Proper Waste Segregation & Disposal

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Generating waste is almost unavoidable in today's world. Properly segregating and disposing of your waste not only reduces the amount of toxins that enter the atmosphere, you may even save someone's life. Not all wastes are equal and some are so dangerous that they fall into a category all their own: hazardous waste. You can easily reduce all types of waste with changes in your habits, and even save some money in the process.

1 Preparation

Before you can begin to segregate and dispose of your waste, you must first determine if your waste meets the guidelines for the definition of a solid waste in Section 261.2 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In general, most solids, liquids and gases are considered solid waste.

2 Identification and Segregation

Once your waste meets the definition of solid waste, you must then determine if it meets the definition of hazardous waste under Section C of the RCA. While every material considered hazardous is listed under Section C, dangerous waste usually displays the characteristics of flammable, corrosive, reactive or toxic, according to the EPA. Be sure you know how your hazardous waste mixes. Two different wastes can often react to form explosions or dangerous vapor.

If you waste meets the definition of hazardous waste, then you need to isolate it from any municipal waste you have and prevent it from entering the municipal waste system. Then you must apply for a permit to treat and dispose of the waste, usually through a state health office. This includes tracking your waste and recording waste levels, according to the EPA.

3 Disposal

If your waste is not hazardous, then you can choose to recycle it or enter it into the municipal waste stream. Most MSW is stored in landfills or simply burned, according to the EPA.

Before disposing of hazardous waste, you must attempt to neutralize any dangerous components. For biological material, incinerators are a common method. Unless you plan to treat and dispose of hazardous waste on-site you will likely need a temporary storage facility. The 55 gallon drums are a popular method for storing hazardous waste. Extremely large amounts of toxic waste may require using the entirety of an empty building.

Once ready for disposal, you must decide on a proper method. Incineration treats and eliminates biological waste, thus a very popular choice. Hazardous liquids are often stored in underground injection wells. Metals and other materials that does not burn easily may have to be stored in drums in a landfill.

4 Considerations

Consider recycling waste or reducing the amount of resources you consume. This helps the environment and prevents potential health hazards in waste streams. Syringes are commonly thrown out into the MSW stream, often injuring or infecting waste workers, when many places offer to dispose of them for free. Buy products that use less packaging, such as open air fruit and economy size goods. Start a compost instead throwing out yard waste.

Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.