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Hazardous vs. Non-Hazardous Waste — What’s the Difference? 

Difference between hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

Industries produce many types of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, and knowing what to do with waste products can be tricky. Every year, the United States generates about 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste, and it all has to go somewhere.

But what are the different types of waste, and how should you handle them? In this guide, we’ll discuss the difference between hazardous and non-hazardous waste, discuss the various categories of hazardous waste, offer examples of both types, explain how to determine if your business produces hazardous waste and offer tips on what to do about it.

What Is Hazardous Waste?

hazardous waste is waste that poses a severe threat

Hazardous waste is waste that poses a severe threat to human health or the environment if improperly disposed of. According to the EPA, a substance is a hazardous waste if it appears on specific lists of hazardous waste or exhibits the established characteristics of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Listed Waste

the f list identifies non-source-specific hazardous wastes

Listed wastes appear on one of four official lists: the F, K, P and U lists.

The F list identifies non-source-specific hazardous wastes from common industrial and manufacturing applications. The K list identifies source-specific wastes from specific areas within industry and manufacturing.

The P and U lists define wastes that consist of pure, commercial-grade formulations of specific unused chemicals. To be classified as a P or U waste, a substance must meet the following three criteria:

  1. The waste must contain one of the chemicals on the P or U lists.
  2. The chemical in the waste must be unused.
  3. The chemical in the waste must be a commercial chemical product. The EPA considers a commercial chemical product to be one that is either a 100 percent pure commercial-grade product or one that is the sole active ingredient in a given chemical formation.

The P list differs from the U list in that it designates acute hazardous wastes — those that are toxic even at low levels.

Characteristic Waste

characteristic waste

The EPA considers characteristic waste to be waste that exhibits any of four properties:

  1. Ignitability: Hazardous wastes that demonstrate the characteristic of ignitability include the following: wastes with flashpoints of less than 60 degrees Celsius, non-liquid materials that cause fires, ignitable compressed gases and oxidizers.
  2. Corrosivity: Corrosive hazardous wastes include acidic liquid wastes with a pH of two or less and basic liquid wastes that have a pH of 12.5 or more and can corrode steel.
  3. Reactivity: Reactive hazardous wastes include wastes that are unstable under standard conditions, react with water, give off toxic fumes or have the capability to explode or detonate when they are heated.
  4. Toxicity: Toxic hazardous wastes include wastes that are harmful to health when swallowed or absorbed. Toxic wastes are of particular concern because they can leach through soil and contaminate groundwater.

Common Examples of Hazardous Waste

Many pesticides, herbicides, paints, industrial solvents, fluorescent light bulbs and mercury-containing batteries are classified as hazardous wastes. So are medical waste products such as cultures, human tissue, contaminated gloves, sharps and so forth. Below are a few lists of common examples of hazardous wastes by list and category.

Common F-List Wastes

The hazardous wastes on the EPA’s F list are divided into seven different categories based on the industrial application from which they originated:

1. Spent Solvent Wastes

Some common types of spent solvent wastes include tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, carbon tetrachloride and chlorinated fluorocarbons, all of which are spent halogenated solvents used in degreasing.

Some common types of spent non-halogenated solvents include xylene, acetone, ethyl acetate, ethylbenzene, ethyl ether, n-butyl alcohol, methanol, nitrobenzene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, isobutanol, pyridine, benzene and many more.

All spent solvent solutions that contain 10 percent or more of any of these substances also qualify, as do still bottoms from the recovery of spent solvents and spent solvent mixtures.

2. Electroplating and Other Metal-Finishing Wastes

electroplating and other metal-finishing wastes

Electroplating and other metal-finishing wastes include spent cyanide bath plating solutions and any plating bath solutions and residues from operations where cyanides have been used. They additionally include wastewater treatment sludges from the chemical coating of aluminum.

3. Dioxin-Containing Wastes

Dioxin-containing wastes include wastes from the production of tri-, tetra- or pentachlorophenol or their derivatives, which are usually pesticides. Wastes from the production of tetra-, penta- and hexachlorobenzenes also belong to this category.

4. Wastes From the Production of Chlorinated Aliphatic Hydrocarbons

Chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene are often used as solvents in dry-cleaning and other industries. Their hazardous wastes include distillation residues, heavy ends, tars, clean-out wastes from reactors, condensed light ends, spent filters and filter aids and spent desiccant waste.

