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Identifying and Disposing of Hazardous Waste: Explanations for Small Business Owners

Running a small business comes with its fair share of responsibilities. An important one is the proper management of small business hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is any material posing a potential threat to human health or the environment. Material can pose a threat because it is:

  • Toxic
  • Flammable
  • Corrosive
  • Reactive

As a small business owner, it's critical to understand hazardous waste regulations. It's also important to understand your responsibilities related to hazardous waste.

What Is Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous waste includes a variety of materials. Solid waste "is a hazardous waste if it is specifically listed as a known hazardous waste or meets the characteristics of a hazardous waste."

Hazardous waste includes chemicals like solvents and pesticides. Hazardous waste also consists of the following:

  • Batteries
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Electronic equipment like computers and monitors

These materials can harm people or the environment if not managed properly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies hazardous waste into different categories. The EPA bases the categories on the material's characteristics. Categories can include flammable and corrosive substances.

Responsibilities of Small Business Owners

Small business owners have several responsibilities relating to hazardous waste. It's a key component of effective business management.

Identifying Hazardous Waste

Identifying the hazardous waste your small business operations generate is an important first step. This waste may include any of the following:

  • Chemicals used in manufacturing processes
  • Expired products
  • Electronic equipment needing disposal

Conducting a waste audit to determine the type of waste your business produces is prudent. Identify what hazardous waste category the waste belongs to.

Proper Storage and Labeling

Businesses must store hazardous waste in containers in good condition. They must be designed specifically for hazardous materials. Sometimes, this will require the materials to remain in the original containers.

Ensure proper labeling with clear and accurate information about the following:

  • Contents
  • Hazards
  • Appropriate handling instructions

Training and Awareness

You must train your employees to handle hazardous waste safely. They must understand the risks associated with these materials. Employees must also know how to respond in an emergency.

Compliance With Regulations

Small business owners must adhere to federal laws and regulations. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is one such law. Some businesses must obtain an EPA identification number (EPA ID). There are also local regulations regarding hazardous waste management.

Federal regulations require large and small quantity hazardous waste generators to:

  • Obtain ID numbers
  • Keep records of waste generation
  • Report to the appropriate authorities when required

Your business must plan and execute effective hazardous waste management plans.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Look for ways to reduce the amount of waste in your small business operations. Also, find opportunities for recycling or reusing materials to minimize your environmental impact.

Hiring a Certified Hazardous Waste Management Company

Does your small business generate significant hazardous waste? If so, consider hiring a certified hazardous waste management company. This step will ensure that your small business's hazardous waste is disposed of correctly. It will also ensure that your business complies with applicable regulations. These professionals are well-versed in handling hazardous materials. They can even handle acutely hazardous waste like radioactive materials.

Emergency Response Plan

Develop an emergency response plan. Outline how to handle hazardous waste spills or accidents. Ensure all employees know this plan and can respond effectively to mitigate risks. This is particularly important for small quantity generators (SQGs). SQGs may generate more hazardous waste than very small quantity generators (VSQGs). But SQGs generate less than large quantity generators.

Regular Inspections

Conduct routine inspections to ensure your hazardous waste storage areas are compliant. The storage areas must comply with safety and environmental regulations. Fix any issues promptly. This prevents contamination of wastewater, which could further harm the environment.

Additional Considerations

Small businesses should also be aware of the following types of waste:

  • Universal waste
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent lamps
  • Household hazardous waste (HHW)

These categories have disposal regulations. Small-business owners should familiarize themselves with the specific rules.

Businesses may not be able to manage hazardous waste on-site effectively. In such cases, getting help is essential. Hire a hazardous waste transporter. A waste management company will have the appropriate permits. Importantly, they should have experience handling various types of hazardous waste.

Your hazardous waste management company should dispose of waste off-site in a landfill or through other approved methods. These alternatives include composting or resource conservation.

Conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs) produce minimal hazardous waste. But CESQGs should still be aware of applicable regulations. Even in the case of CESQGs, proper handling and disposal are crucial.

Need Help Complying With Hazardous Waste Obligations?

It's a legal obligation to manage hazardous waste disposal properly. It's also an ethical responsibility for small business owners. Neglecting hazardous waste can lead to severe consequences.

Seek guidance from relevant regulatory agencies or experts in the field. This helps to ensure effective hazardous waste management.

If you have questions or need assistance with completed forms, you can do any of the following:

Contacting an experienced business lawyer near you if you need legal assistance is also helpful.

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