The United States generated more than 34 million tons of hazardous waste in 2019 alone. Hazardous waste can be dangerous to human health if it isn’t disposed of. This is why hazardous waste transporters are important.
But what do hazmat waste transporters do? Where do they bring the waste when it is time to dispose of it? Why is hazardous material transportation and disposal so important?
Keep reading and learn more about it below.
What You Need to Know About Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste is an umbrella term for a variety of different materials. Hazardous waste may also be referred to as solid waste. The definition of hazardous waste is that it is a substance that is harmful to human health.
A common example of this waste is human waste such as fecal matter and urine. Most of this waste goes into the sewer systems of cities and towns. But this waste may need to get transported in certain cases.
It also needs to get refined and recycled so that it doesn’t build up in the sewer systems. But this is only one example of hazardous waste. Many common hazardous wastes are from chemicals, flammable materials, and more.
These include chemical manufacturing wastes, wood-preserving wastes, and more. There are also petroleum byproducts that are harmful not only to human health but to the environment too. These are known as F-listed wastes.
This list contains 28 different types of waste. Many of them are solvents and metal manufacturing chemicals that have industrial purposes. There are then K-listed wastes.
There are more than 100 different types of these wastes. This list also contains many industrial chemicals, preservatives, and solvents. Many of them are for preserving wood, finish metal products, and so on.
But some of them have other purposes such as creating explosives. Some may act as commercial or residential pesticides. Others may have more mundane purposes such as being veterinary pharmaceuticals.
There are also U-listed wastes. There are a few hundred different chemicals and toxins that fall under this list. These wastes only have one active ingredient.
They often include virgin materials that have expired or are no longer useful. If industrial containers develop residue from these materials, the residue may also be disposed of. The last on this list is P-listed wastes.
These are more toxic than the lists previously mentioned. This is because the wastes on this list are acutely hazardous. This means they are very dangerous to human health, even in small quantities.
There are more than 200 different chemicals and wastes on this list. The wastes on this list are similar to P-listed wastes. This is because these wastes also have to be listed as the sole active ingredient.
The products that get disposed of from this list are often virgin materials. Container residues may sometimes get involved. Extra care is needed when transporting and disposing of these wastes.
One mistake could have disastrous consequences. Sodium azide-based pesticide is an example of a P-listed waste. Cyanide is a far more well-known example.
How Are Hazardous Wastes Generated?
Before we explore how these wastes get transported, it is important to first understand where they come from. Many facilities and businesses generate hazardous waste.
Most of these facilities are industrial factories and similar establishments. But this is not always true. Smaller businesses may also generate hazardous waste.
Some businesses like laundromats may generate harmful waste. This may be in the form of cleaning chemicals, detergents, and similar substances. Hospitals are also significant generators of hazardous waste.
Consider disposable syringes, bandages, and used blood vials. These have all been in contact with human blood or other bodily fluids. Human blood is a potential health hazard.
This is because it may contain bloodborne pathogens. Human blood may spread diseases such as HIV, AIDS, and certain types of hepatitis. This is why hospitals are very careful when they dispose of these substances.
Hazardous waste transporters are then very careful when they move this waste. This ensures that no one accidentally comes in contact with used medical products. Doing so could give someone a serious disease or infection.
Many factories and facilities also generate hazardous waste. Consider a timber yard or wood processing plant. Fresh wood often needs to get sprayed down and preserved.
This is done by using harsh chemicals on the wood. These chemicals are hazardous since they can be dangerous when handled improperly. They also need special disposal since they can be harmful to the environment.
What You Need to Know
A car factory is another example of a hazardous waste generator. Car factories use many different hazardous chemicals to put cars together. They often use metal finishing chemicals to strengthen and polish metal car frames and parts.
They may also use special paints, protective layers, and other chemicals for the vehicles. They may also use petroleum products to fuel or lubricate various machines for the assembly line. Some factories produce harmful products like pesticides or herbicides.
Pesticides are naturally dangerous to humans if they get exposed to too much of the product. The process of making this product is also dangerous. It involves the combination of many different hazardous chemicals.
Hazardous waste also comes in many different forms. Most chemical waste is solid at some point during its lifespan. It may start as a solid and become a liquid or a sludge later on.
Or it may start as a liquid and then turn into a thicker, more solid substance once it cools down or settles. Some hazardous wastes are gas, but this is not as common. Businesses that produce hazardous waste need to specify that the waste they produce is hazardous.
