Most of us were taught from a young age to recycle, we were shown videos, watched presentations, and may have even witnessed our families and friends engaging in the activity of recycling. Ultimately, when we recycle we are not just throwing an unneeded item into a landfill and letting it decompose which may sometimes take decades. Instead, we are allowing the item to be broken down, cleaned, and used again. However, does the same standard apply to hazardous waste? Hazardous wastes are items or substances that when disposed of may cause potential hazards to people as well as the environment. We do not want to throw hazardous waste in with regular recycling items, nor do we want to just discard hazardous waste to rot and breakdown in landfills. The truth is, hazardous waste can be recycled. However, there are some guidelines in place provided by the EPA to help ensure that the safety of people, animals, and the environment is first and foremost.
Three Types of Waste Regulations
The EPA places regulations on hazardous waste and classifies wastes that pose a hazard into three different categories, materials not subject to hazardous waste regulations, materials subject to alternative regulatory controls, and materials that are subject to full hazardous waste regulations.
Not Subject to Hazardous Waste Regulations
There are many items that are not subject to hazardous waste regulations for recycling that you may assume would be. However, it is important to remember that if items can be safely recycled that is the best option. Some items that fall into this category include spent sulfuric acid, shredded circuit boards, processed scrap metal, spent wood preserves, agricultural waste, and pulping liqueurs. These items are all recyclable and are exempt from regulation standards since they do not fall into the category of hazardous wastes.
Alternative Regulatory Controls
There are alternative regulatory controls in place by the EPA which make it easier to recycle items that do fall into the category of hazardous waste. One category is titled universal waste and allows certain items such as batteries, pesticides, and florescent light bulbs to be recycled. Other categories included in this section are used oil, materials utilized for precious metal recovery, spent lead acid batteries, and hazardous waste burned in boilers or industrial furnaces. The EPA provides helpful guidelines related to recycling of anything that falls within the realms of alternative regulatory controls.
Full Hazardous Waste Regulations
Almost all hazardous wastes are regulated fully; however, there are special procedures and precautions put into place to help make the disposal or recycling process easier. Check the EPA mandated guidelines for further assistance and details.
Importance of Proper Disposal
Even though many people do recycle on an individual level, it is important for businesses and companies who create wastes that are hazardous do the same. Many times items that are considered hazardous wastes can either be reduced or reused and if not, they can be recycled or disposed of in conservative manner. Just because something may seem hazardous, don’t just throw it out; take the time to see if it can be safety recycled as a hazardous waste.
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