Shocking Waste Generation and Recycling Statistics Revealed: US in the Top 10 Highest Risk Countries


Did you know that each year the United States recycles about one-third of all waste created? This is among the key recycling statistics that provide a snapshot of other issues like plastic bag recycling statistics, landfill pollution statistics, and the global waste problem.

Various recycling statistics show it’s boosted its recycling/waste ratio in 1960, 1980, 2000, and 2010s. In fact, the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been tracking the USA’s creation and disposal of waste and showing stats for 30+ years.

When compared to other developed countries, the US produces a significantly higher amount of waste, and recycles a smaller percent. For example, the USA makes up 4% of the planet’s population yet produces a sky-high 12% of its city/town waste.

A Global Snapshot of Waste Issues 2021

In recent decades the international waste issue has worsened exponentially and affected figures like textile waste statistics. This has been due to various factors like:

The situation has resulted in waste generation becoming a major concern in terms of the conservation of natural resources and public health.

It’s also likely that such risks can be linked to worldwide companies. That’s due to the business activities being connected to solid waste creation, whether it’s directly or through indirect factors.

The global waste production is projected to increase by 70% by 2050, according to stats provided by the World Bank. This result can be prevented if people, organizations, and nations take urgent action. Humans now produce an average of 2 BILLION tons of waste every year.

The issue of global waste management is closely linked to overpopulation. It’s projected that by 2030 the world population will reach 8.5 billion. This highlights the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Such an approach can help to minimize the effects of human-produced waste on public health and Earth’s environment. Even in small efforts such as using compost to grow plants in your garden or setting aside certain household wastes for recycling.

Several factors such as pollution are creating a devastating impact on the planet’s ecosystem. This includes the general effects of air, water, and soil pollution. For example, chemical compounds in waste break down over several years.

The majority of this pollution is produced through motor vehicles and industrial exhaust. Today’s lifestyle generates such bi-products. Toxic waste is produced from various sources, including plastic, heavy metals, and nitrates.

The final destination of many plastics that each human being disposes of is the ocean. People often never observe those plastics since strong winds blow the pollution out to sea.

The current global situation involving waste and recycling poses some critical questions related to issues like recycling contamination statistics. That’s because the current year is shaping the industry outlook in terms of issues related to:

Some major questions that will be answered this year include:

The answers to such big questions are closely linked to various Waste Generation and Recycling Indices. They’re often combined with charts, graphs and datasets with dozens of indices that track key risks linked to factors like environment, climate change, and natural hazards.

Such datasets are part of a bigger collection of global risk indices. This includes various issues including environmental and economic risks.

A Waste Generation Index (WGI) offers a quantitative evaluation of a nation’s waste production. It factors in several critical waste types, including:

Who’s Generating All the Junk?

Population spikes are part of the problem in terms of the world’s waste production. However, other factors including mass human consumption by a small number of developing nations, and bad waste mismanagement causing the environmental impact to become exponentially worse.

In 2014 the average person in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) generated 1.4kg of waste per day, according to OECD stats. Not only do wealthier people consume more total goods, but they also consume a higher amount of packaging.

Based on global waste statistics 2021, the majority of waste in middle/high-income nations includes paper, plastic, and other inorganic materials.

Meanwhile, developing countries produce over half of the Earth’s total solid waste. This includes nations like Costa Rica and Thailand where tourism is a major source of revenue.

Global statistics show that the USA tops nations that fuel the worsening waste crisis. This is due to the nation’s surging consumption without an equal increase in recycling. The largest global economy shows a new index revealing the USA tops the world’s waste production, and ranks as one of the world’s lowest industrial countries in terms of recycling trash.

Who’s Generating All the Junk?

Today’s world waste statistics by country show the United States now tops all nations in terms of waste generation. This was based on two indices created recently by Verisk Maplecroft that included 194 nations.

The research examined how effectively countries are conducting waste management. This is happening in an era when the Earth is dealing with a crisis in which plastics are the major factor.

It’s worth noting that highly-developed North American and European nations all produce a relatively high amount of waste. The highest-risk nations in terms of waste generation include:

The world creates enough waste every year to fill 800,000 Olympic swimming pools. While the US produces more waste than all other countries, it also lags behind several other nations since it only recycles slightly over one-third of solid waste.

US Creates 3x the Global Average of Waste

This UK study found that the US generates 3x more waste than the global average. The USA produces an average 773kg/1704 lbs. per person of food, plastic, and hazardous waste. This includes 12% of Earth’s MSW, or about 939 million tons.

The amount of US-produced waste is staggering. For example, the figure is 7x higher than Ethiopia, which produces the world’s least amount of waste. Another key fact is the US is the only developed country that lacks the capacity to recycle produced waste.

Several studies show that US infrastructure doesn’t make recycling a viable option for households and companies, which affects recycling costs statistics. Due to bans on exported waste, much of US-produced waste is now burned.

US Generates 4x More Waste than India

China and India combine to make up more than 36% of the world’s population. However, they create 27% of the world’s municipal waste. Interestingly, Americans create more than 3x more waste as China’s citizens.

In terms of the total waste that China and India create the figure is actually higher than the USA’s. However, the two Asian countries also have a combined population of over 2.7 billion, which is over 8x the USA’s population. Thus, the amount of waste Chinese and Indian people produce is a little over 2x the amount of garbage that Americans produce.

The Recycling Index

Verisk Maplecroft created the recycling index as a way to manage recycling performance among 190+ nations. It helps to provide an overview of how different countries are managing waste.

The Recycling Index evaluates how well a nation is willing and able to maintain solid waste that boosts the “3 Rs” through circular material flows. The index is used to determine to what extent a nation’s recovery and recycling of solid waste will affect commercial risks.

The risks are measured by factoring in the ratio of a nation’s solid waste that gets:

Another factor that’s measured is the amount of governmental commitment, which is determined through adhering to world waste-focused treaties.

Several recyclable materials are evaluated when creating a recycling index. For example, in recent years scientists conducted a study to determine the amount of plastic that was

One key issue is that plastic takes over four centuries to decompose.

The study published in Science Advances projects that by 2050 the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish (pound for pound), according to National Geographic, It’s also estimated that just 20% of the world’s plastic was recycled in 2015.

Top Countries in Recycling Performance

Several European Union (EU) nations top Recycling Indexes. In global waste statistics 2018, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) teamed up with an environmental consultancy firm to provide data on the nations with the top recycling rates:

#1 GERMANY (56.1%)

Germany has maintained the world’s highest recycling rate since 2016. In 1990 the country completed a packaging audit to prevent a possible spike in landfall issues.

#2 AUSTRIA (53.8%)

Germany’s neighbor has a total ban on particular waste types, which lowers landfill pollution statistics. That includes products with a carbon emission rate (organic) over 5%.

#3 SOUTH KOREA (53.7)

This Asian country uses a system in which private companies collect waste for profit. This ranking in recycling statistics 2018 will likely change. That’s because in April 2018, China banned imported plastic waste.

#4 WALES (52.2%)

This is the smallest nation on this list. Local administrations operate Wales’ recycling, and most individuals and businesses follow similar rules about what they can recycle.

#5 SWITZERLAND (49.7%)

One key to the nation’s recycling system is the “polluter pays” regulation. This requires households/businesses to pay for all non-recycled waste.

The US Lags Behind Other Developed Countries

Verisk Maplecroft’s research discovered that the USA recycled much less than the world’s other developed countries. There are various causes of this scenario, including non-recycled plastics and developing countries like China refusing to accept US waste.

The research showed that the US only recycles about one-third of municipal waste. Meanwhile, the most efficient recycling country was Germany at over two-thirds of waste recycled.

The UK consulting firm reported the USA’s low recycling rate was due to various factors. They included a lack of recycling infrastructure and limited legislation.

Various nations and organizations have accused the US of blocking international steps to reduce plastic waste. That includes banning plastic bags and (single-use) water bottles.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (UN general assembly president) reported that non-governmental groups could still help to boost plastic recycling trends. That includes the USA’s private sector, for example.

World’s Waste Destinations

Foreign Plastic Waste Ban

In nations throughout the world, companies have been pressured to start dealing with plastic waste in particular. For example, several nations have passed legislation to reduce single-use plastic materials, including the items in plastic bag recycling statistics. Today 120+ nations now regulate plastic bags, according to a UN/WRI study.

The anti-plastic bag legislation varies. They include ones like bans, phase-out programs, and pro-reusable bag incentives. Still, each year 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution end up in oceans. It’s estimated companies make about 5 TRILLION plastic bags yearly.

UK and EU Announce End of Single Use Plastics

The EU parliament has voted to ban all single-use plastic by 2021 including:

Meanwhile, by 2029 EU states will have to meet a collection target of 90% for plastic bottles. In addition, by 2025 plastic bottles will also be required to contain one-quarter recycled content.

The EU legislation also states that labels will be required to state the negative effects on Earth’s environment of throwing certain items onto the street. That includes products like plastic cups.

China’s Waste Import Ban Effects

In the past, China imposed a waste import ban during late 2017, which affected recycling statistics 2017. The goal was to prevent foreign waste products, including plastic, from entering the country.

This step by the Asian country has resulted in waste exporters, including the US, EU, and Australia, from being unable to manage a large amount of generated plastic waste. This requires such countries to find new destinations for domestic waste and has resulted in much solid waste being imported to other developing countries.

Source of Waste Imported to China

Prior to its imported waste ban, China had bought the world’s most recycled waste for a quarter-century. This included nations like the US, UK, and Australia. This required them to find new buyers in regions like South-East Asia including Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

This scenario resulted from China’s policy known as “National Sword”, the 2018 law that later affected plastic pollution statistics 2019 banned the import of various recyclable materials like plastic. Since then, the country’s plastic imports have dropped by 99%, according to Yale.

German Waste Exports

Germany has strict rules about sending waste to other countries. For example, recycling statistics 2021 show plastics can only be shipped abroad for recycling.

