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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines solid waste as any garbage or refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities. There are two primary types of solid waste -– municipal solid waste (trash or garbage) and industrial waste (a wide variety of non-hazardous materials resulting from the production of goods and products. Conversely, hazardous waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, sludges, discarded commercial products (e.g., cleaning fluids or pesticides), or the by-products of manufacturing processes.
Listed wastes are wastes the EPA has determined are hazardous. The lists include:
F-list (wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes – non-specific source wastes). Examples include such as solvents that have been used in cleaning or degreasing operations.
K-list (wastes from specific industries), such as petroleum refining or pesticide manufacturing wastes.
P- and U-lists (wastes from commercial chemical products) such as specific commercial chemical products in an unused form, some pesticides and some pharmaceutical products when discarded.
Waste that have not been specifically listed may still be considered a hazardous waste if exhibits one of the four characteristics defined in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart C - ignitability (D001), corrosivity (D002), reactivity (D003), and toxicity (D004 - D043).
Ignitability. Ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, are spontaneously combustible, or have a flash point less than 60 °C (140 °F). Examples include waste oils and used solvents.
Corrosivity. Corrosive wastes are acids or bases (pH less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5) that are capable of corroding metal containers, such as storage tanks, drums, and barrels. Battery acid is an example.
Reactivity. Reactive wastes are unstable under "normal" conditions. They can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases, or vapors when heated, compressed, or mixed with water. Examples include lithium-sulfur batteries and explosives.
Toxicity. Toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed (e.g., containing mercury, lead, etc.). When toxic wastes are land disposed, contaminated liquid may leach from the waste and pollute ground water posing a hazard to the environment.
Universal wastes are hazardous waste that can be collected under streamlined collection standards for universal wastes as defined by the EPA or a state. Examples include batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and bulbs (lamps) wastes.
Mixed waste contains both radioactive and hazardous waste components. Mixed wastes are regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) regulate the radioactive portion of mixed waste under AEA authority, while EPA regulates the hazardous waste portion of mixed waste under RCRA authority. Examples of mixed wastes are generated from medical diagnostic testing and research, pharmaceutical and biotechnology development, pesticide research, and nuclear power plant operations.
Texas regulated wastes falls within four primary categories, chemical, biological, radioactive, and multi-hazardous wastes.
A regulated chemical waste is defined as a waste based on the quantity, concentration, physical and chemical characteristics may:
cause, or significantly contribute to, the harm of an individual including increased mortality or serious illness; or
poses a potential or present threat to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.
Regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) the treatment and disposal of chemical wastes in Texas.
Biological (or Special) Waste
Biological (or special) waste is a waste requiring special handling to protect human health or the environment.
A solid waste that if improperly treated or handled, could transmit an infectious disease.
Examples include microbiological, animal, human blood and blood products, pathological, sharps.
Regulated by the TCEQ and the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS).
Radioactive waste generated by laboratories is usually limited to low-level radioactive waste from the use of by-product materials and naturally occurring or accelerator-produced radioactive materials (NARM).
By-product material is reactor-produced radioactive material and includes most purchased radio-labeled chemicals.
NARM includes uranium and thorium salts.
The use and disposal of by-product material in the State of Texas are regulated by the TDSHS and the TCEQ and usually require a license.
Multi-hazardous waste is waste that contains any combination of chemical, radioactive, or biological hazards.
Requires special management considerations because the treatment method for one of the hazards may be inappropriate for the treatment of another.
May be regulated by one or more of the following agencies: EPA, TCEQ, and/or TDSHS.
Under Texas regulations, non-hazardous wastes are categorized as Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3. Class 2 and Class 3 waste are considered less harmful to the environment or human health than Class 1 waste.
Class 1 wastes are wastes which are regulated by the TCEQ and are potentially threatening to human health and the environment if not properly managed, because of the constituents and properties this class can include. Therefore, there are special handling requirements for Class 1 wastes. Examples are water contaminated with ethylene glycol, soils contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, liquids that are ignitable at levels above 150 degrees F, and semi-solids and solids when combined with water exhibits corrosive properties.
Class 2 wastes are often accepted at local landfills. Examples of wastes that fall under the Class II definition are depleted aerosol cans, non-surgical non-radioactive medical waste, and food waste and packaging that result from plant production, manufacturing or laboratory operations.
Class 3 wastes that are insoluble, do not react with other materials, and do not decompose. Examples of wastes which fall under the Class III definition are chemically inert and insoluble substances, waste which poses no threat to human health or the environment, rocks, bricks, glass, dirt and some plastics that are inert and insoluble solid waste materials. Source: Chapter 30, Texas Administrative Code, Section 335.
A Class 2 or 3 designations does not mean that the waste is incapable of causing harm in every management (or mismanagement) situation. (Source: Chapter 30, Texas Administrative Code, Section 335.)