To understand how hazardous waste is treated, it is first important to understand what hazardous waste is. Hazardous waste is any kind of waste that can pose a threat to people's health or the environment when found in high enough concentrations. Proper storage, transportation, treatment, and disposal is necessary to keep hazardous wastes from becoming harmful to us or the world around us. Under Ontario law (Regulation 347), hazardous waste includes hazardous industrial waste, waste chemicals, severely toxic waste, corrosive waste, reactive waste, human or animal remains, and more. In this article, we will take a look at how hazardous waste is treated in order to keep people and the environment safe. Looking for waste management services in Southern Ontario? Contact Panda today!
Anyone can produce hazardous waste - even families in their own homes. For example, common household hazardous waste includes many chemicals used on a regular basis such as cleaning products, fuel, antifreeze, pest control products, and more. Though almost every person and business produce at least some hazardous waste, a few sectors produce regular, large amounts of waste. See the list below to learn more about these sectors.
The first step in hazardous waste treatment is the transportation of the hazardous waste materials. After a waste management professional picks up your hazardous waste, it will be loaded up for transportation. Almost all hazardous waste is transported via a specialized transportation truck that has the necessary systems in place to keep the hazardous waste secure until it reaches the next destination. It is likely that you have even driven by a truck transporting hazardous waste on your local highway!
In order to track the hazardous waste and ensure it goes from point A to point B without any dumping or other potential problems, a manifest system is put into place. In Ontario, the manifest tracking system accompanies waste from its point of origin to the point of disposal, describes the waste, and shows when the waste changes hands from one carrier to another, from carrier to receiver, etc (source).
The transporter must be properly trained in handling spills or leaks in case an accident does occur. In the event of an accident, the transporter should immediately take action, including calling the authorities. A spill can occur for a variety of reasons, including poorly secured bins. Some hazardous waste can present an immediate public health concern, so in some cases, the area may be blocked off and clean-up crews will be on the scene as soon as possible to remove the potential hazards.
Once the hazardous waste has completed its journey from its site of origin to the disposal site, it must first be appropriately treated. Depending on the type of hazardous waste and the treatment facility, your hazardous waste may be treated in a variety of ways. See below for three common hazardous waste treatment methods.
Ion exchange is one popular chemical method to treat hazardous waste. Ion exchange is a chemical reaction between two substances (each substance with positively and negatively charged parts referred to as ions). Ion exchange occurs when one ion (the unwanted ions, such as hazardous chemicals) are exchanged with other ions of a similar charge. Ion exchange is not only used for hazardous waste removal. If you have a water softener, it is likely your water softener performs ion exchange too!
In the case of hazardous waste, certain resins can be used in the ion exchange process to remove toxic heavy metals such as lead or mercury from a wide variety of industrial processes (source). Though ion exchange is one common chemical method, there are other chemical treatment systems used for hazardous waste. Click here to learn more about some other treatment options.
Thermal methods include any waste treatment process that uses very high temperatures to treat or process hazardous waste. Incineration is a common thermal treatment method. Incineration helps to reduce the amount of hazardous waste as well as safely and effectively destroys the hazardous elements of the waste materials. In some cases, incineration can not only detoxify waste but also completely destroy it.
Some hazardous waste can also be treated with biological methods. Some organic hazardous waste can be biologically treated with a process called "landfarming." The landfarming treatment method mixes biological hazardous waste with surface soil in a specially contained environment. Special microbes that have the ability to metabolize the hazardous waste or genetically engineered microbes with that ability, can also be added to the soil.
If a biological hazardous waste accident occurs, a biological treatment process called "bioremediation" can be used to help control the potential hazard. Bioremediation introduces microbes or other lifeforms that can metabolize the hazardous material to the accident site. This process eventually helps to clean the site of the hazardous waste.
All of the treatment methods mentioned above actually change the molecular form of the waste. Other treatment methods include physical treatments. Physical hazardous waste treatment methods do not change waste on a molecular level, but instead concentrates, solidifies, and reduces waste volume (source). Some physical treatment methods include:
Once the hazardous waste has been treated by any of these methods, whether it is a biological, chemical, thermal, or physical treatment, it is then time for the waste to be safely disposed of.
Properly treating and disposing of hazardous waste is an essential part of maintaining the health of your community and the environment. Hazardous waste contains elements which are potentially dangerous to the environment, particularly to plants and wildlife. Hazardous waste disposal services require a very delicate approach when it comes to recycling or disposal. If certain mandated standards put forth by the government of Ontario (or your local government) are not met, it can result in fines or penalties for either the business or individual. To ensure all of your hazardous waste disposal needs are met with the highest of environmentally friendly standards, it's best to work with a professional waste management company from the start.
As mentioned above, some hazardous waste can be treated and disposed of through the same process, such as incineration. However, many other types of hazardous waste must be separately treated and then disposed of after treatment is complete. Once treated, many hazardous wastes end up being disposed of in a landfill or land disposal system. However, this is not always ideal due to potential environmental hazards. All waste, whether hazardous or not, can still pose a threat to the environment when left in landfills.
Landfills are generally only appropriate for solid waste. Liquid hazardous waste must be disposed of with different methods. One common method for liquid waste includes a process called "deep-well injection." During the deep-well injection process, hazardous liquid waste is pumped through steel and injected into a porous layer of limestone or sandstone. High pressure is then added, forcing the liquid into the porous areas of the rock. The liquid is then permanently stored within the rock's pores (source).
There are also temporary storage solutions available for hazardous waste, such as lagoons (a holding pond that temporarily contains hazardous liquid waste), or waste piles (constructed over an impervious base and must follow strict guidelines, similar to landfill guidelines).
Finding the right waste management company for you and your specific needs can be a challenge. At Panda, we work with our customers to help them find a waste disposal package that works for them!
Work with Panda today to work with a waste management company that cares about recycling and the environment. Panda Environmental has strived to be a leader in the responsible waste management and recycling solutions across Ontario for over 15 years.
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