What is hazardous waste?


Hazardous waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment....

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What is hazardous waste?


Hazardous waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges. They can be discarded commercial products, like cleaning fluids or pesticides, or the by-products of manufacturing processes.


What makes it hazardous?


It will be easily flammable.


It will be corrosive.


It will be unstable and will react vigorously with other material


It will be contaminated or toxic.


It can be cosmogenic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic.


Impacts of hazardous waste.


Hazardous wastes - India's Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (HPC or High Power Committee) on Hazardous Wastes, set up in November 2003, said it had been "pursuing certain serious and chronic situations" relating to to the management of hazardous wastes. One of their observations was that incineration is the most important type of treatment for wastes that have a high heating or calorific value or which are highly toxic. Due to the high temperatures maintained in incinerators, toxic components in organic matter are thermally decomposed into non-toxic matter. Incinerators which are designed properly will ensure complete combustion and hence no POPs (persistent organic pollutants) are produced. Design and operating criteria were required to ensure hazardous waste incinerators performed in this manner. One of the outputs of the action of the HPC was a well documented ‘Guidelines for Hazardous Waste Incinerators' which was prepared by the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) to ensure certain minimum requirements in incinerators that handle hazardous waste.


According to the US-EPA, “In the U.S more than 3.1 million tons of hazardous waste was disposed of through combustion in 2005. When performed properly, incineration destroys the toxic organic constituents in hazardous waste and reduces the volume of the waste.”




Industrial waste management is a very complex exercise. This is because of the fact there is an ever-increasing and wide spectrum of industries with multitudinous types of wastes, differing from industry to industry.


Firstly, waste is an unwanted by product of production in areas like manufacturing.  This waste could include anything from saw dust and scrap metal to acids and other liquid waste.


Industrial waste management involves safe and economical way of handling and disposal of waste, at the same time complying with regulations.


Unscientific and improper management of industrial waste could result in environmental problems, such as liquids from production processes getting mixed with water causing serious health issues to living beings in the water.


Certain chemicals can get into the food chain including humans. Proper industrial waste management will help in avoiding such incidents at the same time ensuring that less hazardous industrial wastes are recycled.


Improper handling and disposal of industrial waste can also affect the health conditions of residents.  Effective industrial waste management will eliminate such happenings and reduce in the first place the amount of industrial waste that is produced.


Businesses have the obligation to effectively manage and dispose of their industrial waste failing which they become liable for the damages. The legal process of defending such negligence would also be very costly.


Let us now look at some broad waste types and their possible disposal options.


Chemical Waste 


Chemical waste is typically generated by factories, processing centers, and plants. This waste may include harmful or dangerous chemicals and chemical residue, and waste disposal must adhere to careful guidelines. These guidelines are instituted and regulated by various government and environmental agencies. Responsible organisations and those with corporate social responsibilities, generally have in place disposal methods conforming to occupational health and safety of the interested parties, including their neighbours, employees and visitors. 


Chemical waste must be segregated at origin, and waste disposal may need to be handled by a specialist to ensure compliance with health, safety and legal requirements.


Solid non-hazardous Waste 


In industrial activities, solid waste includes a variety of different materials, including paper, cardboard, plastics, packaging materials, wood, and scrap metal. Many of these materials can be reused and recycled by a recycling center. The voluminous nature of some of these wastes makes it difficult to find storage space. For this purpose, using a shredder would considerably reduce the volume which can then be sent for recycling. If there are confidential documents or drawings or other proprietary labels, which should not fall into the wrong hands, there is always an incinerator like the Haat Free Burning Destructor, which uses the waste itself as fuel, without any other external power or fuel.


If you do not have a complete waste management plan that includes recycling, your waste disposal is not going to be as

cost-effective or environmentally friendly as it could be. You will end up spending more money in storing with fire protection arrangements.


