Businesses that deal in hazardous materials are responsible for their disposal. How a company chooses to handle this issue speaks to its compassion and sense of self-ownership. From landfills to incinerators, recycling to sea dumping, the methods of hazardous waste disposal vary in their approaches and their environmental impacts.
Used only for non-liquid hazardous waste, landfills that accept lethal compounds are not like the landfills most people are familiar with. Unlike the common landfills that pile upward, these are underground. For the benefit of the environment, double-layered non-porous materials, such as High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or clay, line the landfills and stop waste from leaking into the groundwater.
Since the purpose of these landfills is to protect the population from hazardous materials, they should pose little to no threat to the planet, but that is not always the case. In the event of a leak, a landfill could endanger the water supply, nature, and wildlife in the surrounding area. As a result of this threat, landfills need constant maintenance and protection to ensure the environment’s safety. Businesses that want an accident-proof disposal method should look elsewhere.
Burning hazardous waste is an option that occupies far less space than a landfill and will eliminate more rubbish on the planet overall, but the process also excretes harmful fumes into the air.
The first step in hazardous waste incineration is to detoxify the waste. This will reduce the amount of toxic gas it emits into the atmosphere.
However, the process does create air pollution once a company begins step two, in which they burn the hazardous waste in an enclosed device. Some states offset this environmental hazard by using the steam from the incinerators to power electricity. Recycling the steam will improve a state’s overall environmental footprint, but incineration still releases toxic metals, dioxins, and gases into the atmosphere.
Dumping at Sea
Of all the methods of hazardous waste disposal, dumping into the sea is the most harmful to human and animal life. Whereas in the past, businesses, believing that the ocean could dilute any dangerous substance, dumped hazardous waste without any treatment, regulations now exist that force corporations to make their waste more eco-friendly before it goes into the ocean.
However, cadmium, mercury, and other harmful metals still find their way into the sea. Marine animals ingest these pollutants—animals that humans then catch and eat. Polluting the water with chemical waste, therefore, creates a cycle of illness and environmental disruption.
In their Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Congress gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to control hazardous waste. The EPA believes waste is recycled if it is used, reused, or reclaimed. Companies that want to comply with the EPA’s recommendations should seek out businesses that specialize in transporting and recycling hazardous waste. Working alongside those businesses will ensure the safe and secure management of extra chemicals.