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What Is Hazardous Waste Material?

Chelsea Terris

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Hazardous waste is defined by a material or substance that is potentially dangerous or damaging to public health or to the environment. They come in all forms including solids, liquids, and gases. Often, these materials are discarded commercial products, or could be by-products as a result of manufacturing. All hazardous waste products must first be deemed a solid waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Hazardous waste can do a great deal of damage if disposed of improperly. Ground water can be contaminated by runoff from yards using pesticides or cans of paint that have been tossed out and leak. Hazardous materials cannot be safely consumed by humans or animals and are thus toxic when released freely into the natural environment, whether through the ground, our waterways, or even airborne fumes.

Avoiding environmental damage is of utmost importance and you can do a great deal to care for your local community simply by following proper waste disposal procedures. In addition, computer parts that are not disposed of at the property facilities can clog landfills and will not break down.

Events such as a home move or Spring cleaning often prompt the en-masse disposal of a large amount of non-biodegradable materials, all of which should be properly disposed of and not tossed in your garbage can.


Hazardous waste is deemed as such due to the fact that the material cannot be disposed of by common means. There are two types of hazardous waste:

  • The first type is classified as characteristic hazardous waste which constitutes any material that has ignitability (flammable), reactivity, corrosivity, or toxicity. The material may have one, some, or all of these traits.

  • The second type of hazardous waste is known as listed hazardous waste. These materials are listed by authorities as discarded products including discarded chemicals from both specific and non-specific sources. Some also recognize hazardous waste classified as universal or mixed waste. Universal waste is less harmful to the environment and health or is only harmful at large quantities.

The regulations on these products are generally lower than those of higher classification waste. However, this material must still be disposed of properly using hazardous waste guidelines. Any U. S. business or facility that creates or stores hazardous waste must obtain a permit to do so. In conjunction with the RCRA, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was called on to create regulations for managing hazardous waste.

Managing Waste

There are specific requirements when handling, managing, transporting, and tracking waste. States are also able to create their own regulations along with those at the federal level which may be of the same or higher regulation. Household hazardous waste (HHW), or domestic hazardous waste, are wastes produced from the use of materials labeled and sold for “home use" only. There are many common types of HHW, including:

  • Paints (solvents)

  • Automotive (motor oil, antifreeze, etc. )

  • Batteries

  • Electronics

  • Cleaning products

Every material or product considered hazardous waste needs to be disposed of according to state or federal regulations. This materials need to always be handled with care for the safety of the public and the environment. Historically, some hazardous wastes were disposed of in regular landfills, and continue to cause problems for public safety even today.

The good news is that technology has come a long way for these materials, and often they can be recycled into new products. This eliminates waste and the need to dispose of it. Hopefully, in the future, hazardous wastes will be handled well enough to eliminate most of the threat they cause to health and to the environment. Care must be taken on local levels in order to affect change in the way our country and the rest of the world handle hazardous material, as what we do each day greatly affects the climate and environmental conditions worldwide.


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