for you to understand the classification system. This will prevent you from improperly handling or disposing of the waste, which can lead to environmental destruction, jail time, or enormous fines from the government. Learn more about toxic waste and the laws governing it below.
What Is Hazardous Waste?
The EPA has also developed its own unique definition of hazardous waste. According to EPA guidelines, waste is considered hazardous if it meets the definition of “solid waste.” The term “solid waste” can be misleading since it can be used to refer to a solid, liquid, or gas that is no longer being used. This waste must be thrown away, recycled, or stored until it can be treated or disposed of. As a small business owner, you will need to learn the proper way to dispose of your refuse.
According to EPA laws, waste is considered hazardous if it:
- Burns readily (ignitable)
- Is explosive (reactive) or corrosive
- Contains certain amounts of toxic chemicals
Currently, the EPA has identified nearly 500 different types of hazardous wastes. Hazardous waste can come in solid, sludge, or liquid forms, and a plethora of everyday businesses and organizations are capable of producing it. Some of these businesses are well-known, such as processing plants or refineries, but others are often overlooked, such as hospitals, dry cleaners, and repair shops. If your business utilizes chemicals on a regular basis, you should take the time to view the EPA list of hazardous materials.
Storing and Disposing of Hazardous Material
Historically, hazardous waste was disposed of on the land of the individual or company that produced the waste. In some cases, a generator would transport the waste to an off-site area for disposal, but this was rare. Many companies failed to keep proper records of their disposal methods, and the future owners and inhabitants of the land often came into contact with these deadly materials. Prior to the introduction of federal regulation, the EPA estimated that roughly 290 million tons of hazardous waste was produced in the United States on an annual basis.
There are three different sets of rules governing the disposal of hazardous waste. The set of rules your business complies with will depend on the amount of waste that you generate on a regular basis. These rule classifications include:
- Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) – These individuals and businesses generate large amounts of hazardous materials.
- Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) – Businesses and individuals who produce small amounts of hazardous materials.
- Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs) – These individuals and businesses produce hazardous waste, but their quantities of waste are so small that they are not required to comply with federal regulations.
The overwhelming majority of business owners in the United States belong to the SQG category, meaning that they produce between 220 and 2,200 pounds of hazardous materials each month. LQGs produce in excess of 2,200 pounds on a monthly basis, so they will be subject to stricter disposal and storage requirements. As an SQG, you must obtain an EPA identification number allowing you to store waste on your premises for up to 180 days without a permit. This waste must be stored in containers that are adequately sealed, constructed, labeled, and maintained. At the end of the 180 days, you must dispose of your waste according to EPA guidelines.
Understand Your Responsibility
If you own a small business that produces hazardous waste, you should understand the responsibility you have to the environment and government. If you need help understanding disposal or storage guidelines, it’s best that you consult a lawyer who specializes in environmental issues.
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