Following China’s 2018 ban on imported plastic, this resulted in countries like Germany finding new countries to export plastics. In fact, past data shows that in 2018 Germany’s garbage exports to Malaysia spiked 125%. The country exports to other South/South-East Asian countries. This includes sky-rocketing amounts to Malaysia, Indonesia, and India.

US Waste Exports

Studies show that the USA produces more waste than all other countries. In 2018 u.s. plastic waste statistics show it exported over 1 billion kilograms of waste, according to Greenpeace. This included this waste fact: nearly 80% ended up in countries including:

The result of global waste statistics 2019 showed that the US export of plastic waste to many nations spiked after China’s ban on imported waste.

Latin America and Eastern Europe as New Waste Destinations?

Responsible waste exporting can include nations that produce little waste but also conduct good waste management. Several Eastern European and Latin American countries score a medium or higher risk for disposing of waste adequately.

However, investors might also have to deal with possible risks if they decide to fund the construction of new waste infrastructure in such countries. Nations in those regions with medium risk include:


Various studies show that the USA is the world’s biggest waste generator, while only about one-third gets recycled. This paints a bleak picture versus many EU countries with world-topping recycling/waste ratios.

Meanwhile, it’s possible for the situation to improve, including landfill facts, through methods like national and state legislation, improved recycling infrastructure, and private sector advocacy. These factors and others could decrease in the amount of waste produced by the world’s largest economy.

Some promising recycling statistics show the potential for improving the situation. For example, a 2017 study showed that 85% of Americans recycle plastic. The 2-pronged approach of reducing waste and increasing recycling would be the best recipe for success.

Waste and Recycle Resources

San Jose, California Hazardous Waste Disposal


Fun Fact: San Jose (Saint Joseph) is the most affluent city in the state of California. The city is well-known for its Mediterranean climate, and as Silicon Valley’s financial and cultural hub.

Because of its size and population, waste management is one of the city’s number one concerns, and chances are – if you’re from San Jose, then you might have the need to search for “waste disposal near me.” We’re here to answer that question and give you all the information you need.

The city’s hazardous waste is produced through business waste as the “capital of Silicon Valley.” However, the Golden State’s third largest city also produces a large amount of household hazardous waste (HHW). So it’s important to know where to dispose of old laptop computers, fluorescent light bulbs, and used motor oil.

Why Properly Dispose of Hazardous Waste and Electronics?

If you’ve never done online research to learn about “household hazardous waste disposal near me” then this section can provide all need-to-know info for this common query. This info can help San Jose residents know precisely when, where, and how to drop off your household hazardous waste and electronics waste (e-waste).

What Exactly Is “Hazardous Waste”?

This is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in various ways. Some examples include materials/products that catch fire, react, or explode in particular conditions. 

There is a cornucopia of many different other ways to define HHW. When hazardous waste is corrosive or toxic this is also considered as HHW. It’s critical to make sure your household is disposing of certain substances correctly including batteries, cleaners, pesticides/herbicides, paints, etc. 

Product labels can help you figure out if the materials are classified as hazardous waste. Some features to look for include:

Environmental Effects


HHW disposal often causes this type of pollution. Landfill waste can seep into soil and emit toxic chemicals. That includes plastic bottles that emit DEHA. This is a cancer-causing substance that can result in liver problems and weight loss.


It’s important to dispose of hazardous chemicals like bleach and acids properly. This includes correctly-labeled official containers. 

Meanwhile, when particular materials like plastics are burned in landfills it results in the emitting of various chemicals/gases. This can damage the planet’s ozone layer.


If solid waste like HHW isn’t disposed of correctly this can have a negative effect on land animals like birds, and marine life like fishes. The contamination can affect animals living in San Jose’s regions like the Henry Cowell River Trail. 

The most direct problem involves the natural habitat of these creatures including grass, trees, rivers/lakes/seas, and so on. An indirect effect is when marine animals consume stuff like Styrofoam cups, which can kill them.

Missed Recycling

In 2018 California recycled about three-quarters of all beverage containers, according to a report by the California government. When HHW gets disposed of properly it boosts how much waste can get recycled/reused. This can provide various benefits like job creation in the recycling industry.

Health Risks

Improper HHW disposal can trigger various problems linked to public health and San Jose’s environment. The California city is ranked #20 among the Healthiest/Unhealthiest USA cities, according to WalletHub (2018). 

When hazardous waste is improperly disposed of it can negatively affect people living in polluted areas and nearby San Jose landfills. In the city, “zero waste” refers to recycling 90% or waste landfilling under 10% of it.

Proper Disposal

When San Jose/Santa Clara employees dispose of hazardous waste they do it using professional methods and technologies. 

The entire process involves various factors that are affected by the knowledge, experience, and care the workers use. This can include various methods that change the waste’s properties, which result in safer hazardous waste disposal. These include ones like physical, chemical, biological, and thermal properties.

Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection Center Location & Hours

Santa Clara County HHW Program

You can contact the program to set a drop-off appointment. This is a free service so there’s no need to pay any fees. The county offers take-back locations for different items including:

San Jose Environmental Innovation Center (EIC)

San Jose residents can drop off their HHW products at the city’s EIC. You can visit the green enterprise facility. This facility offers services for San Jose households that promotes clean tech. 

If you have household hazardous waste like tablet batteries, oil-based paint, and light bulbs (fluorescent) you can drop them off at the hazardous waste drop-off facility.


1608 Las Plumas Ave, San Jose, CA 95133


The EIC’s hours are:
Monday through Friday: 10 AM to 6 PM
Saturday: 9 AM to 5 PM
Sunday: Closed


Official holidays in San Jose include:

Electronics Waste

In California it’s illegal to dispose of electronics waste (e-waste) in regular garbage and recycling containers. Some examples include:

Santa Clara County offers various drop-off locations for e-waste. Such locations include official electronics recyclers/collectors. It’s required that you transfer e-waste to official disposal companies. This provides a safe and effective way to dispose of recyclable electronics. 

San Jose’s Junk Pickup Program accepts some e-waste. This involves direct collection at your residence. Make sure to review which “junk” the city considers as acceptable.

Operating Procedures for the Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Drop-off Center

Helpful Safety Tips for Hazardous Waste Transport

HWW Drop-off Facility Procedures

It’s critical to find the nearest household hazardous waste collection site to your home. You should also be aware of the general protocols of the centers:

This might include different matters. You should learn whether the HHW center’s staff is able to help you unload household waste products from your vehicle. 

Another critical issue is what kinds of proof of residency the HHW collection site accepts. This could include a water/electric/Internet bill or photo ID, for example. These are required since local taxes fund the hazardous waste collections.  

One example is a small business HHW disposal. Some companies might qualify to participate in Santa Clara County’s Conditionally Exempt conditionally-exempt program for Small Quantity Generator.

HWW Drop-Off Location Safety Guidelines

Every drop-off center usually has its own guidelines and safety rules. However, here are some of the ones to watch out for:

Staying in car/truck

It’s common for customers to be forbidden to walk their HHW materials to the San Jose disposal site. This requires them to stay in their vehicle. You’ll probably be mandated to show your proof of residency, whether it’s a photo ID or recent utility bill, for example.

Adding waste disposal into carts

When dropping off HHW this is a common procedure that residents must follow. This involves exiting the vehicle then depositing the household hazardous waste into the designated carts. 

Typically there are various objects at the HHW collection center that boosts traffic flow efficiency. It’s important to know this info after using your favorite web browser to search “household hazardous waste disposal near me.” This includes various items like:

CDC Safety Guidelines

Residents of the City of San Jose should consider The Centers for disease control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines to help prevent the transfer of contagions at locations such as HHW collection sites. Masks and other face coverings can be helpful for preventing the inhalation of hazardous waste’s toxic fumes. 

The San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland region ranks #8 for high ozone days among 229 metropolitan areas, according to the American Lung Association. So it’s highly recommended to wear masks or other face coverings to protect yourself when exposing your lungs to hazardous waste.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events


San Jose residents can sometimes drop off different household hazardous waste (HHW). These events happen from time to time on particular days and at particular times. You can learn more by visiting the website of Santa Clara County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program. Make sure to call (408)-299-7300 to schedule a drop-off appointment.

Accepted/Unaccepted Household Waste

When HHW drop-off events take place the organizers provide a complete list of items that the event allows.  Some examples of items accepted by the county’s HHW program include:

It’s important for these materials to get separate disposal. This can help to prevent damage to public health and the Earth’s environment. 

As an alternative you can also visit one of San Jose’s HHW take-back locations. They allow you to drop off various items after doing online research about “waste disposal near me.”

Service Charges

When participating in city/county-sponsored collection events you typically won’t be charged a fee. The same policy tends to exist for HHW collection depots. The main reason is public taxes help to fund garbage collection and disposal, which includes hazardous waste. It’s also an investment in San Joes itself.

Deposit Limits

It’s quite common for municipalities like San Jose City and Santa Clara County to enforce HHW/e-waste deposit limits. This limit is set per household per collection event. Some examples include maximum quantities of solid waste or liquid waste that are accepted.

Business Participation

If you own or operate a small business your company might qualify for Santa Clara’s “Small Quantity Generator” program. This allows you to transfer dangerous waste to drop-off centers or collection events. You can call 800-207-8222 to set a drop-off appointment for your business.

Acceptable and Unacceptable Hazardous Waste & Electronic Items

The types of hazardous waste and e-waste that a particular drop-off site, collection event, or HHW program accepts differs based on various factors. For example, a collection event in San Jose might have different criteria versus a Santa Clara program. 

There are various reasons why a center/program accepts or rejects certain HHW/electronic waste. For example, it might be extremely difficult to process or very hazardous. The key issue is to research which items are and aren’t permitted when you Google “hazardous waste collection near me.”

Acceptable Hazardous Waste

Make sure to review a particular city, county, or program’s list of accepted items. For example, Santa Clara County accepts these types of hazardous waste through collections:

It’s important to contact a HHW collection group to find out whether or not they’ll accept certain gray-area items like latex paint. This type of paint generally isn’t considered as hazardous waste.

