Over the last few decades public awareness has grown on the social benefits of recycling. It is very common today to find receptacles in businesses, hospitals and schools to store and recycle waste items such as soda cans, bottles and computer paper. As the “Green Movement” has gained a social foothold in our society, recycling has become a very common part of our everyday lives.
Recycling as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. One area that many companies overlook within their hazardous waste management programs is the area of recycling hazardous waste materials.
There are certain chemicals, substances and by-products that are classified as hazardous waste materials that can be effectively recycled. By recycling these substances instead of simply removing them as part of their hazardous waste streams, companies can realize significant cost savings and lower regulatory compliance thresholds. Here are some things to consider.
There are many different hazardous waste streams that can be reclaimed and converted into usable products. For example, a solvent recycling facility can distill or purify a waste solvent and then sell the product for reuse. Fuel-blending facilities accept flammable wastes, blend them together to precise specifications, and then sell the mixture as fuel for cement kilns or incinerators.
Used oil recycling facilities clean and re-sell the oil. Other facilities recycle batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, valuable metals and electronic scrap.
As part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976, facilities known as Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities are granted permits for operation. TSDF’s come in many shapes and sizes and are heavily regulated by EPA. As their name suggests they perform a variety of functions, however one primary function is to recycle a variety of wastes into usable product. In order for companies to benefit from the recycling of hazardous waste, the waste streams must first be approved by a TSDS facility. Samples are sent to the TSDS facility to determine if substances can be effectively recycled.
Once a TSDF has evaluated a substance and declared it appropriate for recycling and "qualifies" under the excluded recyclable materials exception, these waste streams can be re-classified as “excluded materials.” They then can be excluded from hazardous waste classifications and/or hazardous waste management standards. This is an extremely important distinction since these substances are no longer included in the monthly hazardous waste measurements for hazardous waste generators.
For many companies this can mean a change in company’s generator status from a large generator of hazardous waste (more than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per month) to a small generator of hazardous waste (greater than 100 kg per month to less than 1,000 kg per month).
With this change in status, companies can realize significant cost savings (See our case study and see how we helped a company save $14,000 per year) a reduction of EPA regulation requirements and a resulting increase in profitability.
Another recent opportunity presented itself for hazardous waste generators with the final ruling on solvent-contaminated wipes.
It goes without saying that specialized knowledge is required. It is advisable for companies to consult with a qualified and licensed hazardous waste management company to gather further information.
There are many opportunities for companies to evaluate their existing waste streams and find recycling opportunities. A qualified company works with a variety of substances and will have the expertise to determine if your waste steams qualify for this type of reclassification and money saving options.