Hazardous Waste 


Industrial hazardous waste consists of materials that can cause serious health and safety problems if waste disposal is not handled correctly. This type of waste typically includes dangerous by-products and materials generated by factories, automobile manufacturers, oil refineries, paint manufacturers, construction sites, laboratories, garages, hospitals, and other manufacturing plants. The local regulatory authority has drawn up guidelines and measures for controlling these toxic and hazardous waste disposal and transportation. This waste disposal is only legal at specifically designated facilities within the country.


This waste could be liquid, semi solid or solid. The regulatory authority generally gives permission to a few common Hazardous Waste Incinerator facilities in the region, authorizing them to handle certain specific categories of wastes, depending on the infrastructure and capability of the disposing company. These facilities are equipped with Hazardous Waste Incinerators and Air Pollution Control Equipment which enables them to incinerate the waste harmlessly, at the same time scrubbing the flue gas of greenhouse gases, so that the emissions meet the standards laid down.


The regulatory authority also monitors these facilities by linking their stack emissions to a central system so that in the event of any excess values, the facilities will be cautioned and thereby they are always encouraged to meet the stipulated values.


These facilities have in-house equipment to dispose of liquid waste and waste water from the scrubber (by pumping it back into the incinerator and thus ensure zero discharge of water from their facilities).


The ash from the solid waste incineration is sent to an authorized land fill.  More on Haat’s KSPCB approved Common Hazardous Waste Incineration Facility which complies with all CPCB Guidelines for Common Hazardous Waste Incinerators can be found here – www.commonincinerator.com


What happens with poor disposal - Recycling of toxic material in the secondary market.


Toxic Shock


The word 'disposable' has acquired an altogether different meaning in the Indian context - what you throw away today may well turn up like a bad penny but in a different packaging. In fact, Indians pride themselves on their ability to recycle almost anything; this is seen as thrift. But when the recycling involves dangerous and toxic medical waste products like syringes, needles, blood transfusion pipes, glucose bags and bandages, human lives are put to risk. Infected medical waste can cause fatal diseases like AIDS, meningitis, hepatitis B and C, liver failure, tuberculosis and brain fever. The Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1998 prescribes a number of provisions to eliminate the threat to human health from such waste, the primary being the installation of incinerators in hospitals and nursing homes. Similarly, five years ago, the Supreme Court ordered all hospital in the Capital to make sure all their waste was incinerated. Today, hardly any have bothered even to install incinerators. The backyards of Delhi's premier hospitals today overflow with all manners of toxic waste from where rag pickers and recyclers cart off used products which will eventually find their way back to the shelves of chemists in the smaller metros. In Patna, not surprisingly, over 90 percent of the hospitals have no waste disposal facilities at all; they have no plans to install any either. In which could be a scene from a horror movie, liquid wastes and human organs are dumped into the nearest river, which provides drinking water to the city's people.


In keeping with our well known penchant for cutting corners, many nursing homes and hospitals try to avoid the expense of purchasing an incinerator and dispose off the waste by simply burning it. This process is extremely dangerous and in such burning toxic dioxins and furans are released. The workers who undertake this hazardous task are put at grave risk from these emissions as well as to a myriad of infections from handling the waste without prior protective clothing. Needle-stick injuries could result in the transmission of a variety of viruses, the most lethal being HIV. Patients too, their immune systems already weak, are rendered all the more susceptible to infections from these wastes since they will come into close proximity with these at the hospitals. Those living in the vicinity of nursing homes and hospitals cannot escape the noxious effects of these dumps; indeed residents near some of the capital's hospitals and nursing homes have complained of being rendered vulnerable to infections, putting up with the ghastly stench and of animals actually dragging the refuse into their premises. Until recently, people vested their hopes in the judiciary to set right a system gone wrong after having lost faith in the executive. And the judiciary has never failed to step in to protect the human rights of the ordinary citizen whether to constitutional freedoms or his right to an enabling environment. Yet, today we find that even the judiciary's directives are being observed more in the breach in matters of vital concern to the public. In the long-run, nobody profits from such dangerous practices. It will ultimately undermine the greater public good and this affects us all.


Source: THE TIMES OF INDIA, Sunday, May 21, 2000




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