The Importance of Proper Hazardous Waste Disposal

With increasing pressure from legislation, customers, and the public to become more sustainable, managing waste has never been more critical for businesses. In the UK, you have a responsibility to dispose of your waste, particularly if it is hazardous, in a way that protects the environment and adheres to strict disposal regulations.

Read on as we explore the importance of compliant hazardous waste disposal. We provide the information and resources you need to ensure your business operates sustainably and meets all legal requirements.

What Is Hazardous Waste?

It’s crucial for businesses to understand if their waste streams contain hazardous materials. These wastes are materials that threaten human health or the environment. Common types of hazardous waste include:

  • Chemicals: Acids, solvents, paints, pesticides, and other cleaning agents
  • Clinical and healthcare waste: Infectious materials generated in healthcare settings, such as bandages, syringes, and blood
  • Flammables: Liquids and solids that easily ignite
  • Explosives: Materials that can detonate under certain conditions
  • Toxic waste: Substances that are poisonous or harmful if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin

Examples of hazardous waste found in businesses include:

  • Paint and paint thinners
  • Solvents
  • Acids and alkalis
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Oils and fuels
  • Fluorescent lamps and batteries

Why Is Waste Disposal Important?

Here’s a breakdown of the key reasons why correct waste management is essential:

Minimising Environmental Impacts

Sustainable hazardous waste management prevents harmful substances and pollution from contaminating our natural resources. Dangerous chemicals, if not disposed of correctly, can seep into soil and water sources, causing long-term damage to ecosystems. Effective disposal methods ensure these substances are neutralised and do not harm the environment.

Health and Safety

Improperly disposed-of chemicals pose a significant health risk to humans and animals. Exposure to hazardous materials can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and even cancer. This is especially concerning for clinical waste, such as sharps, which can transmit diseases. 

Compliant disposal of hazardous materials ensures these substances do not come into contact with humans, thereby protecting the health and well-being of employees and the public.

Legal Obligations of Disposing Waste 

In the UK, businesses are legally required to comply with regulations for disposing of waste. Failure to comply can result in severe penalties, making it imperative for organisations to understand and adhere to these regulations.

Sustainability Through Recycling

Sustainable non-hazardous waste management also has significant benefits. By adopting responsible practices, such as recycling and reuse, we can conserve resources and reduce the need to extract new materials. This promotes a more circular economy, minimising waste production and its environmental impact.

Financial Importance of Effective Waste Disposal

Businesses that prioritise responsible waste management can benefit financially. Reducing the amount of waste produced lowers disposal costs, and recycling certain materials can generate revenue. Additionally, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability can enhance your brand image and attract environmentally conscious customers.

Hazardous Waste Disposal Regulations in the UK

The United Kingdom takes a stringent approach to hazardous waste disposal procedures, prioritising the safety of both people and the environment. These regulations ensure correct handling from the point of generation to final disposal. They outline procedures, like how to dispose of chemicals in the UK. The principal regulations are:

The Environmental Protection Act 1990

This foundational legislation establishes the ‘Duty of Care‘ principle. Businesses are legally responsible for ensuring their waste is managed correctly throughout its lifecycle.

Regional Regulations

More specific requirements exist depending on your location:

Environmental Permits

In England and Wales, businesses handling hazardous waste require an environmental permit from the Environment Agency. This ensures compliance with rigorous environmental standards and best practices.

Failure to adhere to these requirements can result in significant fines, legal action, and reputational damage.

Sustainable Hazardous Waste Disposal Methods

A sustainable waste disposal system is essential for businesses to mitigate the risks of hazardous waste. This includes:

  • Identification: Correctly identifying and classifying hazardous waste is the first step in compliant disposal.
  • Segregation: Hazardous waste should be separated from non-hazardous materials and rubbish to prevent contamination and ensure appropriate treatment.
  • Safe storage: Hazardous waste must be stored in secure, leak-proof containers that are clearly labelled and kept in a designated area.
  • Transportation: Companies must use authorised waste carriers and follow all applicable legislation when transporting hazardous waste.
  • Waste transfer paperwork: Consignment notes must accompany each load to track its journey.
  • Treatment and disposal: Hazardous waste should be treated and disposed of at licensed facilities equipped to handle such materials safely.

Once collected by a registered carrier, the company takes responsibility for the next stages, i.e. transport, transfer stations, and final treatment or disposal. However, choosing compliant partners is still vital for businesses producing hazardous waste.

The Role of Packaging in Hazardous Waste Management

Compliant packaging plays a vital role in the safe storage and transportation of hazardous materials. Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) and drums are commonly used for this purpose due to their durability and leak-proof design.

Are IBC Containers Returnable?

Yes, IBC containers are returnable and designed for reuse. IBC reconditioning involves cleaning, repairing, and testing them to ensure they meet the required safety standards. This extends their lifespan, reducing the need for new containers and minimising the amount of plastic that goes to landfills. Businesses can also save money on packaging costs.

However, where IBC containers cannot be reused are processes that ensure maximum plastic and metal recycling.

How Do I Dispose of an IBC Container?

When an IBC container reaches the end of its usable life, it’s essential to dispose of it sustainably. Specialist companies like Packaging Reuse and Disposal Services offer recycling and responsible waste disposal services for used IBCs and other industrial packaging. By working with a specialist company, you can ensure that your waste is handled in accordance with all relevant regulations and environmental best practices.

How to Clean IBC Containers

If you plan to reuse your IBC containers, cleaning helps maintain their integrity and prevent contamination. The cleaning process will depend on the type of material the IBC contained. The basic cleaning process involves the following:

  1. Fully empty the IBC as much as possible. Decant liquids or remove solids by hand or machine. 
  2. Triple-rinse the IBC with water or appropriate cleaning fluid to remove residue. Repeat until the water runs clear.
  3. Clean exterior surfaces thoroughly. Replace or clean removable parts like valves.
  4. Check for damage. Repair if suitable for reuse or dispose of responsibly if damaged beyond further use. 
  5. Apply dedicated IBC cleaner to internal surfaces. Allow it to work before rinsing thoroughly. 
  6. For hazardous IBCs, test rinse water to prove cleaning efficacy before reuse or disposal.
  7. Ensure all previous content hazard labels are removed once sufficiently cleaned.

Remember to always adhere to safety procedures when cleaning industrial containers.

Hassle-Free Hazardous Waste Services with Packaging Reuse

Partnering with expert and accredited waste management providers like Packaging Reuse and Disposal Services ensures your business responsibly and compliantly disposes of its hazardous waste.

At Packaging Reuse, we understand the stress and responsibility that come with producing hazardous waste and strive to make the disposal process as easy and cost-effective as possible for our clients. 

Packaging Reuse has a hazardous waste permit for the reuse and recycling of industrial packaging – the 15.01.10. We have the best in class permit and operation. Most competitors operate from a recycling permit only without permissions to bulk and handle hazardous waste. This process is supported by our own team of in-house chemists.

Don’t let the complexities of hazardous waste management put your business at risk. Contact our team today to learn more about our comprehensive hazardous waste disposal solutions.