Unacceptable Hazardous Waste

These items aren’t accepted by Santa Clara County’s HHW collection program:

Acceptable E-waste


Hazardous waste makes up 15% of planet Earth’s total waste, according to the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO). A large percent of this dangerous waste includes household hazardous waste (HHW) including computer displays, smartphone batteries, and oil-based paint. 

Residents of San Jose, California can improve the situation by disposing of hazardous waste properly. This process can include drop-off centers, collection events, and “Wastemobile” pickups. This can help to keep Silicon Valley’s unofficial capital as clean, safe, and “green” as possible. 

As always it’s important to handle the storage, transport, and disposal of HHW in the safest manner possible. This includes taking steps like storing hazardous waste in sealed containers, following specific guidelines when dropping off items at HHW centers, and even following the reduce, reuse and recycle guidelines after you search for “hazardous waste collection near me.”

San Diego, California Hazardous Waste Disposal

The City of San Diego is the 8th largest city in the United States and the 2nd largest city in the state of California. With an estimated population of 1.4 million from a July 2019 survey, the city naturally takes hazardous waste disposal very seriously. Violators of laws and regulations related to hazardous waste disposal carry corresponding sanctions, fines and other serious legal consequences.

In fact, random inspections of the city’s commercial and residential refuse are conducted by the City of San Diego’s Hazardous Substances Enforcement Team. They are responsible for ensuring that unacceptable hazardous waste types are not disposed of in the city’s Miramar Landfill. Thanks to these inspections, 16 tons of unacceptable hazardous waste was diverted successfully during the fiscal year of 2019.

If you are managing a business that generates hazardous waste or if you are simply looking to see where and how you can dispose of household hazardous waste then this article will be helpful for you. This article provides a brief yet comprehensive guide on hazardous waste disposal in the City of San Diego.

Hazardous Waste Disposal & Collection

If you’ve ever asked or searched online “hazardous waste disposal near me”, then this section answers this common query. This information is critical to make sure you know exactly when and where you can drop off your household hazardous waste and electronics.

What Does The City of San Diego Consider “Hazardous Waste”?

Hazardous Waste Definition

Waste that has properties that are potentially harmful to both human health and the environment is considered as hazardous waste. 

Because the definition of hazardous waste is broad and diverse, here are some important points to remember:

You can view specific hazardous waste regulations and statutes, at the DTSC Laws page. You can also visit the California Hazardous Waste Codes for a complete list of codes.

Where & How Should I Dispose of Hazardous Waste in San Diego?

Business-Generated Hazardous Waste

This type of hazardous waste is generated by businesses that generate, produce or utilize materials and substances that are considered hazardous waste. Common examples are:

Proper Disposal of Business-Generated Hazardous Waste

The State of California does not permit the City of San Diego’s Household Hazardous Materials Program to accept any type of business-generated hazardous waste. However, the City does offer disposal services to Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators or (CESQGs).

Is your business or facility a small or large quantity hazardous waste generator? This depends on the amount of hazardous waste produced per month.

Find out which Waste Generator Class your business or facility belongs to. See Hazardous Waste Generator Classes here.

If you require information, it is recommended for you to contact the County of San Diego, Department of Environmental Health, Hazardous Materials Management Division, Duty Specialist, at (858) 505-6880.

Household Hazardous Waste

Common household hazardous waste include used, discarded or expired paints, household cleaners, paints, lighter fluid, pool chemicals, antifreeze, diesel fuel, gasoline and kerosene. 

Products labeled “danger, warning, poison, caution, flammable and corrosive,” are considered household hazardous waste. In addition, it was declared on Feb. 9, 2006, that universal wastes including fluorescent light bulbs, household batteries and items that contain mercury are not allowed to be disposed of in the trash, as well.

Where & How Should I Dispose Of Household Hazardous Waste in San Diego?

According to the City of San Diego’s waste management regulations, it is illegal to dispose of any household hazardous waste in a trash bin or at the landfill. 

For correct disposal of household hazardous wastes and universal wastes, the City of San Diego’s residents are required to contact San Diego’s Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility. 

The facility is located by the entrance of the Miramar Landfill and is operated by the San Diego Environmental Services Department. Residents are required to make an appointment with the facility by contacting (858) 694-7000 (Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). They are open on Saturdays to those with appointments only.

Other than making an appointment, you also need to know what type of waste the San Diego Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility accepts or doesn’t accept. Here is the information you need:

Acceptable Household Hazardous Wastes

All products used in the routine maintenance of your home, yard, or vehicle are considered household hazardous waste when discarded. You can easily identify these products because these would be usually labeled: “Danger”, “Warning”, “Caution”, “Poison”, “Flammable”, or “Corrosive”.

Unacceptable Household Hazardous Wastes

If you require assistance with any unacceptable wastes, the proper instructions are to enter your information on the “HHW Transfer Facility Appointment screen and an Inspector will contact you within three (3) business days.”

How Much HHW Can I Dispose Of?

For safety purposes, a maximum of 15 gallons of HHW (125 lbs.) is allowable for transport to the San Diego Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility. This weight requirement refers to the contents of the container and not the size of the container itself.

Where Can I Drop Off Electronics Waste & Appliances?

It’s illegal in the state of California to dispose of any electronic devices in regular garbage/recycling containers. This includes items like:

Various e-waste recycling locations throughout the city accept e-waste. In addition, San Diego also hosts various clean-up events throughout the year.

Acceptable Electronic Waste

The City of San Diego doesn’t accept e-waste. It recommends electronic waste recycling for the following items:

Acceptable Appliances

These are typically permitted at HHW centers, however, it’s always prudent to contact the facility before dropping them off.

These items contain either HCFC or CFC refrigerants based on when they were manufactured. The EPA website provides information about CFC dangers. 

To find an e-waste recycling facility close to you, the City of San Diego recommends for you to use this locator from CalRecycle.

Hazardous Wastes That Require Pre Approval

If you are a resident of the City of San Diego or if you own a business, and you generate the following wastes, you need pre approval before disposal:

You are required to complete a Special Waste Disposal Request and attach required supporting documents. It takes about 24 hours to process before your load can be scheduled for disposal. Manifest and handling fees apply. 

For information on the disposal of business generated hazardous wastes, contact the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, Hazardous Materials Division at 858-505-6880 and for chemical emergencies call 911.


If you have unacceptable waste that needs to be disposed of or if you need to dispose of waste that is more than the allowable amount, you can contact the San Diego Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility at 858-694-7000.

You can also find all the information you need here.

You can also contact local HHW centers around San Diego. For accurate information, you can find the closest HHW Drop-Off Facilities from

What Are Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events?

In some situations, San Diego residents are allowed to drop off various household hazardous waste. These hazardous waste collection events happen periodically on certain days and certain times. 

For example, the Environmental Services Department of San Diego offers one-day collection events during the year. This is supported through a California State’s grant from the Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle). 

Here’s information about acceptable, unacceptable and deposit limits for the City of San Diego’s HHW collection events:

Acceptable/Unacceptable HHW

The drop-off event organizers will provide a complete list of items that are accepted during the waste disposal event. Take some time to review the list, so you’ll know what is and isn’t allowed by the event’s organizers. Some possible accepted items include:

Make sure to contact the event’s organizers. In some situations, another disposal option is necessary.

Deposit Limits

It’s quite common for a drop-off center to impose a limit on how much waste it will collect from individual households. This could include a maximum amount of liquid waste or solid waste accepted.

Service Charges

San Diego city doesn’t charge any fees for items dropped off at the HHW collection centers. The government perceives these events as an investment in public health and the local environment.

Business Participation

Businesses typically aren’t permitted to participate in these events. However, the events’ sponsors often provide low-cost options for the proper disposal of business waste.

The City of San Diego’s official website posts regular upcoming HHW collection events here: Upcoming One Day Collection Events.

Safety Tips For Transporting Hazardous Waste

Other than finding the closest hazardous waste collection near you, it’s also important to know general SOP’s:

Each drop-off center will likely have different safety rules/guidelines. Here are some of the most common ones:

Look out for items used to improve traffic flow. This includes different items like:

For tips, information and details about household hazardous waste in San Diego, you can visit their official Household Hazardous Waste webpage.

Why Should I Properly Dispose of Hazardous Waste and Electronics?

Health Risks

The dangers of improperly disposing of hazardous wastes might not be apparent at first. However, improper disposal of household wastes can cause issues related to public health and San Diego’s environment.

 Several possible health-related issues can result from improper disposal. The health of people living in areas nearby landfills or polluted areas can also be negatively affected. 

For example, the Miramar Landfill collects nearly 910,000 tons of garbage every year. Landfill workers cover the California city’s garbage daily while complying with city/state environmental and regulatory requirements.

 San Diego sanitation workers and landfill employees are at a higher risk. Possible health issues include blood infections, breathing problems, skin irritations, and growth issues.

Air Contamination

Household waste that contains hazardous chemicals like acids and bleach should be properly disposed of. The items should also be disposed of in official containers with proper labels.

 When certain plastics and papers are incinerated in landfills, this can give off gas/chemicals that can damage the Earth’s ozone layer.

 Dioxin-releasing wastes can also cause health risks when they’re emitted into the air. This can cause health considerations when they’re inhaled. Yet another possible issue is when decomposing wastes give off methane gases.

This situation is especially critical for San Diego. The region was recently ranked as the USA’s fifth-most polluted metropolitan area, according to a report by CBS8.

Soil Contamination

This is often caused by improper HHW disposal. Waste that ends up in landfills can leak into soil and give off toxic chemicals. This includes plastic bottles that give off a cancer-causing substance known as DEHA that can cause weight loss and liver problems.

Not only are plants themselves affected by soil contamination. California residents who consume plants can be negatively affected.

Negative Effects Animals & Marine Life

When garbage and waste are disposed of improperly, it causes negative effects on nearby animals and marine life, such as fishes.

