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While restrictions related to non-hazardous waste disposal in Georgia are less stringent than those that apply to hazardous materials, it’s still imperative to properly identify your waste streams for proper disposal – and that materials are not simply thrown in the trash.
If your Georgia site produces non-hazardous waste, it’s important to ensure you know all the rules that govern its storage, transport, and disposal. It’s equally important to consider working with a local waste management company to ensure compliance. Doing so reduces the risk of huge fines and penalties for improper waste disposal processes.
01 / Hazardous Waste vs. Non-hazardous Waste
What determines the difference between hazardous and non-hazardous waste in Georgia? Turn to the regulations. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Department provides clarity regarding solid non-hazardous wastes and hazardous waste regulations.
Guidelines for solid waste management (including non-hazardous waste) can be found in the state’s Environmental Rule 391-3-4 and the accompanying authorizing statute or law from the state of Georgia (OCGA 12-8-20). Title 12 refers to Conservation and Natural Resources, and Chapter 8 refers to Waste Management. This chapter includes regulations for solid waste management (Article 2) and hazardous waste (Article 3).
Even if a non-hazardous waste is not hazardous per se, it can be defined as a biomedical waste (and as such infectious waste). Such wastes are often generated from healthcare facilities. Rule 391-3-4-.15 covers biomedical waste and can also include pathological waste, sharps, and chemotherapy waste.
Hazardous wastes are typically defined as something that has certain characteristics, such as toxicity, ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity. This type of waste can pose immediate and dangerous threats to human or animal health and the environment.
Non-hazardous waste does not pose an immediate or direct risk to human health or the environment but it still should not be disposed of in ‘regular’ trash or waste bins nor flushed or poured down sewer lines
02 / What Qualifies as Non-hazardous Waste?
Carefully assess all waste streams to confirm the status of each particular waste stream. A few examples of non-hazardous waste include but are not limited to:
Used motor oil
Most house paint
Hazardous waste is regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA does not regulate non-hazardous waste, but state governmental agencies do! Carefully review the information found within Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division regarding rules regarding both waste streams to ensure compliance.
Remember: There are no excuses for ‘not knowing’ the rules. The responsibility for compliant waste management and disposal processes (hazardous and non-hazardous) are the responsibility of the waste generator.
03 / If it’s Non-hazardous… What’s the Big Deal?
Just because a type of waste is not specifically hazardous does not mean it can’t pose safety risks for animals, people, or environments that come in contact with it. Even non-hazardous waste or materials are not standard trash and should never be thrown away as if it is.
If you believe you generate this type of waste, you should always work with or consult a reputable and experienced waste management company like MCF Environmental Services to ensure you’re doing what is legally required for everyone’s safety and well-being.
04 / What to look for in a Waste Disposal Company
Many factors contribute to what makes a particular disposal company the right choice for your Georgia business, but don’t forget to consider some of the following points:
Insurance - Always work with a properly and adequately insured business. In Georgia, the minimum for these types of companies is one million dollars, but some companies go as high as five million dollars in general liability insurance. If there is an accident involving your waste, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that the insurance can cover it entirely.
Paperwork/Documentation – Compliant documentation regarding paperwork is just one of many reasons to work with an experienced and knowledgeable company. No matter how you and your company decide to legally dispose of your waste, make sure the company has the capacity to provide you with the relevant documentation and paperwork to prove compliance. Should you ever be audited or need this proof, you want a company that keeps proper records and can provide these documents.
Permits - The company should be fully and legally permitted to handle your waste type, and this often entails having a solid waste permit. This is somewhat difficulty to obtain in Georgia, so make sure your chosen company has one.
Knowledge - Work with a company that’s knowledgeable in the industry. This is the best way to avoid fines or other penalties for improper waste disposal. Make sure the company understands the rules surrounding a Subtitle D landfill (where most non-hazardous material ends up) and all other relevant RCRA regulations.
Experience - While one- or two-person waste management operations used to be more common, they have started to drop away as permits and insurance have become more expensive and rules have become more stringent. However, these operations still exist, so just make sure to do your homework and only work with an experienced company.
Information - Not only should your company be knowledgeable, but it should also be able to educate you about the process and why following guidelines is necessary. For example, if you need to know about non-hazardous medical waste incineration for certain expired pharmaceuticals, your company of choice should be able to clearly and accurately explain those laws to you.
Cooperation - You also want to work with a company that listens to your input and follows your wishes (so long as they comply with all Georgia and federal laws). For example, some facilities might opt for incineration when a landfill would be legally permissible. However, make sure that doing so is acceptable to the state of Georgia. If so, any company you work with should comply with these kinds of requests.
Location - Working with a local Georgia waste management outfit allows you to look firsthand at the facility and perform a walk-through before signing or committing to anything.
05 / About Pricing Considerations for Non-Hazardous Waste Removal
Keep in mind that the right management company can potentially save you money. For example, if you’re using hazardous waste incineration for non-hazardous material disposal, you’re likely overpaying for services. Depending on the volume of waste, hazardous waste management fees differ. So too do incineration costs. Fees are often calculated by tonnage.
Hazardous incineration costs more than non-hazardous incineration. You can consult with a waste management company or incinerators in your area for current pricing. So long as you’re working with a company that can accurately identify what type of waste you have, you can cut down on costs by using the cheapest disposal method that’s still fully safe and legally compliant.
For more waste management tips or information about the processes of hazardous vs. non-hazardous waste disposal, contact a representative of MCF Environmental services, a Georgia-based waste management company.