Four Characteristics of Hazardous Waste

When shipping hazardous wastes, having a hazardous waste profile with all shipments is necessary. In Maintaining Your Waste Stream Profiles we began to discuss what goes into the creation of a profile as well maintaining them. A necessary part of completing waste profiles is understanding what a hazardous waste is, so let’s discuss the four characteristics of hazardous wastes.

Four Characteristics of Hazardous Waste

The EPA breaks down hazardous wastes into four characteristics:

  • Ignitability – something flammable
  • Corrosivity – something that can rust or decompose
  • Reactivity – something explosive
  • Toxicity – something poisonous


  • Liquids with a flash point–the lowest temperature at which fumes above waste ignite–of 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Solids that spontaneously combust.
  • Oxidizers and compressed gasses.
characteristics - ignitable waste


Corrosive substances have the ability to eat through containers which can cause leakage of harmful materials. A corrosive liquid has a pH of less than or equal to 2 or greater than or equal to 12.5, or has the ability to corrode steel. Some examples of corrosive materials includes hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.

Characteristics - corrosive waste


Reactive wastes can be very dangerous given their instability. There are too many conditions and situations to identify every type of reactive material so the EPA uses the following guidelines to assist generators in identifying them:

  • Unstable, and routinely experiences violent change without detonating
  • Potential for explosive mixture or violent reaction when combined with water
  • Toxic gasses are released when mixed with water
Chracteristics - reactive waste


Our groundwater can be in great danger when poisonous materials pose a threat. The toxic materials can have long term effects on human health and the environment.

Unlike the first three characteristic groups which the EPA views as having an immediate threat and are fairly easily identified, there are 60 contaminants on the toxicity characteristic list and they are solely identified through a test method called Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP).

Chracteristics- Toxic waste Hazardous Waste Disposal CTA