Challenges of chemical waste disposal

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Chemical waste disposal comes with a range of challenges. These challenges make this a complex issue with serious consequences if you get it wrong. Those consequences go beyond the potential damage a leak or spillage can cause. In fact, the courts have the power to impose hefty fines on polluters; there is no upper limit to financial fines.

In our daily operations, potential and actual clients looking to dispose of chemical wastes often approach us for advice. This may be on processing chemicals that have been stored for a long-time or the labels are illegible. The immediate challenge is getting the waste chemicals correctly described.

Identifying chemicals

Normally, the identification of chemicals should be straightforward. The European Union’s classification, labelling and packaging (CPL) regulations came into force in 2015. It has directions on the level of information that labels should include. The system aims to set out criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health, environmental and physical hazards. The information includes a description of a chemical’s hazardous properties. For example, HP1 Explosive, HP2 Oxidizing and HP3 Flammable – read this article for more information on hazardous property codes.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

An MSDS is a document that provides workers and consumers with procedures on safely handling or working with a particular substance. At Novus Environmental, we use MSDS to ensure we have the correct information before quoting for disposal. We also use the information to check that we are recommend the most appropriate disposal method.

Using the information held on the MSDS it is possible to cross-reference the information with guidance from the Waste Classification Technical Guidance WM3. We do this to determine whether the substance is hazardous or non-hazardous waste. Determining whether a substance is hazardous or non-hazardous isn’t as simple as knowing the chemicals used – we also need to know in what concentrations. A weak solution may not be considered hazardous whilst a more concentrated solution is a hazardous substance.

The Challenges of Identifying Chemicals

The challenges start when dealing with chemicals that have been stored for several years. Either the labels do not comply with the current regulations, have become illegible or are simply missing. Without the information we are unable to consider any kind of chemical waste disposal.

Recently an elderly woman contacted us for help and advice on removing some chemicals that her husband stored in a workshop. Her husband now lives in sheltered accommodation and therefore could not answer question on the chemicals being stored.

Our first step was to complete a waste inventory to determine any health and safety considerations and the current condition of the chemical’s containers. Only when we have confirmed it is safe to do so will our group compliance manager collect samples to send to the lab.

It takes a minimum of two weeks for the lab to return the results. Once received, we informed the client of the most appropriate disposal route and associated costs.



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