One of the most important factors in proper nonhazardous and hazardous waste disposal is selecting the right container in which to place that waste. Several factors affect this decision. For example, it matters what type of waste you're containerizing, and the actual specifications of the container itself matter too. If you're at all confused or unsure about this process, here are some waste management tips to help you along the way.

What You Need to Know about UN-Rated Containers

The Type of Waste Determines Your Hazardous Waste Container Material

Waste containers come in a variety of materials, and some are simply incompatible with certain waste types. For example, corrosive waste can't go into a metal drum or container. It can eat through that metal and cause minor or severe leaking. Plastic containers are the safer, more suitable option for anything corrosive. Similarly, flammable waste is best contained to steel drums or pails.

You also need to be cognizant of everything you're actually putting into that container. Even if it's only trace amounts of reactive waste leftover or added to the container, putting in other waste types to the same bin can cause catastrophic results (fires, explosions, noxious fumes, and so on).

Non-Hazardous Waste Disposal

Obviously, hazardous waste containers must be selected with extreme care. Containers for nonhazardous waste can be chosen with a bit less stringency, but that being said, it's still imperative you follow the letter of local, state, and federal laws (as they pertain to waste containerization).

For example, it's common for small amounts of non-hazardous waste to go into a five-gallon bucket. However, all precautions still need to be taken to ensure everything on that bucket is secure and properly readied for transport. (The lid must be securely attached, and all appropriate labels and paperwork must be complete.)

Just because waste is "nonhazardous" doesn't mean it's not at all dangerous. From latex paint to polymers to ink, there are specific reasons this waste can't end up in traditional landfills, and it absolutely shouldn't be leaking into soil, water sources, or anywhere else. So, you still need to take precautions and be careful about what containers you're selecting.

Will Any Secure Container Work?

No! This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when containerizing and transporting their waste. Whether you're dealing with hazardous materials or non-hazardous waste, you must use a UN-rated container. You'll know it's UN rated because it will have the specific UN number on the bottom.

If you go to some commercial home repair store and pick up sturdy buckets, these are not UN rated, and they are not approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). If the DOT stops you during transport, and you're using these kinds of containers, you are liable to be fined for noncompliance.

Breaking Down the UN Rating

First things first, "UN" stands for "United Nations." The performance standards set out by this body are internationally recognized.

Here's an example UN rating number: 1A2/X430/S.

  • First number indicates container type:

-1: Drum

-2: Wooden Barrel

-3: Jerrican

-4: Box

-5: Bag

-6: Composite Receptacle

-7: Pressure Receptacle

  • First letter indicates container material:

-A: Steel

-B: Aluminum

-C: Natural Wood

-D: Plywood

-F: Reconstituted Wood

-G: Fiberboard

-H: Plastic

-L: Textile

-M: Paper (Multiwall)

-N: Metal (Not Steel or Aluminum)

-P: Glass, Porcelain, or Stoneware

  • The number 1 means it's a closed-head container or has no removable top. The number 2 means the container has an open head.
  • X, Y, or Z indicates the necessary packing group. Group I means the contents are the most hazardous; group III is the least hazardous.

-X: container is compatible with groups I, II, and III

-Y: container is compatible with groups II and III

-Z: container is only compatible with group III

  • The number following X, Y, or Z is the gross mass that container has been tested and confirmed to handle. If you ship something in that container in excess of this number (container plus contents), you can be fined—even if there was no leaking or structural damage to the container.
  • The S in this example indicates the waste is "solid."

Remember: You're Always Liable for Damages!

If you choose the incorrect container, and it leaks or has a massive structural collapse, you are absolutely liable to pay for any damages or cleanup associated with that spill. It doesn't matter if it wasn't leaking when it went on the truck; it doesn't matter if you didn't realize you couldn't use that type of container. Your motivation is irrelevant. If waste you generated causes damages during transport, you are financially liable. Period.

If you need help or want to ensure you're in compliance, reach out to your local hazardous waste disposal companies for guidance.

For more information about how to safely and properly containerize your nonhazardous or hazardous material, feel free to reach out to a representative of MCF Environmental Services today!