Radioactive and toxic products are often associated with sci-fi novels and superhero comic books. However, such hazardous items are more common in daily life than many people realize. In fact, many seemingly harmless items can actually be qualified as hazardous waste. As a result, identifying hazardous waste can be quite difficult to the untrained eye. The best tip for identifying hazardous waste is to familiarize yourself with the most common characteristics of said waste. The following tips for identifying hazardous waste explore those characteristics and the specific dangers that accompany each.
The EPA determines the four main characteristics of hazardous waste. The first characteristic is ignitability or flammability. Ignitable items can be further characterized into three subcategories that pertain to the state of the substance. Liquids with a flash point of 140℉, solids that can spontaneously combust, and oxidizers or highly compressed gasses are all considered ignitable forms, and they’re therefore quantified as hazardous waste. Like all hazardous waste, ignitable forms must be disposed of through specialized processes—they cannot be deposited in landfills.
Corrosivity refers to any items that can rust or decompose in a dangerous manner. Such items may be less volatile than ignitable forms, but they can be equally as hazardous. Corrosivity substances usually take the form of a liquid, as is the case with hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. These items can easily rust and eat through very strong metals, which can lead to leakage of other potentially hazardous materials. Even everyday items such as car batteries and rust removers are considered highly corrosive. As a result, these items cannot be deposited in dumpsters or landfills.
Items with a high reactivity are perhaps the most dangerous and most complex types of hazardous waste. Reactivity refers to the likelihood that a material will create an explosion or otherwise dangerous chemical reaction when combined with a different material. So many variables can come into play in this scenario, so it’s virtually impossible to classify every single reactive material. As a result, all items with the potential to create a dangerous reaction must be treated with the same level of care and deposited through special disposal services.
Toxicity refers to any items that can have lasting effects on human health or on the well-being of the environment. Toxic chemicals and liquids that leach into a groundwater supply can poison members of the surrounding community and the environment.
Bear in mind that some types of hazardous waste may possess more than one of the above characteristics. As such, only a professional should handle all forms of hazardous waste.