 Land animals that eat grass near landfills or contaminated areas are at risk of suffering poisoning because of soil contamination. Meanwhile, studies show that household waste like Styrofoam peanuts can kill marine animals that consume them.

Advocacy group Heal the Bay ranked over a dozen San Diego beaches as among the top 33 most polluted beaches in the Golden State, according to the New York Times.


Modern homes produce a gargantuan amount of household hazardous waste (HHW). It’s critical to dispose of the big amounts of waste effectively since it can benefit several groups, including San Diego household members, sanitation workers, and local residents.

There are various ways to dispose of HHW such as drop-off centers, household waste disposal events, and Waste Mobiles. It’s important to know the rules and regulations about how to effectively store, transport, and deposit your household waste.

Furthermore, it’s also critical to know which items will be accepted or rejected when depositing HHW. Some items like fluorescent light bulbs, paint thinners, and cell phone batteries are often accepted. However, there are other items like radioactive wastes that typically are a no-go at drop-off centers like Miramar Landfill. Finding out the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, and why) is as critical as learning about hazardous waste disposal.

Disposal of Treated Wood Waste (TWW) in California

Disposal of Treated Wood Waste (TWW) in California

What is Treated Wood Waste

Treated Wood Waste (TWW) is waste from wood products intended for outdoor use or for wet areas that has been treated with preservatives to prevent rot or decay.  Examples of these wood products include:

  • Utility poles, fence posts and rails
  • Lawn furniture and decks.
  • Playground equipment.
  • Garden/landscape timbers.
  • Log homes
  • Railroad Ties

Typical preservatives include:

  • chromated arsenicals (copper/chromium and/or arsenic);
  • pentachlorophenol (PCP);
  • creosote
  • as well other newer preservatives (ACQ, Borates, Copper Azole, Copper Naphthalene, etc.)

Under federal (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations, as long as levels of metals or pesticides do not exceed TCLP thresholds for metals or pesticides in 40 CFR 261.24, then disposal of TWW is not regulated.  California regulations are more stringent than federal standards and many treated wood products are considered hazardous waste under California regulations when disposed of.  Specifically, California defines “treated wood waste” (TWW) as:

  1. Waste wood products treated with a preservative regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) with no other hazardous waste characteristics, and
  2. Not subject to regulation under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Disposal of TWW in California (until 12/31/2021)

California regulations require TWW to be managed as non-RCRA hazardous waste, however California Helath and Safety Code  (CA HSC 25150.7)  established “alternative management standards” (AMS) for TWW found in Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, Sections 67386.1 to 67386.12 (22 CCR 67386.1 – 673286.12).   Among other requirements, the “alternative” management allowed disposal in lined landfills that are not permitted for hazardous waste, as long as the landfill permit allows them to accept TWW.

Currently most TWW is sent to non-hazardous waste landfills under these “alternative” methods, however CA HSC 25150.7 (and associated regulations) expire on December 31, 2021.  After that date, TWW must be managed as non-RCRA hazardous waste.

Utility Exemption

There is an exemption for TWW generated by utilities.  As authorized in CA HSC 25143.3.5 TWW from utilities , including poles, crossarms, pilings, fence posts, lumber, support timbers, flume lumber, and cooling tower lumber can still be sent to landfills as long as the wood waste does not need to be managed as RCRA hazardous waste and the landfill meets certain requirements and is permitted to accept the TWW

Disposal of TWW in California (After 12/31/2021)

Beginning January 1, 2021, TWW must be managed as non-RCRA hazardous waste.

  • Since the definition of TWW includes all wood wastes treated with FIFRA-regulated preservatives (without any thresholds or other criteria), there is not even the option to conduct TTLC/STLC and/or aquatic toxicity to show this was does not exhibit characteristic toxicity

After the provisions “alternative management” of TWW expire on 12/31/2021, landfill disposal outside of hazardous waste landfills is no longer authorized and TWW must be accumulated, stored, managed, transported and disposed of as non-RCRA hazardous waste at a hazardous waste landfill permitted for this type of waste.

Do you have Treated Wood Waste to dispose of?  Do you have any other hazardous waste questions?  Let us know how we can help – [email protected]

Is Methanol Flammable or Combustible?

Methanol is a light and colorless liquid that has an alcoholic odor similar to that of ethanol. Over 200 million tons of methanol is produced globally each year. It is a base or an ingredient in many commodity chemicals such as acetic acid, gasoline additive, formaldehyde, and many more. 

So, quick answer:

Whether in liquid or gaseous form, methanol is highly flammable. Gaseous methanol molecules can travel quite a distance. This could potentially spread fires in other places. Methanol containers can explode if they’re not sufficiently insulated or protected. When in contact with a platinum-blank catalyst, methanol can also ignite. 

Now that you know this information, maybe you’d like to know more about.

What is Methanol and What are Its Unique Characteristics?

Methanol, commonly known as methyl alcohol or carbinol, is a chemical species belonging to a methyl group of substances linked to a hydroxyl group. It’s also known as wood alcohol in the past due to its extraction process through destructive wood distillation. At present, methanol is created by hydrogenation of carbon monoxide in industrial facilities.

Normal healthy humans produce small amounts of methanol, about 4.5 parts per million (ppm). It can be found in human tissues and bio-fluids such as blood, saliva, or cerebrospinal fluid. The methanol can be metabolized with the structural acid pectin, which is often found in citrus fruits and several types of vegetables. Anaerobic bacteria and phytoplankton also produce small amounts of methanol. 

On a much larger scale, regions in outer space that are known to form stars contain vast amounts of methanol. In fact, astronomers use them as markers for such regions. For example, in 2006, using an array of radio telescopes, astronomers discovered a colossal cloud of methanol in space. That cloud is around 288 billion miles in diameter.

Commercially available methanol is classified into various purity grades, typically classified as ASTM purity grades A and AA. Impurities include water, acetone, and ethanol. To detect these impurities, methods such as UV-vis spectroscopy and Kark-Fischer titration are used.

Hazards Associated with Using Methanol

Aside from being highly flammable, methanol has other properties that make it dangerous if not handled properly.


Prolonged exposure to methanol vapor can cause eye irritation, headaches, drowsiness, and fatigue. A person who accidentally ingests as little as 10 milligrams of methanol can become permanently blind as the optic nerve is destroyed.

Ingesting 30 milligrams of methanol is probably fatal. Swallowing 50,000 ppm can cause death within 1 to 2 hours. The toxicity of ingested methanol is carried out by either of two mechanisms. One, methanol can cause death because it affects the central nervous system. Specifically, it acts as a central nervous system depressant. 

Also, methanol is metabolized into formaldehyde in a process catalyzed in the liver. Formaldehyde is used as an embalming agent and is incredibly damaging to the liver, causing hypoxia at a cellular level. 

Fortunately, the effects start a few hours after ingestion, so there is time to administer an antidote to prevent permanent physical damage.


Methanol belongs to the “Alcohols and Polyols” reactive group. When mixed with acetyl bromide, methanol reacts violently. Mixing methanol with concentrated hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, anhydrous lead perchlorate, or isocyanates can cause dangerous explosions. 

Methanol also reacts to hypochlorous acid in water solution, producing methyl hypochlorite. Methyl hypochlorite decomposes in low temperatures and can explode when exposed to sunlight or heat. The same reaction happens when methanol is mixed with chlorine.


Methanol should be cautiously used with cellulose-based absorbents. There have been plenty of situations when untoward reactions happen when methanol is added to these absorbents.

Finally, according to the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT), exposure to methanol at levels found in fruits and vegetables does not cause adverse results.


In case of contact, inhalation, exposure, and ingestion

Avoid direct exposure as much as possible when handling methanol. At the very least, ANSI-approved rubber gloves and safety goggles must be worn. However, in many facilities, more comprehensive protective equipment is often required such as those that cover the face, eyes, and body.

In case of spills and leaks

If methanol is accidentally spilled, immediately get in touch with the fire department. Get rid of potential sources of combustion such as lighters, matches, radiators, and embers. 

Isolate the spill or leaks for at least 150 meters in all directions. Do not contain, stop the spill, or reduce the discharge if you’re not properly trained for it. Avoid touching or walking on the spillage. If possible, provide barriers (dams) far ahead of the methanol spill to contain the liquid. Stay upwind to protect yourself from vapors and potential explosions. 

For small spills, add soil or sand on the spot—the material absorbs the ethanol. Later, have a specialist transfer the methanol-soaked material in the right containers.

Correct storage

Methanol must be placed in air-tight, leak-proof, and high-quality containers. Methanol containers should never be left open as the vapors are combustible and toxic. Sealed methanol containers should be sealed and labeled according to state, local, and on-site regulations. Facilities should also train personnel on how to handle and move methanol containers. 

Methanol is non-corrosive, thus they can be kept together with most metals. However, note that it can corrode metals such as platinum, magnesium, and lead.


Methanol has a very low flash point. This means very small amounts of ignition material can possibly cause fire. Also, because methanol is water soluble, using water to extinguish methanol-caused fires may not be enough.

To extinguish small or big fires, use dry chemicals, alcohol-resistant foam, or carbon dioxide. Check your fire extinguisher; it should have any of these chemicals. You can still use water, but as mentioned above, it might be inefficient. Adjust the nozzle so that the water flows in pressurized sprays.

If a tank containing methanol catches on fire, fight the fire from a maximum distance as indicated in the firefighting apparatus’s instructions. It is also important to cool down other containers by spraying them constantly with water. If you hear venting sounds, withdraw from the area immediately and evacuate all personnel from the facility.

Call the fire department right away in case a methanol-based fire breaks out.

Correct Disposal

Due to the hazardous nature of methanol, they need to be disposed of correctly. Licensed and professional waste disposal service providers like ACT Enviro have the right equipment and trained personnel to safely and properly handle such tasks. Calling such waste disposal services is the best and safest option for you in disposing methanol. 

Do not dispose of waste methanol or water that is contaminated with methanol directly into sewers or drains. Nor should it be poured into open bodies of water such as ponds or lakes.

