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March 30th, 2017
Understanding Hazardous Wastes: Classification and Characteristics
Hazardous waste disposal is one of the biggest concerns for governments and industrial bodies across the globe. Most industrial wastes are either the byproducts of manufacturing processes, or discarded (used and unused) commercial products that pose potential danger to the environment and human health. Industrial bodies, therefore, must deploy every possible measure to ensure safe disposal or effective waste recycling of wastes, which calls for a clear understanding of the various types of hazardous wastes. According to RCRA (The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), a hazardous waste is a waste listed on one of its five hazardous waste lists. To give you an overview of what wastes are included in each list, in this post, we briefly describe the four categories in which RCRA’s four hazardous waste lists are categorized.

Hazardous Waste Lists

1. F-List (Non-Specific Source Wastes)

The F-list wastes are wastes from several non-specific sources. As these wastes do not originate from a specific industry or a specific manufacturing or industrial process, they are referred to as non-specific sources wastes. Most of these wastes are byproducts of various manufacturing and industrial processes, and are mostly solvents used for cleaning and degreasing.

2. K-List (Source-Specific Wastes)

The wastes listed under the K-list are produced from 13 specific industries such as pesticide manufacturing, petroleum refining. explosives manufacturing, iron and  steel production, secondary lead processing and ink formulation. Remember, not all wastes from these industries fall in the K-list. Treatment and production process wastes such as wastewaters and sludges from these industries is mostly what forms the K-list.

3. P-List and U-List (Discarded Commercial Chemical Products)

The P-list and U-list wastes include chemical products that were discarded without being used. Usually, the following wastes that meet the following criteria qualify as P or U listed wastes.
  • The waste has unused chemical
  • The waste has a chemical listed on the P or U list
  • The waste has a chemical in a form that meets EPA’s definition of a “commercial chemical product.”

4. M-List (Discarded Mercury-Containing Products)

The M-list includes discarded products or wastes containing mercury. Some of the examples of wastes listed on the M-list are mercury switches, fluorescent lamps, and mercury-containing novelties.

Hazardous Wastes Characteristics

According to US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wastes may be listed as hazardous wastes if they exhibit one of these four characteristics.

Corrosivity – Solid wastes that are acids or bases, or produce acidic or alkaline solutions are termed as corrosive wastes.  Similarly, liquid wastes that can corrode metal containers such as barrels, drums or storage tanks also fall under the category of corrosive wastes.

Ignitability – Wastes have a flash point lower than 140°F  and can undergo spontaneous combustion or catch fire under given conditions. Test methods such as Pensky-Martens Closed-Cup method and Setaflash Closed-Cup method are used for determining if a particular waste should be labeled as ignitable waste.

Reactivity –  Currently, there are no tests to determine what wastes can be determined as reactive wastes. Therefore, wastes are evaluated for reactivity basis the criteria listed in hazardous waste regulations. Mostly wastes that can explode or release toxic fumes, gases or vapors under normal conditions are termed as reactive wastes. Some examples of reactive wastes are unused batteries and lithium-sulfur batteries.

Toxicity – Wastes that contain constituents such as lead, mercury, PCBs, DDT or more, and prove fatal or can cause harm when ingested or absorbed, are termed as toxic wastes. When disposed, toxic wastes discharge toxic constituents that pollute ground water.

Wrapping Up

Poor industrial waste management can cause irreparable damage to the environment and may also affect human health. In addition, organizations are also legally obliged to effectively manage and dispose industrial wastes. If waste management is one of your operational concerns, contact TTI Environmental Laboratories – an in-house full service, independent environmental and analytical testing laboratory to get certified, accurate, reliable, and well-documented laboratory data. Simply call 817-861-5322.

* Disclaimer : We are not affiliated with any of the regulatory bodies. Our experienced team of experts is here to help you understand and comply with the testing regulations applicable to your business.