They also need to have a safe way to dispose of this waste. Throwing the waste away in an ordinary trash bin won’t do the trick. This is because these wastes don’t easily degrade and go away on their own.
They instead need to go through a recycling and treatment process to be rendered safe. But this is not possible unless the waste is brought to a treatment and disposal facility. This is where hazardous waste transporters come in.
What Do Hazardous Waste Transporters Do?
Hazardous materials transportation is a delicate task. A hazmat driver needs to be specially trained to drive such a vehicle. One wrong move or careless driving could spill hazardous waste all over the road.
It is also a delicate task to load the waste into the vehicle. Hazardous waste transporters are specially trained for this job. They need to learn how dangerous exposure to this waste can be.
Some wastes may cause bodily harm such as burns, rashes, and more. Others may have permanent consequences such as nerve damage, organ damage, cancer development, and so on. Very dangerous wastes may have fatal consequences if they get breathed in or accidentally ingested or touched.
Some wastes are not moved by road. They are instead loaded into trains to get transported via a railway system. This reduces the risk of anything crashing into the waste container.
Some wastes that need to get transported to a faraway location may get loaded into an airplane and flown to the treatment facility. Others may get transported via a boat. The hazardous waste management system would not exist without waste transporters.
Hazardous waste may arrive at various facilities. Some facilities focus on treating and recycling waste so it is no longer toxic.
Others may focus on destroying or storing the waste.
Storing it in a safe location ensures that it can’t fall into the wrong hands. Some facilities may treat the waste partially. It would then be necessary to transport the waste again to another facility for more treatment.
Only then would the waste be rendered safe. Waste transportation may not be necessary if a company treats its own waste on-site.
What to Know
Hazardous waste transportation companies need to follow strict guidelines.
They need to have an EPA ID number. This ensures that the company can keep track of the transporters at all times. This reduces the risk of losing a shipment of waste.
It is also necessary to comply with the EPA’s hazardous waste manifest system. The responsibilities of waste transporters may differ depending on the kind of transportation. The requirements change depending on the use of water, air, or ground transport.
Waste transporters may sometimes need to temporarily hold or store waste as well. This is often necessary if the waste treatment facility is not open at the time. This may also happen if a transfer facility such as a dock is not operable at the time.
Transporters can store waste at a transfer facility for no more than 10 days. But the waste must be in special DOT containers. A storage permit is not necessary to house the waste as long as it does not stay for longer than 10 days.
The transfer facility will become a storage facility if the waste stays there for more than this 10-day period.
Why Are Hazardous Waste Transporters Important?
These transporters are necessary for reducing the danger associated with hazardous wastes. Being exposed to this waste can be very dangerous to human health. It can also be a danger to the environment if the waste is not contained or properly transported.
Ordinary transporters cannot move hazardous waste. This is because they don’t have the proper training or transport containers to handle the waste. Putting waste in anything but DOT specification containers can be very dangerous.
The waste may dissolve through other types of containers and leak out. Other containers also might not be physically strong enough to hold large amounts of waste. DOT containers are designed to be as durable and secure as possible.
This makes transporting hazardous waste much safer. This is true for ground, air, and water transport. These containers are also safe to use as storage containers.
Waste transporters also know the best ways to pick up and drop off waste. This is important because moving waste in a reckless way can be dangerous. Accidentally denting or damaging a waste container can have dangerous consequences.
What Else Should You Consider?
A leak in a container can be a serious health hazard. It would then be necessary to contain the leak safely before it gets any worse.
Once the transporters bring the waste to a treatment facility, it can be disposed of. This completes the cycle of hazardous waste management. Most hazardous wastes get incinerated or dumped into a landfill.
Others may instead get recycled into less-toxic substances. Recycling is often preferred because it is renewable. It also reduces waste.
This is important because waste that is dumped into landfills can have a seriously negative effect on the environment. Recycled waste reduces this problem. It may also be necessary to transport hazardous waste to a storage facility.
The waste may then get stored for an indefinite period. This is a safe option as long as the right protocols are followed. Hazardous waste transporters make all these options possible.
Without them, hazardous waste would build up and create a variety of problems.
All About Hazardous Waste Transporters
Hazardous waste transporters are vital to the waste management system. They pick up waste from waste generators and move it to a new location. The waste then arrives at a treatment facility to be recycled or disposed of.
This ensures that the waste never causes any damage to human health. It also allows for the safe disposal or treatment of these wastes. To learn more about waste transportation, check out our options.