Uses & Benefits

For all its hazards, methanol is a widely used chemical.


Methanol is a naturally occurring substance in fruits and vegetables. In natural dietary amounts, methanol is essential in regulating human gene activity. Our digestive system also creates methanol to metabolize the food we eat.


Almost half the methanol the world produces is utilized for energy-related processes and applications. It can be used as a fuel for vehicle or marine vessels. Gasoline formulations that include methanol as an additive result in a more efficient fuel called methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). MTBE is more environmentally friendly fuel than gasoline as it produces fewer emissions. Methanol can be added in biodiesel, which is a clean and renewable fuel based on plants or animal fats.

Race car teams often mix water and methanol. This is then injected into high-performance diesel or gasoline engines for a boost in power and a decrease in intake air pressure.

Solvent for commercial products

Methanol is also used as a solvent to create resins, adhesives, inks and dyes.


Despite its hazardous nature, methanol is also widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, it is utilized as an important solvent in manufacturing pharmaceutical products such as vitamins, hormones, streptomycin, and more.


One of the unique properties of methanol is that it increases the boiling point and lowers the freezing point of water-based liquids. As such, methanol is used as antifreeze in windshield washer fluids and pipelines. Methanol is also introduced in main natural gas pipelines to lower the freezing point of the gas.  

In countries that comprise the European Union, methanol was once used in washing windshield washing or defrosting. But as of May 2019, the EU banned this method due to the risk of human exposure.

Other Applications

In the past, methanol was used to produce “denatured alcohol” or “methylated spirit.” This was a prevalent practice to discourage people from buying and consuming illegally produced liquor.  

Some wastewater treatment plants use a small amount of methanol in the wastewater. The methanol provides a carbon food source for the enzymes and denitrifying bacteria. These bacteria convert nitrates in wastewater to harmless nitrogen gas.  

Methanol is also used in new, experimental types of fuel cells, specifically direct-methanol fuel cells. These fuel cells are characterized by low-temperature and atmospheric pressure operation. These features allow them to be effectively miniaturized. Combined with safe storage of methanol, this technology can open up the way for fuel cell-powered (rather than battery powered) mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and other consumer electronics. 

Mountaineers, hikers, and other outdoorsmen often use methanol as fuel for their camping stoves. Since methanol burns efficiently without the need of a pressurized burner, campers can bring very simple and compact alcohol stoves; some campers even make their own handy stoves from discarded cans. The simplicity and reliability of these alcohol stoves is an advantage in the wilderness. On the other hand, broken complex equipment in the outdoors can become a nightmare. Methanol can be processed into a gel, so outdoorsmen can carry them in their packs without the risk of spilling.

What Are the 8 RCRA Metals?


According to the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA is a federal law that provides a structure for the proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes. Its purpose is to give the EPA the authority to handle these waste products – from generation to transportation to treatment to storage to, finally, disposal.

These hazardous and non-hazardous waste products that the EPA controls under the RCRA can also include certain metals. Also called the RCRA 8s, these metals are Arsenic (As), Barium (Ba), Cadmium (Cd), Chromium (Cr), Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg), Selenium (Sg), and Silver (Ag)

Follow along as we discuss each RCRA metal and its proper disposal.

1. Arsenic (Waste code: D004)

Arsenic, is a type of material that is most known to be used as a poison, especially in the olden days. However, Arsenic is commonly found in our food, water, and dietary supplements, in small amounts, though. It is also known to be present in tobacco smoke, which research shows to have high concentrations of Arsenic. Yes, in small amounts Arsenic poses no harmful effects for the human body. If one consumes a certain amount of Arsenic, it can become quite toxic.

2. Barium (D005)

Barium is one of the more common elements, and is also one of the most reactive. It can be used in the coloring of fireworks, the production of fluorescent light bulbs and tiles. You can also find Barium in rat poison and in drill bits, which one can find in oil refineries. Humans can be unknowingly exposed to Barium through well water supplies and oil refineries as well.

3. Cadmium (D006)

According to a study, Cadmium is a natural metal, which you can find in the earth’s crust. It can be extracted when one produces metals, including Copper, Lead, and Zinc. Cadmium is a blue-grey soft metal, and it also has multiple uses. The soft metal can be used in the production of batteries, plastics, metal coatings, and pigments. Plus, you can also find this toxic metal among mushrooms, shellfish, mussels, cocoa powder, and dried seaweed. A human can also unknowingly ingest this through secondhand smoke.

4. Chromium (D007)

Chromium is a brittle metal element which one can find in chrome plated car parts. It is naturally found in the Chromite Ore, but it can also be found in soil, rocks, plants, and even some animals. This metal has only been used for the longest time; in fact, China’s Qin Dynasty used this metal to coat the weapons of the world famous Terracotta Army. As with other metals, it can become poisonous to humans when exposed to high amounts of Chromium.

5. Lead (D008)

Lead is a well-known metal that one can find ammunition, batteries, old paints, crafted metals (pipes and solder), and X-ray protection equipment. Its potential health risk is also a well-documented fact. It is produced through the burning of fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing. When these processes are being done, lead is exposed to the air and can find its way into water systems. This can lead to what is known as “lead poisoning,” which is known to have disastrous effects on the brain as well as causing cancer.

6. Mercury (D009)

Mercury is a liquid metal which you can find in most glass thermostats, batteries, and dental fillings. It is produced through the burning of coal. It can also be generated by manufacturing plants and mining. Mercury, when people and the environment are exposed to large amounts, can already provide a health risk. However, it can also be hazardous to human health when it is mixed with other elements. A good example of this is mercury poisoning through ingesting methyl-mercury which can be found in a few fish species. When exposed to dangerous amounts of the liquid metal, it can cause tremors, impaired cognition, and disturbances in the circadian rhythm.

7. Selenium (D010)

Selenium is a type of metal that is typically found in soil. But, it can also be produced when there is the refinement of metal sulfide and metal ores. Although it can be poisonous to people when ingested in large amounts, Selenium provides health benefits in small doses. These include improvement in thyroid function and metabolism. Plus, it can also reduce the risk of heart disease, slow mental age decline, and help boost your immune system.

Selenium is used mostly in electronics, but it can also be used in glass, pigments, inks, rubber, enamels, and paints. In addition, one can also find Selenium in pharmaceuticals, anti-dandruff shampoos, poultry and livestock feed, pesticides, and fungicides. Too much ingestion of Selenium, though, can lead to what is known as selenosis or selenium poisoning.

8. Silver (D011)

Silver is one of the most common types of metal. You can find it in jewelry, dental fillings, silverware, and mirrors. Plus, its use can range from multiple industries. For instance, Silver can be used in the production of photos and in the brazement of alloys and solders. It can also be used in electronics, water (drinking and in swimming pools) disinfectants, lozenges, chewing gums, and as an antibacterial agent. It is produced from the extraction of copper, lead, zinc, and gold ores.

When there is inhalation or ingestion of Silver, it can lead to argyria. It is a disease that can cause the color of the skin to blue or grey color. It can also lead to other negative health effects, such as throat and lung irritation, stomach pain, and breathing problems.

EPA Limits for RCRA Metals

As stated earlier, all these metal elements can potentially be hazardous to people. However, this only applies when a person is exposed, whether through inhalation or ingestion, to large amounts of the metals mentioned above. That is why the EPA provides a limit to the volume of RCRA metals that can be present in a consumer’s household and that can also be disposed of in solid waste landfills. See below the limits that the EPA set for each RCRA metal. Note: These are measured in parts per million (mg/L).

Metal EPA Allowable Limits
5.0 ppm (mg/L)
100.0 ppm (mg/L)
1.0 ppm (mg/L)
5.0 ppm (mg/L)
5.0 ppm (mg/L)
0.2 ppm (mg/L)
1.0 ppm (mg/L)
5.0 ppm (mg/L)

When an amount of RCRA metal waste exceeds the limit set by the EPA, it must be treated as a hazardous waste. However, as aforementioned, when the amount is less than the limit itself, it can be disposed of in ordinary landfills. This, in fact, is the more cost-effective disposal solution.

Although, for you to dispose of an RCRA metal at a standard landfill, it must first pass the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) test. This test would stimulate the leaching process, which would happen normally in a standard landfill. Then, it would allow the proper employees to test the sample gathered from the leaching. Find out more about this process when you continue reading below.

Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP)

The Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is a type of test that can provide an answer whether or not a waste product contains large amounts of hazardous compounds. It is a method that is used to stimulate the leaching process of a waste landfill. This can analyze the volume of the hazardous elements that are within the waste products. 

It also includes four processes, which are the following:

With the TCLP test, you can better understand whether an RCRA metal or any other potentially hazardous waste product can be land-disposed or not. Additionally, there are also a few equipment that facilities use for the TCLP test.

Agitation Apparatus

For an agitation apparatus to be deemed viable, it must be capable of rotating the extraction vessel in an end-to-end fashion at 30 ± 2 rpm. There are also various devices that the EPA finds suitable for TCPL. These are the following (including a few companies that offer them and also their model numbers):

Analytical Testing and Consulting Services, Inc.

Warrington, PA (215) 343-4490

Associated Design and Manufacturing Company

Alexandria, VA (703) 549-5999

Environmental Machine and Design, Inc.

Lynchburg, VA (804) 845-6424

IRA Machine Shop and Laboratory

Santurce, PR (809) 752-4004

Lards Lande Manufacturing

Whitmore Lake, MI (313) 449-4116

Millipore Corp.

Bedford, MA (800) 225-3384

Extraction Vessels

There are two types of extraction vessels; one is the Zero-Headspace Extraction Vessel or ZHE, and the other is the Bottle Extraction Vessel. The difference is that ZHE is used when the waste is being tested for the mobility of analytes. A Bottle Extraction Vessel, on the other hand, is used when the waste that is being evaluated only requires a nonvolatile extraction.

