Choosing the Right Hazardous Waste Containers

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Best safety practices when managing hazardous waste are crucial to the wellbeing of employees, the environment, and ultimately, your business. Selecting the proper container to store and transport hazardous waste is the crux of waste management and requires you to understand many factors, including the toxicity of hazardous waste, how each type of waste should be handled, and the federal compliance required.

Although there is no catch-all approach to choosing the right hazardous waste container, there are some essential points to remember about determining how to handle waste.

1. Choosing the Correct Size Container

There are many possibilities to choose from when deciding on the appropriately sized container for your hazardous waste. A few general drum sizes to consider:

  • 5-gallon
  • 10-gallon
  • 20-gallon
  • 30-gallon
  • 55-gallon

Generally, smaller containers tend to be made of plastic, with material options expanding as the size of the drum increases.

2. Container Material

Even more important than the size of your container is the material that it’s made out of. When choosing a container, consider the types of wastes you are storing – are they reactive or compatible? Some wastes are highly corrosive, so cannot be put into a metal drum without severe risk of the substances eating through the container, but should instead be stored in plastic. Alternatively, oil-based or flammable liquids that are not corrosive work well in steel containers. Always ensure that you are educated on the types of waste being contained and the materials they may not work well with.

3. Labeling Containers

Appropriate hazardous waste container labeling cannot be stressed enough, and there are a variety of label requirements that need to be met in order to follow guidelines.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulates how waste is labeled before it is transported, while the DOT hold regulations for the waste once it is in transport. These agencies provide very specific regulations that must be followed by hazardous waste generators.

EPA Standards

Labels should include:

  • Generator’s name and address
  • Generator’s EPA identification number
  • Relevant EPA waste code
  • Accumulation start date of waste
  • Manifest tracking number

DOT Requirements

Labels should include:

  • Name and address of the shipper
  • Name and address of the designated recipient
  • Hazard labels for the primary hazard classes of the materials

You will want to check your local guidelines as well to ensure you are meeting all requirements for storing or transporting hazardous waste. Failure to meet these regulations can result in penalties including large fines or even imprisonment.

4. Be Cautious About Mixing Chemicals

Although this tip should be a given, it is imperative to understand that mixing chemicals can be extremely dangerous. Some wastes can interact negatively and, in turn, lead to a variety of reactions including explosions, fires, or toxic fumes. Always be conscientious about separating hazardous waste into different containers as needed.

5. Check Waste Containers Often

Keep a close eye on any containers that hold hazardous waste. Checking for dents, dings, properly sealed lids, leaks, or anything else unusual with your hazardous waste containers can prevent serious damage in the long run. If you have any doubts at all about the health of a container, don’t take any chances – always repackage the waste in a new reciprocal.

6. Use Only DOT-Approved Containers in Transport

If you need to transport hazardous waste, be cautious in choosing a container. In addition to the aforementioned labeling regulations, the US DOT requires that under normal transportation conditions there is no:

  • Release of hazardous contents to the environment
  • Mixture of hazardous waste that can damage the container
  • Hazardous waste residue on the exterior of the container
  • Loss of effectiveness of packaging due to normal shipping conditions such as pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.

It is the responsibility of the shipper to ensure that the containers are compatible with their contents.

Proper hazardous waste container storage is crucial to proper legal compliance and maintaining a safe workplace. To learn more about proper hazardous waste containment, it’s best to consult a professional for efficient, safe conduct. Contact the experts at MLI Environmental today.

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