One of the most vital steps in properly disposing of hazardous waste created by manufacturing companies is for those companies to properly identify what constitutes hazardous waste. This is not always a straightforward proposition. However, it's extremely important for those manufacturers to know what they have that's hazardous in order to dispose of it properly. This helps save the environment and the company from ramifications of improper hazardous waste disposal.

Best Practices for Manufacturing Companies to Properly Identify Hazardous Waste 

1. Manufacturing Companies Need to Be Knowledgeable about Hazardous Materials

The first important step is familiarizing yourself with what it means to be hazardous material. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 established a set of rules pertaining to the proper disposal of solid waste and any hazardous material. It stipulated disposal processes for corrosive, reactive, or flammable materials as well as materials with harmful metals (lead, mercury, etc.). Knowing what's legally "hazardous" is essential to knowing what needs to be properly disposed of within a manufacturing facility.

2. Be Knowledgeable about Purchasing

Identifying all hazardous materials purchased by a manufacturing company can seem daunting and overwhelming at first. However, there are several tactics to start tackling this issue.

The first such tactic is to be familiar with what the company or business is purchasing. Knowing everything that enters into the business can be aided by safety data sheets (SDSs)—formerly known as material safety data sheets (MSDSs). These sheets provide detailed information about the physical and/or chemical properties of items prepared or imported by a manufacturer. This includes information such as pH, flash point, whether the material is corrosive, etc. The SDS can also include safe handling techniques, potential health hazards associated with the material, and more. To be in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance, any chemical must have an associated SDS.

Anything leftover from these hazardous purchases and not used in the manufacturing process will constitute hazardous waste.

3. Be Knowledgeable about the Manufacturing Process

The next important way to educate yourself is about the manufacturing hazardous waste process itself. If you purchase flammable paint, then the excess waste is going to be flammable and, therefore, hazardous. That's fairly self-explanatory.

However, the manufacturing process can actually alter the chemical composition of products used. In the manufacturing process, that means nonhazardous material can become hazardous when combined and altered through any number of manufacturing processes. Obviously this directly affects how the resultant product must be disposed of if it's then considered hazardous waste.

4. Seek Outside Assistance

Knowing how to read and interpret an SDS is vital to correctly identifying ways to dispose of materials. (This means the generator of the documents must be familiar with this information as well as the waste disposal vendor.)

There are, however, going to be times people encounter SDSs and don't know how to properly read or utilize them. If this is the case (or if these sheets are not available for some reason), there are alternative testing methods to determine exactly what a material is.

  • Lab Testing

The material in question can always be outsourced to a lab. That lab can then identify the sample and any potential hazardous components. This will inform how to properly dispose of the material. Manufacturers just need to ensure they work with labs that can properly handle the sample, test it, and produce meaningful analytical reports.

  • Hazardous Waste Disposal Companies

The other main alternative is working with a hazardous waste disposal company that can walk the manufacturers through this process. Often with large companies in this industry, they leave it up to the manufacturers to do all the relevant identification. However, manufacturers should seek out waste management companies that will help them figure out what exactly what materials they have.

That company should also be properly permitted and insured to handle this kind of waste and knowledgeable enough to properly deal with it.

Hazardous Waste and Manufacturing Companies - For more information about how manufacturing facilities should identify hazardous waste, please contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services for more detailed information about identifying hazardous waste for manufacturing companies.