5. Wood-Preserving Waste

wood-preserving waste

Wood-preserving waste is classified as hazardous waste if it comes from facilities that use the preservative creosote — a potential carcinogen — or arsenic or chromium preservatives. This waste can include process residuals, preservative drippings and spent formulations.

6. Petroleum Refinery Wastewater Treatment Sludge

Any sludge created by the separation of oil, water and solids or by oily cooling wastewater during petroleum refining is classified as hazardous waste. These sludges are often generated in separators, tanks, impoundments, ditches, sumps, stormwater units that receive dry weather flow, induced air flotation units and dissolved air flotation units.

7. Leachate From Multiple Sources

Leachate is any liquid that has percolated through waste disposed of on land. Leachate that has flowed through more than one type of waste included on the EPA’s hazardous waste listings is automatically classified as hazardous as well.

Common Wastes on the K List

common wastes on the K list

The hazardous wastes on the K list, unlike those on the F list, come from specific manufacturing and industrial sectors. Sources for the different types of wastes on the K list fall into one of the following 13 categories:

  1. Wood preservation
  2. Organic chemicals manufacturing
  3. Pesticides manufacturing
  4. Petroleum refining
  5. Veterinary pharmaceuticals manufacturing
  6. Inorganic pigment manufacturing
  7. Inorganic chemicals manufacturing
  8. Explosives manufacturing
  9. Iron and steel production
  10. Primary aluminum production
  11. Secondary lead processing
  12. Ink formulation
  13. Coal processing into coke

A few of the common hazardous materials on the K list are the following:

  • Bottom-sediment sludge from wood-preserving wastewater whose processes use creosote or pentachlorophenol, a pesticide and disinfectant.
  • Wastewater treatment sludge from the production of different-colored pigments.
  • Distillation bottoms or side cuts from the transformation of ethylene into acetaldehyde.
  • Still bottoms from the distillation of benzyl chloride.
  • Heavy ends from the fractionation column in the production of ethyl chloride, often used as a topical anesthetic.
  • Heavy ends from distillation in the production of ethylene dichloride or vinyl chloride.
  • Aqueous spent antimony catalyst waste from the production of fluoromethane, often used in the production of semiconductor or electronic products.
  • Distillation bottoms from the production of nitrobenzene.
  • Centrifuge and distillation residues from the production of toluene diisocyanate, often used in foam for furniture, bedding, carpet underlay and in coatings, sealants and adhesives.
  • Column bottoms or heavy ends from the combined production of trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, both industrial solvents.
  • Byproduct salts generated in the production of MSMA and cacodylic acid, both arsenic-based herbicides.
  • Wastewater treatment sludge from the production of chlordane or creosote, or from toluene reclamation distillation in the production of disulfoton, a pesticide.
  • Filter cake from the filtration of diethylphosphorodithioic acid in the production of phorate, commonly used as a pesticide.

Common Wastes on the P List

acute hazardous waste

Hazardous wastes on the P list are classified as acute hazardous waste — they are toxic to humans even at low doses or when properly managed. Some examples of the many acute hazardous wastes on the P list include the following:

  • Acetamide
  • Allyl alcohol
  • Arsenic acid
  • Barium, calcium, copper, hydrogen, potassium, silver, sodium and zinc cyanides
  • Beryllium powder
  • Benzyl chloride
  • Disulfoton
  • Epinephrine
  • Fluorine
  • Nicotine and salts
  • Nitric oxide
  • Nitrogen oxide and dioxide
  • Strychnine and salts
  • Tetraethyl lead
  • Thallic oxide
  • Toxaphene

Common Wastes on the U List

A few of the common hazardous wastes on the U list are the following:

  • Acetone
  • Acrylic acid
  • Benzene
  • Diethylhexyl phthalate
  • Methyl bromide
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Chloroform
  • Methyl chloride
  • Creosote
  • DDT
  • Dichlorodifluoromethane
  • Dimethyl sulfate
  • Ethyl acetate
  • Ethyl ether
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hexachloroethane
  • Hydrogen fluoride
  • Isobutyl alcohol
  • Lead acetate
  • Mercury
  • Methyl alcohol
  • Methyl chloroform
  • Methyl isobutyl ketone
  • Nitrobenzene
  • Pentachlorobenzene
  • Phenol
  • Pyridine
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Tetrachloroethylene
  • Toluene
  • Uracil mustard
  • Xylene

What Is Non-Hazardous Waste?

non-hazardous waste

Non-hazardous waste, by contrast, does not pose a direct threat to human health or the environment, but it still cannot be dumped into a trash receptacle or a sewer line because of the risks it could pose. Most of the waste produced in the United States — paper, plastics, glass, metals, etc. — is non-hazardous waste because it is not toxic by nature.

