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Disposing of hazardous waste from your facility is crucial for protecting employees, the environment and your business. One of the more significant aspects of the hazardous waste disposal process is choosing the correct container for storage and transportation. While there isn’t one container size that will work for all hazardous waste, factors such as the type and the amount of waste will help you successfully choose the correct container while complying with federal regulations.

Understanding Waste Types and Amounts

The type and amount of hazardous waste your company or business creates will impact what kind of storage container you need. Generally, metal is the most commonly used material for hazardous waste storage containers. However, if metal can cause an adverse reaction to the container’s contents, you may need to select another material. For example, medical waste storage containers must withstand punctures, leaks, fire, tampering and tumbling over. A medical waste storage container must also comply with OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard and other industry regulations.

In addition to choosing a suitable container material for storing waste, you also need to consider the container size. For example, the California Department of Industrial Regulations requires companies storing flammable liquids on the premises to follow specific guidelines regarding the container size.

Even if the storage container you select is sturdy and effective, you can still face a fine from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if your containers do not have approval from the Department of Transportation (DOT). To fully comply with federal regulations, you must store and transport your waste in a DOT-approved container.

Some people don’t follow the DOT’s hazardous waste storage requirements to save money, while others genuinely do not know about DOT containers or believe their container choice meets the standards. Either option does not comply with EPA standards, and your business or company will receive a fine.

There are many containers available in different materials and sizes for storing hazardous waste. Some options include:

  • 5-, 10-, 20-, 30-, 55-gallon drums.
  • Cubic yard boxes for generators that fill drums too quickly.
  • Totes with a plastic interior lining and exterior metal cage to avoid punctures for liquid waste.

Smaller containers for transporting hazardous waste are plastic, with many businesses using the 55-gallon drum. However, the size and material of the container your company or business will use depends on your hazardous waste generator category as determined by the EPA. For example, you may only use cubic yard boxes if you produce a large amount of waste.

The Importance of Labeling

Another critical aspect of choosing your hazardous waste containers involves selecting the correct label to place on the container. Before placing your container in storage, it must include a proper label to comply with safety regulations. You cannot make this label on your own or purchase it from an office supply store.

The EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requires all containers to include a proper label, marking and placarding. In California, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) also has labeling requirements. This department requires hazardous waste labels to include:

  • The physical state and composition of the waste.
  • A statement to alert others of the dangerous properties of the waste.
  • The name of the generator of this waste and their address.
  • The date when waste accumulation started.

Using a material safety data sheet (MSDS) can be beneficial to indicate how the hazardous materials may react and if they are at risk of fire or explosion. Many countries require manufacturers to include this information to allow employers to inform workers who handle the materials. The United States uses safety data sheets (SDS) that provide information on chemicals, how they combine and hazards to the workers and environment.

All storage containers with hazardous waste must receive a label with the words “hazardous waste.” This bright yellow label is a quick visual cue to be cautious when handling the materials inside.

Once you understand the hazard level a specific waste presents, you can more accurately determine the best container material to use for storage.

Containers for Hazardous Waste Storage

Once you understand the hazard level a specific waste presents, you can more accurately determine the best container material to use for storage. Many hazardous waste containers are metal, plastic or glass, so it’s essential to consider how your waste will react inside the container. Some common characteristics of waste materials to consider include:

  • Toxicity.
  • Reactivity.
  • Ignitability.
  • Corrosiveness.

A potentially dangerous situation that may arise during chemical storage is combining multiple types of waste in one container. If these types of waste have an adverse reaction or interaction, you could be dealing with explosions, fires, toxic fumes or even a complete container failure.

These explosive reactions can occur whether you’re mixing a large amount of two substances or if a substance interacts with residual waste in a container you reuse. Be sure to keep incompatible waste separated to comply with EPA safety regulations and keep all who come into contact with your hazardous materials safe.

As a general rule of thumb, you always want to be careful with your waste containers. Periodically check the waste container to ensure it does not have any damage or leaks to protect your employees and facility.

All lids should be properly attached and sealed on storage containers. Check the containers routinely for dings, dents and seals. If you or an employee have any doubts about the integrity of a drum, it’s a good idea to repack the waste. Putting the waste in a new container entirely can improve overall safety and reduce the risk of harming others or equipment.

More Hazardous Waste Storage Tips

To ensure your facility and employees are safe, it is a good idea to keep these additional tips from the EPA in mind. Use the following information to help choose the correct storage container for your company’s hazardous waste needs:

  • Place corrosive waste in plastic instead of steel unless the steel container has a plastic liner. Steel corrodes more easily than plastic and causes drum leaks.
  • If employees are unsure of the corrosive properties of a particular waste, they can consult a corrosion resistance guide to determine if the waste and drum material are compatible.
  • Familiarize yourself or your employees with every aspect of the production process to account for any changes that may alter the composition of generated waste.
  • Pay careful attention to any temperature fluctuations of the material, as certain chemicals may expand after heating. Taking these possible size fluctuations into account will determine the size of the container your company chooses.
  • Only use specific materials in containers your facility plans on reusing frequently.

Hazardous Waste Courses From Hazmat School

Hazardous Waste Courses From Hazmat School

Whether you need your hazardous waste certification or would like to offer a refresher for employees, Hazmat School has many course options to meet their needs. We offer hazardous waste training courses online to allow your employees to complete lessons on their own schedule wherever they’d like. In addition to our classes, enjoy access to instructors and knowledgeable service representatives around the clock. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us today!

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