Filtration Devices

The EPA highly recommends that all filtration processes should be performed in a hood. Aside from that, a ZHE can also be used for extraction when the waste being extracted is evaluated for volatiles. It also must be able to withstand the pressure of 50 psi. There is also a filter holder device that is used when the waste is evaluated for other reasons aside from volatile analytes.


When it comes to filters, the EPA sets strict specifications regarding the correct filters to use. According to the Agency, filters must be made with borosilicate glass fiber, they must not be made with any binder material, and their effective pore size must be 0.6 µm to 0.8 µm. Learn more about filter specifications accepted by the EPA here.

pH Meters

According to the EPA, pH meters must be accurate to the ± 0.05 unit, and the temperature should be at 25°C.

ZHE Extract Collection Devices

For ZHE extraction, the EPA recommends the use of TEDLAR bags or glass and  PTFE gas-tight stainless steel syringes can all be used to collect the liquid phase of the waste as well as the final extract when using a ZHE extracting device. Although, the Agency specifically states that one can use this device when they are met with the following conditions:

ZHE Extraction Fluid Transfer Devices

This is any device that can transfer the extraction fluid into a ZHE device without changing the nature of the extraction fluid. These devices are accepted by the EPA:  a gas tight syringe,  pressure filtration unit, or a peristaltic pump.

Laboratory Balance

The EPA recommends any laboratory balance that is accurate to the ± 0.01 gram can be used.

Beaker or Erlenmeyer Flask

It needs to be made of glass and should be 500 mL.


It needs to have the correct diameter which can cover the beaker or the erlenmeyer flask entirely.


If you are a hazardous waste generator, it’s vital to understand the intricacies that makes up hazardous waste. It can spell the difference between proper compliance or hefty fines. Does your organization produce waste with traces of the RCRA’s 8 Metals? If you require help in removal, disposal or transportation, it’s best to contact ACT. We’ll be happy to help.

EPA Hazardous Waste Codes Guide

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste Codes are an important part of the proper management of hazardous waste in the country. But before we go into the codes themselves, it is important to know the foundation of those codes. In this case, we need to have a basic understanding of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), its aims, and the EPA’s role in implementing RCRA regulations.

In 1976, Congress enacted the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which is an amendment of the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965. It’s the US primary federal law presiding over the disposal of solid and hazardous wastes.  The RCRA was made in response to the country’s growing volume of municipal and industrial waste. 

The Act is made to

The implementation of the RCRA program is shared between the federal government and the state, with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) providing the fundamental requirements. The state governments then adopt, adapt, modify, and enforce their own regulations based on these EPA requirements.

Types of RCRA Waste Codes

Before going to the actual types of EPA waste codes, we need to differentiate two common kinds of hazardous wastes: characteristic and listed wastes. Characteristic wastes are waste materials that are known, proven, tested, or show one or more of the following traits:

Listed wastes are common waste materials that are generated from common industrial or manufacturing processes. They could also include waste materials that are generated from specific industries, non-specific sources, or commercial products that have been thrown away. These specific waste materials are specifically pre-catalogued and pre-designated by the government as hazardous materials, thus the term “listed.” 

Waste materials that are both hazardous and radioactive are called mixed wastes. Regulations for mixed wastes are shared between the RCRA and the Atomic Energy Act (AEA).

Hazardous wastes are categorized as RCRA (subject to RCRA regulations) or non-RCRA (not subject to RCRA regulations. Non-RCRA wastes are, therefore, subject to the state’s regulations). To help determine if a waste material is RCRA or non-RCRA, check out this guide from the EPA.

The RCRA, through the EPA, pre-designates certain wastes as hazardous and are placed on a list. A hazardous waste material is designated by a letter and further classified by a 3-digit number. If your waste material has these combinations, then it is automatically considered as an RCRA hazardous waste.

Listed Waste Codes

F List Codes

Hazardous waste materials in the F list are often generated from common manufacturing and industrial processes. Since these waste-producing processes can happen in different sectors that take part in different sectors of such industries, F-list wastes are often referred to as waste materials from non-specific sources.

K List Codes

Wastes in the K list are produced from specific sources within specific industries. For a waste material to qualify as K-listed, its characteristics must coincide with one of the 13 main industries in the list. In addition, it should correspond with one of the K-list descriptions in 40 CFR Section 261.32.

P/U List Codes

Wastes belonging to the P and U lists are usually generated from commercial grade formulations. Note that they only become a listed waste when such formulations are disposed of or are subject for disposal. Waste materials assigned with a P-code are acutely hazardous. Those with a U code are noted for their chronic or persistent toxicity.

For a hazardous waste material to be listed in a P or U list, it should satisfy three criteria:

According to EPA’s definition for P/U list classification purposes, a commercial chemical product is either a 100% pure, a technical grade, or a sole active ingredient in a chemical formulation.

Characteristic Hazardous Waste Codes

D001 Codes

Hazardous wastes in this list exhibit the Ignitability characteristic. The flash point (the lowest temperature which causes the material to combust) for liquid waste material is below 60 degrees Celsius using the Pensky-Martens Closed-Cup Method. D001 wastes materials also include combustible solids, gases, and oxidizers.

D002 Codes

Hazardous wastes in the D002 list are noted for their Corrosivity. These wastes include aqueous liquids that have a ph of 2 or less (base) or a ph 12.5 or above (acid). It also includes substances—often liquids—that deteriorate steel at a rate of 6.35mm or more per year as per the National Association of Corrosion Engineers.

D003 Codes

Waste materials listed in the D003 list are dangerous because of their Reactivity. They combust, detonate, give off toxic gases, or negatively react when they come in contact with water or other substances. Some are inherently unstable even in normal circumstances.

D004 to D043 Codes

Waste materials belonging to the D004 to D043 list are noted for their Toxicity. They become harmful when absorbed by the body through skin permeation, ingestion, or inhalation. Untreated or improperly disposed toxic wastes cause a lot of concern because they might soak through the soil and penetrate groundwater. 

The contaminated groundwater may find its way to the municipal potable water supply. If it does, it can potentially create a public health issue.

The Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) (SW-846 Test Method 1311) determines the level of toxicity of a waste material in the D004 to D043 list.

Mixed Wastes

Mixed wastes materials contain both hazardous and radioactive materials. These wastes generated from nuclear power generators, medical equipment used in nuclear medicine, and the like.

The hazardous component of a mixed waste material is regulated by EPA under RCRA. The radioactive component is overseen by either the Department of Energy (DOE) or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As a general rule when it comes to division of authority, the NRC regulates waste from commercial facilities. DOE provides the policies of waste management in DOE-related facilities such as nuclear plants.

Information about EPA’s regulations on mixed waste can be found in the Final Rule.

Hazardous Waste Codes Differences

As you can see above, the hazardous waste codes differences are vast with the exception of the P/U list. Each kind of hazardous waste material is placed into these lists for proper identification and classification. 

With the waste materials being properly identified and classified, state governments as well as industrial, medical, and commercial facilities can determine the right protocols as per RCRA/EPA regulations in handling, treating, collecting, and disposing such waste material. 

The actual differences lie in the materials number part of the code. However, a comprehensive list of the kinds of materials and their codes are beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we will provide some examples of coded waste materials.

A complete list of EPA waste codes in each list can be found in 40 CFR section 261.

Examples of F-List Codes

For a complete list of F-List waste materials, click the link above and scroll down to 40 CFR section 261.31.

Examples of K-List Codes

For a complete list of K-List waste materials, click the link above and scroll down to 40 CFR section 261.32.

Examples of P-List Codes

For a complete list of P-List waste materials, click the link above and scroll down to 40 CFR section 261.33.

Examples of U-List Codes

For a complete list of U-List waste materials, click the link above and scroll down to 40 CFR section 261.33.

For characteristic waste, the EPA provides a table only for substances with toxic characteristics. The EPA Hazardous Waste number matches the contaminant that makes the waste material hazardous.

Examples of D004 to D043-List Codes

For a complete list of D004 to D043-List waste materials, click the link above and scroll down to 40 CFR section 261.24.

Corrosive Chemicals

Everyday, we use various substances that eat away unwanted stuff like mold and mildew. Various industries use these chemicals as catalysts for chemical reactions or to quickly dissolve unwanted materials.

Despite their ominous terminology, corrosive chemicals are actually very useful substances. However, we need to identify its hazards so we could establish ways on how to handle them safely. This is the objective of this article.

Corrosive Chemicals Definition

Corrosive chemicals are exceptionally reactive compounds that can damage or destroy living tissue. Corrosive reactions can be initiated through direct contact and chemically breaking up tissue. However, corrosion can also occur indirectly such as inhaling corrosive gasses. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), particularly 29 CFR 1910.1200 App A, a corrosive chemical is described as:

“A chemical that produces destruction of skin tissue, namely, visible necrosis through the epidermis and into the dermis, in at least 1 of 3 tested animals after exposure up to a 4-hour duration. Corrosive reactions are typified by ulcers, bleeding, bloody scabs, and by the end of observation at 14 days, by discoloration due to blanching of the skin, complete areas of alopecia, and scars. Histopathology should be considered to discern questionable lesions.”

Sometimes, the word “caustic” is also used as a synonym for “corrosive.” A corrosive chemical is referred to as an “irritant” if it is mild or at low concentrations.

Etymologically, the word “corrosive” stems from the Latin verb “corrode,” meaning “to gnaw.” This indicates how corrosive chemicals appear to eat through flesh or other materials. 

Corrosive elements may also include chemicals or factors that dissolve or deteriorate the structure of a non-living object such as metals. The rusting of iron on a bridge, for example, is an example of corrosion on a non-living object. Such corrosion can happen instantly or can take a long time.

There are many people who mistake calling corrosive chemicals as poisons. Both substances can harm the human body, but they work in technically distinct ways. A corrosive substance is immediately dangerous and damaging to tissues upon direct or indirect contact. On the other hand, a poison causes a systemic toxic effect that may take some time to take effect. 