The RCRA considers the category of solid non-hazardous waste to include garbage and other solid materials, but under this definition, other substances such as slurries, semisolids, liquids and gas containers are considered solid waste as well.

Because non-hazardous waste is more loosely monitored than hazardous waste, it’s difficult to develop precise estimates of how much non-hazardous waste the United States generates every year. However, industry experts believe that, by a large margin, industrial non-hazardous waste the largest category of waste produced annually, on the order of seven billion tons or more. The mining, chemical, metal, and pulp and paper industries have historically generated large amounts of non-hazardous waste, often in the form of wastewater.

Regulation of Non-Hazardous Waste

The law regulates non-hazardous waste. Even though non-hazardous waste is not inherently harmful to humans or to the local ecosystem or wildlife, it could still pose risks and must be disposed of in a controlled, careful way.

The regulation of non-hazardous waste is largely left to state and local governments, though the federal government will supply finding toward these efforts. The EPA can also review and approve state methods. But generally, states are responsible for granting permits, monitoring landfill use and making sure facilities meet the minimum federal criteria for the disposal of non-hazardous waste.

Non-Hazardous Waste Disposal Methods

non-hazardous waste disposal methods

Disposal methods for non-hazardous wastes vary because there are so many different types of waste and various regulations governing them. Large manufacturing facilities may have private disposal grounds, whereas smaller plants are more likely to use the services of private disposal companies. To get the best information, contact a reputable waste-disposal company. The staff there will be knowledgeable about the collection, transport and disposal of non-hazardous waste and can advise you of the best options for your facility.

Common Examples of Non-Hazardous Waste

Below are some common non-hazardous waste examples:

  • Agricultural waste: Some types of agricultural waste are non-hazardous waste. Organic waste matter such as animal manure, urine and bedding material is non-hazardous waste, though chemical waste may be classified as hazardous waste.
  • Batteries: Batteries contain heavy metals like lead, nickel and cadmium that could pollute the environment if the batteries went straight into the trash. Most batteries do not contain mercury — the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996 made mercury-free alkaline batteries standard. Only button cell batteries and mercuric oxide batteries are currently permitted to contain mercury.
  • Construction debris: Construction and demolition debris also falls into the category of non-hazardous waste. Many of the materials used in construction, such as wood, glass, concrete, asphalt, bricks, gypsum from drywall, plastics, solvents and metal parts, must be properly disposed of rather than tossed into the nearest dumpster. The same goes for salvaged building components such as doors, windows and plumbing fixtures, as well as downed trees, limbs, rocks and dirt from clearing and excavation sites. Most non-hazardous construction debris goes to specially designated landfills for disposal.
  • Industrial waste: Though some industrial waste is hazardous, most industries also produce substantial amounts of non-hazardous waste. Substances like sugars, lactic acid, bromides and carbonates would not necessarily harm the environment but still must be managed properly to avoid pollution.
  • Medical waste: Though some medical waste is classed as hazardous, about 85 percent of medical waste is non-hazardous waste, such as old equipment and non-contaminated animal tissue. Health care facilities, medical research facilities, veterinary clinics and medical laboratories all generate medical waste.
  • Municipal solid waste: Residential and commercial garbage containing products like packaging, furniture, consumer electronics, clothing, bottles, food remnants, appliances, paint, yard trimmings and so forth is non-hazardous waste. According to the EPA, the United States produced approximately 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2017, of which 67 million tons were recycled, 27 million tons were composted, 34 million tons underwent energy recovery and 139 million tons went to landfills. Paper and paperboard combined to form the largest single component of municipal solid waste, making up about 25 percent of the total. Food made up about 15 percent, and plastics and yard waste contributed about 13 percent each.
  • Scrap tires: Used automobile tires intended for disposal are non-hazardous waste. In 2013, the United States generated about 290 million scrap tires. About 20 percent of these tires are stockpiled or go to landfills, but the other 80 percent find various markets — they are used for fuel, recycled, repurposed for civil engineering projects, added to rubber-modified asphalt, exported or used in agricultural or other sites.
  • Special wastes: Special wastes are wastes that are currently classified as non-hazardous but which the EPA has designated for further study and review. Special wastes include crude oil and natural gas waste, fossil fuel combustion waste and waste from some mineral processing and mining practices, such as the extraction and beneficiation of metal ores and phosphate rock. Cement kiln dust, which is the dust produced during the production of cement, is a special waste example as well. Though some of these wastes can be recycled or resold for industrial purposes, most go to landfills, surface impoundments or waste piles.

