The process of hazardous waste removal involves many steps, and a crucial part of this is how to select the proper hazardous waste container. Unfortunately, there isn't one rule you can follow. The right container for the job depends on many factors, including type of waste to be containerized, amount of waste generated, and more.

Hazardous Waste Containers: What You Need to Know about Selecting Them and Preparing Them for Transport

DOT-Approved Hazardous Waste Containers

Even if the containers you use are as sturdy and effective as you think they can be, you could still face an EPA fine if you're not using containers specifically approved and certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for that particular waste type. To be fully in federal compliance with all regulations, you need to store and transport all waste in DOT-approved containers—every time.

Some people who don't follow this rule do so to save money; others legitimately don't know they need DOT-approved containers, or they think what they're using counts. Your motivation, however, is irrelevant. If you're not in compliance, you're liable to pay the EPA fines.

Choose the Appropriate Size Container for Your Generated Waste

There are a wide variety of containers available to you, and that includes material options as well as size options. Some possibilities include the following:

  • 5-, 10-, 20-, 30-, 55-gallon drum.
  • Cubic yard boxes (ideal for those generators who fill up drums too quickly).
  • Totes with plastic inner linings and exterior metal cages to avoid punctures (used primarily for liquid waste).

As a general note, smaller containers tend to be plastic, with the fifty-five-gallon drum being one of the most popular choices for waste generators. However, what you'll routinely use depends largely on your EPA generator status. For example, if you're a large quantity generator, you might predominately use cubic yard boxes.

Choose the Appropriate Container Material

Even more important than the size of the container is what that container is made from. For example, corrosive waste absolutely cannot go in a metal drum. A corrosive substance can eat through metal and cause minor or major leaking or even complete container failure. All corrosive waste must be stored and transported in a plastic container, while steel containers are more suitable for flammable waste.

Be Aware of Everything in a Hazardous Waste Container

One of the most potentially dangerous situations is when multiple types of waste are combined in one container. If those waste types react or interact negatively, you could be dealing with explosions, fires, toxic fumes, or complete container failure. This is true whether you're mixing a lot of two substances or even residual waste in a reused container.

Waste types—from corrosive to flammable to reactive waste—need to be conscientiously segregated and stored in the containers that are appropriate for those waste types.

Label Hazardous Waste Properly

Once you're certain you've chosen the correct container and are putting the correct waste type in that container, it's crucial to properly and accurately use your hazardous waste labels. First things first, every hazardous waste drum needs a yellow hazardous waste label. This is a quick, easy, visual cue that you've got hazardous materials.

This label should include, among other things, the following:

  • Your information, as the generator.
  • Any relevant EPA waste code.
  • Accumulation start date of waste.

Always Pay Attention to Your Waste Containers—Not Just When Transporting

As a rule of thumb, you always want to be careful and conscious of your waste containers. For example, while storing waste, you need to periodically ensure nothing is leaking. A compromised waste container could do a lot of damage to your facility or pose serious safety hazards for you and others who come in contact with the waste. If the container is compromised when it goes on the truck for transport, this can likewise pose potentially disastrous health and safety hazards.

All lids should be attached and sealed properly. (Remember, though, the required amount of torque will vary from container type to container type.)

Routinely check for dings, dents, or anything unusual with your containers. It's always better to be safe than sorry in these situations. If you inspect a drum and have doubts about its integrity, always repackage that waste. This improves overall safety and reduces the chance you'll be financially and otherwise liable if there is damage because of your waste (during transport or not).

Contact Hazardous Waste Disposal Companies for Guidance

As you can see, picking a waste container is a lot more complicated and involved than it might seem. If you're unsure about any of these steps, it's smart to reach out to a hazardous waste disposal company. Working with a company such as this can offer peace of mind that everything you're doing is in total compliance.

Note, even if you work with hazardous waste removal companies, you'll still likely be packing and storing the waste, so make sure the company you work with is willing and able to provide guidance and education about everything required of you.

For more information about what you need to do to ensure your waste containers are in compliance with all state and federal regulations, please feel free to reach out to a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management Atlanta company.