Many are aware of the risks involved in working with toxic chemicals daily. There are also a lot of “how to” guides and materials which suggest ways on the proper transport, storage and safe disposal of hazardous chemicals after they have been used. But it is a reality that people who deal with these dangerous chemicals, along with the conservators are not appropriately educated in the suitable ways of correctly disposing said chemicals. Most hazardous waste products are considered very lethal and are not compatible with each other, so accidentally or purposely mixing chemicals and its components together can produce a very dangerous end product.
Once an individual opens a can that contains solvent, he or she immediately becomes a chemical waster producer. While it’s true that conservation laboratories only make ten to fifteen gallons of waste annually, and private individuals contribute about one quart, the unacceptable disposal of small quantities of waste products tends to produce unforeseen dilemmas on how to contain the disposal of such.
Commercial chemicals which are thrown at the backyard of private residences will eventually find their way to the natural water table below the ground’s surface. Although it would take some time for this to happen, water pollution is inevitable. Since most chemicals are dangerous when combined, the possibility of some which may create combustible vapors or fumes that collects in stand pipes and can explode.
Majority of the suggested ways on how to dispose hazardous wastes are made to comply with state regulations and legislations that must be followed strictly. Presently, the federal regulations state that anyone producing a waste chemical volume of less than one thousand kilograms monthly is considered a small generator. The disposal of said waste can be done through a common garbage can or dump that is brought to a land fill of the municipality or any waste facility. To know exactly where to dispose chemical wastes properly it is recommended that a call to the local health department is made. A waste management company within the area can also be contacted regarding this matter.
The following are disposal methods that should be done cautiously. It should be remembered that only a few are acceptable on the subsequent lists of manners for disposal:
- Majority of the chemicals should not be put into the drainage system by flushing or pouring down excesses into drains. Bleaches which are not treated normally react with various organic materials within the sewer. Solvents, strong acids and bases, poisons and heavy metals have the capacity to ruin an entire sewer system.
- As per the current law, chemicals must be handled and treated as if they still maintain their original strength. Thus diluted chemicals should not be perceived to have less damaging capacities.
- Other types of chemicals can be neutralized and poured down the drain as a means of disposal but along with large quantities of water. However, only individuals who are thoroughly familiar with the skill of neutralization reaction should try to neutralize their respective chemical wastes.
- Almost all chemical waste must not be disposed or thrown into a common garbage container. Because some chemicals like oxidizers react with organic wastes materials once it is deposited in a garbage truck.
- Solvents, paints, varnishes or other chemicals should not be disposed in the backyard. Strict fines and a jail sentence are in the offing once being caught to do so.
- The burning of solvent waste materials is illegal. Chemicals, especially ones which contain chlorinated hydrocarbons produce toxic fumes, are dangerous when inhaled, aside from adding to the volume of air pollution.
- Allowing waste solvent to evaporate is permissible and legal. However, a fume hood or its counterpart should be used. It pays to be extra careful of any resulting fire or other health hazards.
Chemicals are commonly grouped into classes. The classifications are: solvents, detergents, acids and alkalines, bleaches and ethyl ether. Generally, these classes of chemicals must not be combined together in a common waste or garbage container because the chemical reaction can set a fire or have other resulting safety hazards.
Solvents include paints, varnishes and residues of polymer. Solvents are commonly known to be sources of fire and health hazards. Hence it presents storage and disposal problems. Such wastes must be collected in bottles because glass will not rust like metal (should water be added to the chemical). Small quantities could be permitted to evaporate within a fume hood. But even water soluble solvents must never be dumped down the drain to prevent combustible vapors that may collect in stand pipes and traps, becoming fire hazards.
Detergents can be legally and safely disposed down the drain without the need of being treated. Exception is given to triethalonamine. Sewage treatment plants usually accommodate this type of waste. Triethalonamine must be disposed like the solvents and must never be stored in a metal can if it has been merged or diluted with water.
Acids and Alkalines are types of chemicals may be disposed down the drain through the sewer system but under some legal conditions. If the base or alkaline does not have any heavy metal components dissolved in it, it can be neutralized and flushed down the drain using plenty of water. Neutralizing acids and alkalines require the use of full protective apparel. Baking soda and soda ash can be used to neutralize acids, while vinegar or stop bath can be utilized to neutralize alkalines (stop must be added continuously until a red color is achieved). Indicators like methyl red must be used for the neutralization of other chemicals although this is not recommended. When neutralization is not feasible, waste must be properly contained suitable removal.
Bleaches should be neutralized before being disposed in the sewer system. While many types of bleaches self-neutralize given adequate time, some must be allowed to stand for an hour prior to disposal. This is needed to avoid complications within the sewer system.
Petroleum ether is different from ether, diethyl ether and ethyl ether. Hence, petroleum ether must be disposed like the solvents. Ether is dangerous since it is highly combustible and may explode. Its vapors normally find open flame. Smoking or putting on an open flame near a can of ether must never be done.
Ether when combined with air form explosive peroxides, so it should be kept sealed within a metal can to prevent peroxide formation.
Ether must never be stored in bottles or any glass jars because there is a possibility that ether is tainted by peroxide and has the capacity to explode once the lid is unscrewed. While metal prevents peroxide formation, it does not eliminate peroxide and new peroxide can still be formed. Generally, ether must be stored within a refrigerator. If it is not stored in a refrigerator it must not be used for a period longer than three months once it has been opened. Expiration dates printed on the can must be closely monitored and disposing old cans of ether must be done by a bomb squad and not by regular agencies engaged in disposal of chemical wastes.
It is important to remember that the following chemical classes should not be mixed together:
- Acids and alkalines
- Oxidizing agents
- Reducing agents
- Solvents and flammables
Chemicals have specific incompatibilities with other materials like:
- Ammonia with hypochlorite bleach
- Nitric acid with acetic acid
- Nitric acid with sulfuric acid
- 1-Butanol with strong mineral acids
- n-Butylamine with copper and copper alloys
- n-n-Dimethyl formamide with halogenated hydrocarbons
Hazardous waste must not be disposed within the mixed or common municipal waste collection. Waste collection and disposal can be done by local government units with a corresponding fee. The productions of hazardous chemical waste in domestic dwellings are not subject to current regulations that deal with hazardous waste dumping (except for the removal of asbestos). But hazardous waste generated at camp sites, care homes, educational premises, charities and public halls for meeting are subject to such regulations.
To reduce the danger of leakage and breakage, waste containers should be kept inside cardboard boxes or wooden crates. Cardboard boxes where solvents are usually shipped in are good containers for said wastes. Greatest protection can be achieved by having these boxes lined with polyethylene and filled with cat litter or vermiculite around the bottles. These types of fill are good because the materials are absorbent in case a slush, spill or leak happens. Most favor vermiculite to cat litter because it is inorganic, nonflammable and non-reactive to chemicals.
Maintaining a list of all materials to be disposed of which is situated in a particular container must always be attached to it. This is an effective way to keep track of the type of chemical waste present. Likewise, it is needed to fill out a form that certifies the removal and disposal of the said waste. Disposing wastes will mean having to fill out a hazardous waste manifest that specify the kind of waste in the container, waste producer, name of waste transporter, and the means on how the waste is going to be disposed of. By having signed said forms, the waste manufacturer/maker, transporter and the site of disposal share in the accountability of safely packing, carrying and disposing the chemical waste in adherence to state and federal regulations.