Is Non-Hazardous Waste Safe?

Non-hazardous waste is not generally toxic, but it has a few concerning ramifications for human health and the environment. Some of the types of non-hazardous waste that give cause for concern include:

  • Animal waste: Animal waste from agricultural operations is non-hazardous waste, but it typically contains methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere and contributes to climate change.
  • Batteries: Batteries may contain lithium, silver oxide, nickel cadmium, lead acid or nickel metal anhydride that could cause soil or groundwater contamination.
  • Electronic devices: Many electronic devices like phones and tablets contain small amounts of metal that could also contaminate the environment.
  • Oils: Substances like oils, even if not contaminated with hazardous materials, can easily disrupt delicate ecosystems. Oils from mechanics’ shops, service stations, motor pools, boat marinas and refining processes should always be disposed of properly, often through a collection center or recycling point, transporter service, re-refiner or processor.
  • Tires: Scrap tires may seem innocuous, but when discarded in illegal dumpsites, they provide hospitable breeding grounds for pests like rats and mosquitos. Their hollow inner spaces fill with water during rainstorms. Then the sheltered, shady pools of water linger instead of evaporating, and they attract mosquitos, which lay their eggs in the puddles. Because tires are insulated, they also trap heat, which speeds up egg incubation and promotes the hatching of larvae. Tires’ shape also causes them to collect leaves and debris, which mosquito larvae can use for food. The EPA reports that improperly disposed-of tires are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos carrying dengue fever, West Nile virus and encephalitis, all of which can be fatal.

For these reasons, it’s essential to engage a professional waste company to handle even your non-hazardous waste. Working with a professional waste company helps ensure proper safety measures are in place to keep humans safe and healthy and the environment minimally disturbed.

Testing and Analyzing Waste

test and analyze waste

It’s essential for facilities to test and analyze waste, so they can make sure they are disposing of their hazardous and non-hazardous waste properly. An experienced, knowledgeable testing laboratory can let you know whether your waste is hazardous or not. Then, you can determine which disposal protocols to follow to get rid of your waste safely and responsibly. Even if you think a particular waste stream is non-hazardous, cross-contamination can occur in a variety of ways. So it’s always a good idea to get a laboratory test and analysis and know for sure.

Disposing of non-hazardous waste is easier than disposing of hazardous waste, and the permitting process is less stringent, as well. So testing your waste may also help you streamline your processes and make waste disposal more convenient if you discover your facility’s waste is non-hazardous.

The EPA suggests a variety of different hazardous waste testing methods, including:

  • Combustion
  • Structural integrity testing
  • Tank leaching
  • High-performance liquid chromatography
  • Gel-permeation chromatography
  • Gas chromatography
  • Acid digestion
  • Alkaline digestion
  • Solvent dissolution
  • Extraction and micro-extraction
  • Photoionization detection
  • Immunoassays
  • Equilibrium headspace analysis
  • Isotope dilution mass spectrometry
  • Absorption spectrometry
  • Vacuum distillation
  • Colorimetric screening

Different methods will be necessary depending on the physical nature of the waste — whether it is aqueous, an oil, a sludge, a solid or any other type. The methods used will also depend on the analytical sensitivity required, the substances of interest, the containers and holding times involved and other factors. A quality laboratory will be able to determine the best tests for your particular waste streams.

Does Your Business Produce Hazardous Waste?

Due to the risks associated with hazardous waste disposal, Congress granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to enforce hazardous waste regulations in 1976.

