The Benefits of Recycling Hazardous Waste
February 19, 2020

There are a number of regulations created by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that promote the reclamation and reuse of hazardous materials. These regulations were put into place as a means to protect your environment and human health. Hazardous waste is recycled if you reclaimed it or reused it. These regulations also create a number of benefits for recycling hazardous waste.

Why it is Beneficial to Recycle Hazardous Waste

When you reclaim, recycle, or reuse your hazardous waste materials, you create a number of benefits, including:

  • Avoiding environmental hazards
  • Protecting the Earth’s scarce natural resources
  • Reduce the nation’s dependence on raw materials
  • Reduce the nation’s dependence on energy
  • Provide a number of economic benefits

Properly disposing of your hazardous waste not only provides a number of environmental and human health benefits; it is the law. The RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) is an established federal program created to manage hazardous waste disposal procedures. These procedures have been put into place by the federal government to protect your environment as well as human health.

The RCRA hazardous waste compliance monitoring program is an enforcement process to make sure industry generators of these dangerous materials properly dispose of them. If your hazardous waste is not properly handled, you can be forced by law to perform a costly clean up of any waste as well as face stiff fines.

Environmental Benefits of Recycling Hazardous Waste

The environmental benefits of recycling hazardous waste materials include:

  • Reducing the utilization of our Earth’s raw materials
  • Reduce pollution levels
  • Reduce your energy usage
  • Reduce the amount of waste you have treated and disposed of

There is a significant impact on your environment when hazardous waste has to be extracted, refined, transported. There is also an impact when this waste material has to be processed into raw material. By recycling hazardous waste material, you reduce the amount of air, water, and soil pollution that is associated with these practices.

The recycling of hazardous waste also provides the benefit of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. When you recycle your hazardous waste, less energy is required to obtain raw materials and manufacture those products. When you lower the demand for these energy sources, there are fewer fossil fuels burned, and fewer greenhouse gases are emitted into your atmosphere. This benefit is that it lessens the impact on climate change and reduces air pollution.

Another environmental benefit is that by recycling your hazardous waste, there are fewer materials to be sent for disposal and treatment. This reduction means less hazardous waste incinerators and landfills, along with less energy being used for those systems. When there is less need for these systems, there is less pollution created.

Economic Benefits of Recycling Hazardous Waste

There are not only benefits to your environment by recycling hazardous waste materials; there are economic benefits for your company as well. By recycling your hazardous waste, you can increase production efficiency and reduce your costs attached to purchasing new raw materials. It also reduces your costs involved in waste management.

When your company recycles hazardous materials, you are able to eliminate the generation of more waste and avoid RCRA regulations. You can benefit from the ‘green’ image associated with hazardous waste recycling practices. When your company is seen as one with active stewardship, it can increase your goodwill with consumers and distinguish yourself from your competitors.

How Hazardous Waste is Recycled

There are a number of industrial hazardous wastes that can effectively and safely be recycled. Some of those products include:

  • Paint thinners
  • Paint stains
  • Fluorescent light bulbs and their tubes
  • Adhesives
  • Glues
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Oil-based paints
  • Garden chemicals
  • Spa and pool supplies
  • Butane and propane tanks
  • Automobile fluids

Hazardous waste is recycled if you reclaim or reuse it. The RCRA has made an important distinction between materials that are used or reused without reclamation, and those that have to be reclaimed before reuse.

  • ReclamationAccording to the RCRA, a product is reclaimed if it is processed to recover a usable product. Common hazardous waste reclamation involves the recovery of spent solvents such as acetone or metals. One product that can be reused without being reclaimed is emission control dust that is returned to a main zinc smelting furnace. 

There are a lot of household products that have corrosive, ignitable, reactive, and toxic ingredients, which makes them hazardous wastes. If these are not disposed of properly, they will impact human health as well as your environment.

Certain materials, such as cleaning products, are able to be cleaned and reused. Certain hazardous waste materials can be blended and then used as a fuel ingredient, or they can be treated and used as an ingredient in products such as fertilizers.

