Is Illegally Dumping Hazardous Waste A Viable Business Strategy?

Crazy in Alabama! High school faces regulatory fines for burying computer monitors instead of properly disposing them.

With the emergence of the green movement over last two decades most Americans have been exposed to the ongoing debate over global warming, illegal dumping and the impact of toxic waste in our environment.  With all of the information out there, you would think that people would get the message that illegally dumping hazardous waste is not a good idea.    However, the Associated Press ran a story yesterday about a high school in Alabama accused of improperly disposing 24 computer monitors that has us scratching our heads. 

What is illegal dumping and why do companies do it?

Illegally dumping hazardous waste at any location other than a permitted landfill or facility. There are many reasons why companies may choose to illegally dump their waste but the primary motivations seem to be the following:

  • Avoiding disposal fees.

  • Companies with an untrained and understaffed workforce not understanding proper waste management procedures.

  • Avoiding the time and effort required for proper disposal.

  • Companies are unsure what constitutes hazardous waste.

Offenders often dump late at night to avoid the cost and inconvenience of proper waste disposal. Because the dumping of garbage, household appliances, abandoned automobiles, construction and demolition debris, hazardous materials, and other waste endangers public health, states have enacted a variety of laws designed to address the problem.

Crazy in Alabama reported Monday that the “Alabama School of Math and Science is facing a $10,000 fine from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management after school officials dumped 24 computer monitors in Chatom in May 2012 instead of following ADEM guidelines for disposal. School Officials are accused of “burying the equipment.” State environmental officials say the monitors contained potentially hazardous waste – including lead and silver – and should not have been buried.” (Source: Associated Press) You think?

Illegal Dumping Still a Major Problem

Before we come down too hard on the educators in Alabama, illegal dumping is still a major problem in the United States and regulators are cracking down on violators. In May 2013, big box retailer Walmart pleaded guilty and agreed to $82 Million in fines for violations related to improperly dumping insecticides and products like bleach and fertilizer into municipal trash dumpsters and into sewer systems (thrown down the drain)instead of treating them like hazardous waste in California and Missouri.  Walmart is hardly alone, as recent cases of illegal dumping fines and violations have involved other large companies such as Walgreens, Costco Wholesale, CVS and Target Stores, with each case generating fines in the millions to tens of millions dollars. 

Hazardous Waste Best Practices

The Environmental Protection Agency has detailed information on how to properly dispose of hazardous waste.  Here are things that your business should know to improve their processes and minimize the risk of regulatory fines.

  • Maintain proper licensing and understand your waste generator requirements

  • Understand that the RCRA has a “cradle to grave” requirement and that all hazardous waste generators are responsible for the proper disposal of their hazardous waste streams.

  • Understand that the more waste you generate, the more highly regulated your business is by Federal and state law.

  • Contract with a reputable and properly licensed hazardous waste company that will provide proper documentation and proof of proper disposal.

  • Make sure that your employees are properly trained on all hazardous waste disposal procedures for your company to avoid inadvertent dumping of hazardous materials.

  • Consider reduction as a tactic – Many companies are looking for ways to reduce the amount of hazardous chemicals they use which in turn reduces the amount of hazardous waste they generate.

If you are thinking about circumventing the system and burying your trash, think again. It’s time to come clean and follow the rules.  Contact a properly licensed hazardous waste removal company to evaluate your facility and properly dispose of your waste.


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