Chemicals that cause rapid corrosion of skin and metals are marked by a unique hazard pictogram in the international system of symbolic chemical labels. These symbols are included in the internationally agreed-upon standards of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

Corrosion on living tissue is typically caused by acid-base reactions. Proteins, which are the main components of cells that make up tissues, are torn down via amide hydrolysis. Lipids, which are fatty molecules that help store cellular energy, are decomposed via ester hydrolysis. The result is protein denaturation, a biochemical process wherein the protein molecules lose their quaternary, tertiary, and secondary structures. 

Although technically not poisons, ingesting corrosive chemicals can cause severe damage as the substance dissolves linings and tissues in the gastrointestinal tract.  

Corrosive chemicals are also incredibly dangerous to eyesight. Even a single drop of strong corrosive material can cause blindness within 2 to 10 seconds. Opacification or instantaneous destruction of the cornea can happen when such a chemical is introduced to the eye.

Corrosive chemicals may be dangerous, but they are also incredibly useful for household, commercial, and industrial uses. For example, drain cleaners have corrosive acids or alkalis that can dissolve grease and mineral deposits that can clog up pipes. Bathroom cleaners also contain corrosive elements needed to dissolve mold and mildew.

They are also valued in industrial processes where high chemical reactivity is needed or desired. For example, sulfuric acid (a powerful corrosive) is often used as a catalyst to initiate the alkylation process in an oil refinery. 

After using, a corrosive chemical may be discarded, recycled, or neutralized. If discarded, however, it has to undergo certain treatments as untreated or accidentally discarded corrosives can cause environmental and health problems. 

The corrosivity characteristics of such substances can be found in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Corrosivity Characteristic Background Document.

Types of Corrosive Materials & Examples

Acids and bases form the most common and widely used corrosive chemicals. Some examples include:



In addition to acids and bases, there are other substances that are considered as corrosive chemicals. Some of which are enumerated below:

Special Considerations for Corrosive Gases

Corrosive chemicals can come in different physical states: solid, liquid, and gaseous. Corrosive gases, however, present special problems that need to be considered.

Health hazard

When inhaled or ingested, leaking corrosive vapors and gases can potentially burn, damage, or destroy organic tissue. Extremely sensitive organs such as the eyes and the respiratory tract are especially susceptible to permanent and severe injury. If the corrosive toxins enter the bloodstream, they could permanently damage major organs such as the liver and kidneys.

Equipment damage

Leaking corrosive gases can corrode metals, concrete, and other materials, causing damage and diminishing the lifespan of various equipment. Corrosion in electrical systems can cause circuit breakers to fail, creating an electrical fire hazard.

Environmental hazard

Untreated corrosive gases can damage local vegetation and fauna. These are especially hazardous to aquatic environments.

Physicochemical hazards

Ruptured, cracked, or overheated cylinders that hold corrosive gases can explode, cause fire, and contaminate the entire area. 

Because of the dangers of escaping corrosive gases, special care is needed to properly handle them. Facilities and workplaces that use or store such gases in cylinders are required to abide by specific guidelines.

Handling Tanks and Cylinders that Hold Corrosive Gases

Other Special Handling

When handling corrosive chemicals, extreme caution must be observed. By following these guidelines, you can reduce personal risk and minimize environmental exposure to these hazardous substances

Safety shower and eye-wash station

It’s highly recommended that facilities handling corrosive chemicals should have a safety shower and eye-wash station within easy access. A first-aid kit as well as an emergency PPE container should be easily accessible as well.

Eye and Face Protection

Corrosive chemicals can do untold damage to the eyes. Thus, when handling such substances, make sure you wear industrial safety glasses that meet the ANSI Z.87.1 1989 standard. Safety glasses should enclose the entire eye area. It should also have side shields if there is a risk of flying particles such as glass shards or plastics. 

If the handling process has a potential of splashing, additional eye and face protection should be worn. Safety goggles, face shields, or even a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) may be required. 

Note that sunglasses, prescription glasses, or hobby magnifiers cannot provide sufficient protection.

Skin Protection

At the very least, nitrile gloves should be worn when handling standard corrosive chemicals in a general laboratory setting. However, if the task requires higher risk or prolonged exposure, you should check your workplace’s material safety data sheet (MSDS) for specific information about the occupational health and safety requirements of handling such substances.

It is also recommended that you wear a protective apron or lab coat for extra safety. Wear the proper protective footwear; you shouldn’t use open-toe footwear.

Finally, additional shielding and protection may be required if there is a high risk of explosion, exposure, or contamination. Fume hoods, respirators, and portable shields are just some of the protective equipment that you may need.

Important Storage Pointers

Mixing chemicals

Dealing with Emergencies

Facilities handling corrosive chemicals should always have readily available and appropriate equipment for containing corrosive chemical spills and leakages. At the very least, the facility should have a number of acid and base spill kits within easy reach.  

Personnel assigned for this task must be properly trained and protected. Do not attempt to spill or contain any spill or leakage if you’re not trained to do so. Notify the assigned department if such an accident happened. It is also a good idea to contact your local emergency service or the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Disposing Corrosive Chemical Wastes

The dangerous nature of corrosive chemical wastes means that they shouldn’t be disposed of together with solid waste. They should be treated and disposed of as hazardous wastes under the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), specifically in 40 CFR section 261.22 in this electronic code. 

You can, however, dispose of corrosive aqueous solutions that are between pH 6.0 to 10.0 down the sink. Other than that, you should contact your local government regarding disposing other chemicals down the sink.

Disposing corrosive chemicals require special training. Service providers such as ACT Enviro offer reliable high hazard substance management, cleanup, transportation, and disposal. Their extensively trained personnel use high-quality, duly-certified equipment to handle the task safely and securely.


Many of the substances we use, from ordinary household cleaners to industrial-strength super-chemicals, are corrosive.  While they are practical in a lot of ways, they also pose a hazard if carelessly handled. We hope that this short guide will give you a glimpse of the dangers of using them as well as safety protocols on how to mitigate that danger when handling them.

2021 Paint Waste Disposal Guide

Paint brings colors to the world. We use it to color our houses, buildings, and cars. We use it for our arts, crafts, and hobbies. It’s so common that we often take paint for granted. However, we must remember that paint and its related products are still chemicals and must be handled with care.

Most paints are either oil-based or water-based with each type having dissimilar characteristics. However, the common denominator is that the chemicals used in paints are often toxic and may cause environmental contamination or health problems. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in paint are harmful to the environment as well as the people working around paint. Some kinds of paints are also flammable and reactive.

Because of such dangers, paints and paint-related products are considered to be hazardous wastes. As such, they should be disposed of properly. This article will discuss in detail about the nuances of paint hazardous waste disposal.

An Overview of Paint Waste Disposal

In the past, leftover paint was mixed together with municipal waste and discarded in landfills. This action resulted in hazardous compounds from discarded paints seeping into the ground. These compounds eventually entered the water table below the subsoil, often contaminating the municipality’s water supply.

In addition, the discarded paints’ active ingredients are either toxic or flammable or both. Fauna that accidentally ingests paint compounds may fall seriously ill or even die. Surrounding flora may absorb toxic chemicals through their roots. These dangerous compounds may be present in their leaves, fruits, and seeds which people and other animals eat.  Sources of heat such as a carelessly discarded cigarette, a spark from a welder’s torch, or even sunlight during a hot day can ignite the volatile compounds of waste paint. 

Old and used paint and paint products, therefore, should be disposed properly. In general, waste paint is often stabilized and treated to nullify the toxic, flammable, and reactive compounds. It is then solidified so that it can be safely disposed of in a landfill.

Because many brands of paints and paint-related products contain flammable components, these components can be extracted and recycled into industrial fuel. Paints may also be incinerated in waste-to-energy facilities before the ashes are disposed of.

Paint Waste Disposal Types: Industrial and Residential

Paints are both used by industrial facilities and residences. Each sector has its own way of collecting and disposing paints.

Industrial Paint Disposal

Manufacturers of cars, appliances, electronics, and other products often use paint to protect and provide color to their products. Because of the requirement for mass production, these manufacturers often generate large quantities of waste paint. 

Industrial facilities must strictly follow the guidelines for paint hazardous waste disposal in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for disposing paints. These guidelines are enacted and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through state departments and local government units.

Disposal of industrial paint can be done in various ways. Some of the most common ways are listed below:

Residential paint disposal

Households often have leftover paint from previous home renovation or repair projects. Family members may also generate smaller amounts of waste paint through crafts such as art painting or scale modeling. 

While the amount of waste paint generated in a residence is vastly smaller than those generated by factories, households must still follow the right practices and processes when it comes to paint hazardous waste disposal. 

Remember that it’s prohibited to discard paints in drains and sewer lines. So how do you as an ordinary household member dispose of leftover paint?  Fortunately, collecting and disposing household-generated paint is cheaper and more manageable than industrial waste paint management.

Disposal of Latex and Oil-Based Paint

How do you dispose of latex or oil-based paint that has been lying in your home or facility for quite some time? Here are a few tips on how to dispose of them:

Latex or acrylic paint

Oil-based paint

Oil-based paints are pigments suspended in an oil medium. It’s known as a popular art media, but it can also be used for more practical purposes. Enamel paints used to paint wrought-iron outdoor furniture is an example of an oil-based paint.

Disposing oil-based paints properly is difficult due to its non-polar, hydrophobic characteristic (i.e., it does not mix or dissolve in water). It also contains VOCs, which cannot be dried or deactivated.

If possible, use water-based counterparts rather than oil-based paints. However, if oil-based paints must be used, then you need to treat oil-based paints as hazardous waste. For disposal of waste paints, bring the containers to your nearest hazardous waste disposal facility. Alternatively, you can call a professional waste disposal service provider for safe and proper disposal for oil paints. 

Finally, as with water-based paints, do not pour oil-based paints down the drain.

Management of Paint Related Materials

You will most likely use other paint-related chemicals in conjunction with the paint. The most common ones are paint thinners and aerosol cans.