EPA Regulations Regarding the Recycling of Hazardous Waste

Congress created the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) as a means of promoting the protection of the environment and human health, as well as to conserve your county’s valuable energy resources. As a result of this goal, the EPA created hazardous waste recycling regulations as a way of promoting the reuse and reclamation of hazardous waste materials.

Under Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, you will find a legitimate definition of recycling as defined by EPA:

  • Legitimate recycling involves a hazardous material that can provide a useful function to the recycling process
  • The recycling process has to produce a product of value
  • You, as the generator of the waste, and the recycler have to manage hazardous material as a valuable product when under your control
  • The product as a result of the recycling process has to be comparable to a legitimate product

There are a number of ways in which recycling can be defined as a sham, and not meet the EPA requirements:

  • Marginally effective or ineffective for a claimed use- This use includes particular heavy metal sludges in concrete. When sludge is created as recycled waste and added to concrete which adds no significant elements to the concrete’s properties
  • Excess use of the amount needed- Example of this sham is using materials that contain chlorine as an ingredient in the process to create a chlorine product, but the new product is in excess of what is required as a chlorine level
  • The recycled product does not compare to the standards of a new product- Example of this sham is when materials are recycled to produce a product that contains higher concentrations of a hazardous material than would typically be found in that product

Hazardous waste does not stop being dangerous because you have reclaimed, reused, or recycled it. A lot of hazardous waste recycling procedures pose serious environmental and human health hazards and are subject to regulations found under Subtitle C of the RCRA.

Recycling your hazardous waste should be looked at as a means of managing your hazardous materials to avoid environmental hazards, protect your natural resources, and reduce your impact of relying on raw materials and energy. The RCRA certainly promotes the recycling of hazardous waste material, but it does not take precedence over its goal of ensuring proper management of these materials.

To encourage recycling practices, the RCRA has excluded certain materials from their definition of solid waste, and in turn, some solid wastes have been excluded from the definition of hazardous waste. This enables some hazardous waste to be exempt from regulations if you recycle them:

  • Waste used as an ingredient if the material is used as an ingredient in the production process without first being reclaimed. This material is then not considered a solid waste.
  • Waste used to create a substitute product. If you use a material to create an adequate substitute for a commercial product, it is then exempt from the solid waste definition. 
  • Wastes that are able to be returned to the production process. If you return material to the production process as a feedstock or raw material, it is not defined as solid waste. 

These are some of the materials that are excluded from the solid waste definition if you recycle them:

  • Shredded circuit boards- shredded circuit boards which are recycled and stored in a container that will prevent any release to the environment before they are recovered and do not contain any mercury switches, nickel-cadmium batteries, lithium batteries, or mercury relays
  • Mineral processing solvent materials- These materials include the spent materials created within the main mineral processing industry from which water, cyanide, minerals, and acids are recovered by a mineral processing. These materials must be stored in specific types of units.
  • Spent caustic solutions from petroleum refining– This exclusion refers to the spent caustic solution from petroleum refining liquids that are used to produce naphthenic acid, feedstock, or cresylic. It does not include those materials that will be placed on the ground.
  • Pulping liquors- pulping liquors or black liquor, which is reclaimed in the pulping liquor recovery furnace and then recycled in the pulping process.

There are other materials listed under the ‘excluded materials’ and can be found under Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations. You can also check with your local hazardous waste disposal service if you have questions on which of your company’s hazardous waste materials are excluded from regulations if you recycle them.

Any materials not found on the list of exclusions are subject to full hazardous waste regulations. To ensure you are receiving and contributing to the benefits of recycling your hazardous waste materials, it is recommended you check with your local hazardous waste disposal service.

Environmental Marketing Services offers many recycling options and solutions. We have an extensive networking program that helps customers find the right solution for unwanted or outdated materials. When you work with us to recycle your hazardous waste, you benefit your organization and the world you live in.

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