Using and disposing of hazardous substances improperly can cause personal health, safety and environmental concerns. It’s important for your health — and the health of everyone around you — that you can recognize hazardous substances and know how to handle and dispose of them safely.
Table of Contents
- What Makes a Product Hazardous?
- The Different Types of Hazardous Wastes
- 6 Steps for Disposing of Hazardous Waste
- Hazardous Waste Disposal Tips
- Contact Hazmat School to Learn More
What Makes a Product Hazardous?
A product is considered hazardous if it can cause injury or illness to a human if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Most household cleaning products, or products you might store and transfer in your business, are not harmful if used appropriately. However, if they are used, stored or disposed of not according to the label’s directions, they can become hazardous.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describes a hazardous substance as any biological agent and other disease-causing agents that lead to injuries, diseases and even death upon exposure or release into the environment. The elements in hazardous materials often contain highly toxic and reactive substances that become poisonous when mishandled. Sometimes, hazardous products can be identified by their intense smell.
The strong odor is why so many products contain bright labels that recommend you clean in an open, well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling these chemicals. Hazardous substances are also contained in insect killers, detergents, glues and many products that use vapor or mist mechanisms. When you are done using these hazardous substances and wish to throw them out, they become hazardous waste.
The Different Types of Hazardous Wastes
While there are many different types of common hazardous waste, here are the ones you might encounter in everyday products and their properties:
- Corrosive wastes: These wastes can cause a chemical reaction that eats away materials or living tissue upon contact. An example of corrosive waste is battery acid.
- Toxic wastes: These wastes have chemicals that can cause symptoms of poisoning, illness or death. While toxic wastes vary in their concentration, even a small amount is enough to cause serious harm. These include paints, art supplies, pesticides and photographic supplies.
- Ignitable wastes: Also known as flammable waste, these hazardous materials can catch fire and burn very easily if not stored properly. These include kerosene, nail polish remover, lighter fluid and gasoline.
- Reactive wastes: These wastes can instantly react with air, water and other substances and lead to extreme heat or explosions. These are any type of chemical acids that have a physical reaction when mixed with water or other substances. Examples include explosives and lithium-sulfur batteries.
Many other forms of hazardous waste, including heavy metals, solvents, disinfectants and electronic waste, are found in various digital and technological products. Ensure you thoroughly read every instruction and warning label on any product you use that could be potentially hazardous so you are aware of any dangers — it’s incredibly important to know how to properly dispose of them.
6 Steps for Disposing of Hazardous Waste
Using improper disposal methods for hazardous waste is highly discouraged as it can cause many problems for people in the vicinity and cause pollution in the environment. These methods may lead to the exposure of poisonous fumes, contaminated soil or corroded pipes and drains. In addition, improper disposal can cause health risks for waste management workers who may not be aware they are interacting with a hazardous substance.
Here are some general steps and recommendations for properly disposing of hazardous waste.
1. Follow the Directions on the Label
Ensure you read the label for every product you use, even if you don’t think it could be hazardous. Following the manufacturer’s instructions can help you avoid injury and illness. Be sure to also check for warning labels that make you aware of any potential danger if you mishandle the hazardous product or substance.
2. Buy the Right Amount of Product
When buying cleaning or chemical products, try to purchase only as much as you need. With the appropriate amount, no hazardous waste is left behind. For example, there’s no need to buy a gallon of paint or cleaner if you only need enough for a small area of your home or business.
3. Recycle What You Can
Recycling keeps the environment clean of unnecessary waste and toxic substances and reduces the amount of hazardous waste in landfills or soil. Recycling also helps reduce the demand for products that contain hazardous materials, leading to minimized waste. You can recycle many common products such as:
- Paint thinner
- Auto batteries
- Oil and transmission fluids
- Clean plastic bottles
- Metal containers
Ensure all items you plan to recycle have been rinsed and cleaned properly.
4. Donate Unused Supplies
Many different programs accept donations of all kinds, such as household cleaners, products, paint and other useful items. You can also bring your supplies to community organizations or neighbors who might appreciate your donations rather than throwing them away. Keep in mind that all of your donated products need to have their original labels and containers for the safety of others.
5. Rinse and Dispose
Some hazardous wastes and materials are accepted at landfills if cleaned and disposed of correctly. Before discarding your cleaning product or hazardous waste in the trash, rinse the bottle or containers thoroughly several times. You can also call your local landfill or waste management company to get more information about the disposal of your hazardous household waste.
6. Wait for a Collection Day
You can always wait for a collection day or request a recycling kit by mail from your local waste collection services to ensure your hazardous waste is properly handled. These collection days usually have a specific date and drop-off location, as well as a list of the items they will accept.
Hazardous Waste Disposal Tips
Whether you are using hazardous substances in your home, organization or corporation, it’s essential to know your options for proper disposal before potentially causing damage to yourself, others and the environment. Consider these additional tips:
- Never mix chemicals when disposing of them or cleaning out containers.
- Wear gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes, and always pour slowly to avoid splashing.
- Never dispose of your chemical waste in the food preparation area or near children.
- Ensure there is proper ventilation when flushing or disposing of hazardous waste.
- Rinse your hazardous waste containers with plenty of water before placing them in the trash or recycle bin.
- Consider non-toxic alternatives and substitutes whenever possible.
Larger businesses often use more hazardous material, which means there are more safety training rules and requirements to keep everyone protected from dangerous chemicals. If you are part of an organization that deals with the transportation of hazardous substances, you must follow the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and OSHA compliance regulations.
Contact Hazmat School to Learn More
Properly using, storing, transferring and disposing of hazardous waste is crucial for the safety of humans and the environment. At Hazmat School, we provide OSHA- and DOT-compliant hazardous waste safety training courses. We offer many different courses, resources, workshops and other services to our students with certificates that benefit working adults in their career growth across many industries.
At Hazmat School, your corporation, group or government employees can also receive special discounts. We offer on-site and online courses to help you get the training you need in a way that works with your schedule. Contact us today to learn more about our courses and find the right one for you.