What is hazardous waste and what are the regulations that control it? Hazardous waste is any waste product that is potentially dangerous or harmful to people or the environment.
There are four classes or lists that hazardous waste fit into as well as four characteristics.
The characteristics of hazardous waste are: ignitability, corrosiveness, reactivity and toxicity.
The lists set out by the EPA group hazardous waste into three categories.
1.Non specific source wastes such as solvents and substances used for cleaning or degreasing that are used by industries are considered F-list.
2.Source specific wastes such as wastes created in the production of petroleum products and pesticides; these are K –list wastes.
3.Commercial chemical products that are discarded are in the P and U lists.
Although there are regulations regarding hazardous waste, this has not always been so and the planet has been adversely affected by them.
Not all regulations are followed and the enforcement can be difficult with individuals who discard hazardous waste without following the regulations.
For instance, old battery disposal, prescription drug disposal, automotive oil disposal and other wastes created on an individual level are difficult to enforce and have created harmful affects to the planet.
HOW HAZARDOUS WASTE IS MANAGED
Hazardous waste is managed in several ways. Toxic wastes are often contained in special containers and stored in areas that are predicted to be safe places for a certain number of years.
Other methods are burning hazardous waste if it neutralizes the hazards; for example, methane that builds in a landfill is often burned and is reported to not cause harm to the air or atmosphere.The EPA has developed a method of hazardous waste recycling.
Hazardous materials that are able to be refined or still have useful parts to them are recycled.
Hazardous waste management is regulated by federal, by state and finally by city with stricter regulations and enforcements being implemented by each.
The federal regulations will be added to by the state and then again by the city if it chooses. This has it’s drawbacks on states who do not recognized the importance of strict hazardous waste management plans.
It is not just the industry and government that must take a stand in effectively managing and reducing hazardous waste; it must also be an individual task.
Choosing to boycott certain products that have resulted in mismanaged hazardous waste in its production, working to influence policy makers and controlling the level of household hazardous waste produce are effective solutions to the problem of hazardous waste.
HOW HAZARDOUS WASTE AFFECTS THE PLANET
One of the most common affects of hazardous waste that is seen on the planet is in the form of acid rain.
When airborne acidic pollutants are in the air and then it rains the pollutants bond with the rain and are brought back down to the Earth.
Sulfur and Nitrous Oxides are the main culprits of producing acid rain.
Lakes and rivers are becoming more acidic and altering the aquatic life forms.Plant nutrients are adversely affected by the acidity.
As the world expands in its industrial growth the problem of acid rain continues to grow.
Some work is being done to reduce the chemicals that cause acid rain; however, until strict regulations are enforced we will continue to see damages caused by acid rain.
Other air pollutants are in the air that do not cause acid rain yet are very caustic.
Studies conducted on air pollution have estimated that the US alone will experience close to 50,000 deaths annually due to air pollution. Air pollution is not just a danger to humans; it can cause damage to ecosystems as well.
Trees and plants are being destroyed and animals are dying as a result of global air pollution. Air pollution has to be addressed on a global level since it travels by air and has no boundaries.
Oil slick damage
Water pollution is another effect of hazardous waste that is seen through out the world.
Pollutants such as sludge, sewage, garbage and toxic wastes such as oil spills have damaged our water supplies.
Water pollution is a big problem in many countries with weak or non existent regulations to protect our water supplies.
The damages caused by water pollution; however, is not limited by the countries causing the problem. The water on earth, much like the air, is shared by all and when these are polluted it affects the entire planet.
Water pollution must be regulated at a global level if we are to save the Earth from the dangers of hazardous waste’s water pollution.