Paint thinners

Put used paint thinner in a metal can or a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Label the lid as a hazardous waste. Wait for the sediments to settle to the bottom, this might take several days to weeks. Carefully pour the clear thinner in another container for reusing. 

The container with the solid sediments should be disposed of as hazardous waste. Bring it to your hazardous waste disposal facility, follow a curbside hazardous waste collection, or have a professional do it for you. The same process applies for stale, unusable thinner that needs to be disposed of.

Like paints, do not discharge paint thinners and its residuals down the drain.

Aerosol cans

For safety, it’s best to use every bit of paint to the point that there’s no more pressurized air coming out of the can when you press the nozzle. Completely empty cans with no pressure can be thrown as regular trash.

Partially full or completely full aerosol cans should be treated and discarded as hazardous waste and, as thus, are subject to local, state, or federal regulations. 

Do not puncture aerosol cans or subject them to heat even when completely empty. Doing either may cause the can to explode violently, which can cause serious injuries.

2021 Hazardous Waste Regulations

The RCRA contains the regulations that cover hazardous wastes including paints. The EPA enacts and enforces these regulations through its state departments. Local government agencies such as departments of public sanitation, public health, and safety use RCRA rules (or base their own rules on RCRA regulations) to regulate hazardous wastes.

Water-based paints are usually not covered under RCRA regulation because they are considered non-flammable. However, both oil and water based paints contain metallic pigments, metals, fortifiers, and additives. These compounds are considered hazardous wastes when disposed of. 

In addition, aerosol cans are regulated as hazardous waste when disposed of due to the oil-based paints, chemical blends, and propellants inside the canister.

The specific regulations for paint hazardous waste disposal and classification are too expensive to be adequately covered in this article. For specifics, check out Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations.


The world uses paint every day. It’s a useful commodity that brightens and protects our homes and cities. However, they do contain chemicals that could pose a hazard to the environment and a detriment to human health. As such, we should use them responsibly, from acquisition to disposal.

Solid Waste Management Guide

What Is Solid Waste?

When you throw away your trash, you are actually throwing what is formally called municipal solid waste (MSW). Solid waste refers to a wide range of waste material consisting of useless or unwanted items that the public uses daily. Such waste is often produced from residences as well as commercial, industrial, agricultural, medical, and radioactive sources. 

Solid waste materials that are regulated by the US federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are classified as solid waste. Note that only waste materials that meet the strict definitions of solid waste under RCRA are defined as such. The EPA also develops regulations that delineate which kinds of solid wastes are classified as non-hazardous and hazardous. 

It is important for public agencies and private businesses that are assigned or desire to delve into solid waste management to understand these definitions. The same holds true for generators of such wastes. Such understanding is a crucial initial step in waste management programs; it helps all entities properly determine if the wastes they generate or process are non-hazardous or regulated hazardous materials. 

Being home of two industrialized countries, North America produces the highest average amount of waste per capita at 4.6 pounds daily. In fact, in 2016, the continent generated over 289 million tons. However, North America has a universal waste collection at 99.7%. This means that all states, cities, and counties have some sort of solid waste management program. 

Roughly 55% of the waste in North America is made of recyclable materials such as plastic, metal, glass, cardboard, and paper. The rest goes to sanitary landfills. Even then, 1/3rd of landfill wastes are recycled at some point.

No matter the content, origin, or hazard potential, solid waste should be properly managed. Otherwise, it would negatively affect the environment and threaten public health. Solid waste management should be included into a region’s environmental planning.

Objectives of Solid Waste Management

Solid waste is churned out daily in tons. These wastes must go somewhere. But without proper management of waste disposal, the accumulation of improperly discarded or processed waste will pollute our environment and pose a public health hazard. 

Thus, each local government must have a sound solid waste management plan. The aim is to lessen or even eliminate adverse impacts of generated waste material on public health and the environment. Such programs should also support economic development and encourage a better quality of life for everyone in society.

Solid waste management must also be conceptualized, planned, designed, and implemented in the most efficient manner possible. This is to keep the cost of processing and disposing wastes low and prevent the buildup of waste material. After all, landfills are finite.

Solid Waste Characteristics

RCRA defines “solid waste” as any garbage or refuse material resulting from common community activities of households, commercial establishments, industrial facilities, agricultural operations, and so on. Note that this definition is not constricted to materials that are physically solid. It also includes semi-solid, liquid, or gaseous waste materials. 

According to the EPA RCRA, solid waste is an item or material that is disposed by being:

Materials that do not meet these criteria are not considered solid wastes. As such, they are not subject to RCRA regulations. As regulations change and as new materials are invented and introduced to the public, the waste composition changes. Solid waste can include the following:

The variety of solid wastes also vary from one country to another. For example, solid wastes in the US are often lighter in weight and volume than European or Japanese material. Around 40% of American-generated solid waste is composed of paper and cardboard products while food wastes comprise about 10%. The rest are a smorgasbord of wood, glass, plastic, metal, cloth, trimmings, and other items. 

The characteristics of common solid wastes in each area must be carefully analyzed prior to establishing a waste management system. They must be thoroughly studied before any transfer station, landfill, incinerator plant, treatment facility, or recycling facility can be designed or constructed.

Solid Waste Collection

An important part of solid waste management is collecting them from the sources. And it doesn’t stop on collection. Wastes should then be properly transported to a transfer station, processing facility, incinerator plant, or landfill. 

Proper collection is vital for protecting public health, maintaining safety, and preserving environmental quality. The task is labor-intensive and accounts around 3/4 of the total cost of solid waste management in a given area. In most cases, the local government unit assigns public employees to do the task. However, there are also private companies that do the task, whether under contract to the local government or paid by individual households, homeowner associations, business establishments, or other facilities. 

Trucks that store collected solid wastes are fully enclosed and have a built-in compactor. Each truck has a capacity of 30 to 40 cubic meters of compacted trash although there are bigger trucks as well.  

Another challenging task for the government is scheduling and plotting out a collection route. The route must be optimized for efficient use of labor, equipment, personnel, and fuel. Service type, distance, population density, and even climate are just some of the variables needed to analyze in planning out a route and schedule. Advanced computers and algorithms are utilized to accomplish such end. 

In most cases, there are designated collection points in the city. Usually, residents and personnel in business establishments can put their garbage in large trash chutes where they are later collected. Some have designated areas on the curbside rather than chutes. 

Collecting solid waste also revolves around a schedule. In large cities, collection is usually daily. In suburban or sparsely populated communities, collection is around once or twice a week. In addition, there are also scheduled collections for certain types of wastes. For example, collection of regulated hazardous wastes and burned out fluorescent lamps may be scheduled one a month.

Finally, some places have drop-off centers where people can drop off their recyclables.

Solid Waste Treatment and Disposal

Solid waste treatment often begins at the footsteps of the waste generator. Many local government units have ordinances that require generators to first segregate their wastes. In addition, generators are encouraged to reduce the production of waste materials through recycling, repurposing, or composting.

Once collected, the waste materials may first be transported to a transfer station. This is a facility where waste materials gathered by several collection vehicles are dumped and stored. From here, waste materials are transferred to larger, open-topped trucks that transport the waste to incinerator plants, recycling facilities, or landfills. 

Depending on the municipality’s regulations, solid waste may need to be treated and processed before final disposal. These processes may occur at the transfer station, recovery facility, recycling plant, or incinerator. Treatments and processes may include:

WTE systems are more expensive to build and maintain than normal incinerators. It also requires special equipment and trained personnel to operate the facility. But the cons outweigh the positives brought about by WTE facilities. In fact, 80% of municipal waste incinerators in the US are WTE facilities.

The leftover materials from these processes are then sent to the landfill for final disposal.

Solid Waste Regulation

In the US, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the government body that makes the regulations for household, commercial, and industrial solid and hazardous wastes. It does this under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Aspects of EPA’s role include:

The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the transportation and shipping aspect of solid waste. 

The exact guidelines are too broad to discuss given the scope of this article. You can click this link for details about EPA’s regulatory information about solid waste management.

Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM)

As the economy grows exponentially,  more and more solid waste is produced each day. Thus, more effective, systematic, contemporary, and holistic solutions need to be considered. One of these is Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM). This refers to an all-inclusive waste management system defined by the EPA.  

The system first involves assessment of a certain locality’s conditions, preferences, and needs. After these are identified, the EPA as well as state governments will choose, mix, and apply the best, most appropriate, and most effective solid waste management activities in accordance with those conditions, preferences, and needs.

The four main components of an ISWM program include waste source reduction, recycling, composting, waste transportation, and land filling. These activities can be done interactively or in a hierarchy.

Solid Waste Management History

During the ancient times, waste materials were carelessly thrown into streets and rivers and left to accumulate. The growing piles of waste soon became a threat to public health, causing plagues and epidemics. In 320 BC, the city of Athens created the first known law that prohibits such careless disposal. Soon, in ancient Rome, property owners were held responsible for tidying up the streets in front of their properties. 

At the end of the 14th century, scavengers were tasked with carting away waste materials to dump sites outside the European city walls. It was in America during the end of the 18th century that crude municipal garbage collection began to take place, particularly in the cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

A true technological and systematic approach to solid waste management in the US was developed at the end of the 19th century. Innovations such as watertight garbage cans, compactor vehicles, garbage grinders, incinerators, and pneumatic collection systems began to flourish.  

Around 1950, improper dumping and burning of solid waste began to cause environmental problems and threatened to endanger public health. As a result, sanitary landfills were developed to replace open dumping. New incinerators were designed with air pollution control devices and heat energy recovery systems. 

Government agencies began to craft regulations to encourage segregation, recycling, and source waste reduction. Both federal and state governments also enacted laws to ensure the processing and disposal of solid waste is done in ways that mitigate their negative impact to public health and the environment.


As long as there is human activity, solid waste will be a part of us. But the good thing is that by exercising a sense of responsibility and following sensible regulations, we can definitely live a better and cleaner life even with solid waste around.

ACT Enviro is your partner in safe, compliant solid waste management. To know more about our services, contact our team today.