Today, hazardous waste generators, or companies that produce waste, have a responsibility to practice and understand proper hazardous waste management. By adequately managing hazardous products, organizations can ensure the health and safety of their employees and avoid penalties and fines.

Hazardous Waste Generators Categories: An Overview

Because hazardous waste generators — any person who produces a hazardous waste as listed or characterized in part 261 of title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) — produce waste in different quantities, the EPA established three categories of generators:

  • Large Quantity Generators (LQGs): LQGs produce 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste or more than one kilogram of acutely hazardous waste per month.
  • Small Quantity Generators (SQGs): SQGs produce less than 1,000 kilograms, but more than 100 kilograms, of hazardous waste per month.
  • Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs): VSQGs produce one kilogram or less of acutely hazardous waste or 100 kilograms or less of hazardous waste per month.

State generator categories can differ from the federal categories, and most states are authorized to implement the RCRA program.

The EPA’s Final Rule on This Issue

The EPA’s final rule provides a favorable update to the RCRA hazardous waste generator regulations. The final rule allows for greater comprehensibility and flexibility in how today’s businesses manage hazardous waste.

The revisions will:

  • Improve risk communication and enhance the response capabilities of emergency responders.
  • Enhance the safety of facilities that create hazardous waste.
  • Directly respond to feedback from regulated communities, states and other stakeholders.
  • Represent a significant investment in addressing and evaluating the challenges in the hazardous waste program.

Responsibilities of a Hazardous Waste Generator

Hazardous waste generators are responsible for the hazardous products they produce as well as any expenditures affiliated with future releases of that waste.

The EPA established the cradle-to-grave liability for all industries that produce hazardous waste. This liability applies to all hazardous waste generators under the RCRA.

A generator is responsible for their hazardous products from the time they create them until they dispose of them under cradle-to-grave liability, which helps to ensure that facilities choose responsible disposal, storage and treatment methods for the hazardous waste they generate.

Joint and several liability are included in each hazardous waste generator’s cradle-to-grave liability. Consequently, if hazardous wastes are released that have been land-disposed or land-filled, every party who has ever put waste into that landfill is responsible for cleanup costs.

Regulations that govern generators include:

  • Whether you must obtain an EPA identification number.
  • Exception and additional reporting.
  • Pre-transport requirements.
  • Land disposal restrictions.
  • Waste minimization.
  • Facility closure.
  • Manifest.
  • Facility type.
  • Record keeping.
  • Biennial report.
  • Air emissions.
  • Personnel training.
  • Accumulation time limits.
  • Preparedness and prevention.
  • Contingency plans and emergency procedures.
  • Amount of hazardous waste that can be accumulated.

Hazardous Waste Examples

If your business is part of a certain industry, it may produce hazardous waste. These liquids, sludges, solids or gaseous materials can harm human health or the environment if disposed of improperly and thrown into landfills.

These are some of the industries that commonly produce hazardous waste and the types of waste they produce, according to the EPA:

Construction, Demolition and Renovation

painting projects also generate many different hazardous wastes

Construction and similar industries tend to generate hazardous waste in many different forms, including:

  • Land clearing: Land clearing, demolition and renovation generate ignitable or toxic debris and wreckage, such as lead paint, fluorescent bulbs and lead pipes.
  • Heavy construction: Heavy construction generates asphalt wastes, used oil, petroleum distillates and arsenic. Used oil can contain hazardous contaminants, such as cadmium chromium and lead, and asphalt wastes often contain benzene.
  • Carpentry and floor work: Carpentry and floor work generate a number of different hazardous wastes, including acetone, adhesives, coatings, methylene, chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, mineral spirits, solvents, toluene, treated wood and xylene.
  • Paint preparation and painting: Painting projects also generate many different hazardous wastes, including acetone, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone, pigments, solvents, stripping solutions, toluene and more.
  • Specialty contracting activities: Specialty contracting projects tend to generate hazardous waste in the form of acetone, adhesives, coatings, hexachloroethane, kerosene, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, pigments, solvents, toluene, wastewater and more.

Dry Cleaning

The dry cleaning industry generates several types of chemical and solvent hazardous wastes at different facilities:

  • Perc plants: Perc plants are dry cleaning facilities that use tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or perc. This chemical can cause adverse health effects such as respiratory and eye irritation, kidney problems and neurological impairment, among other short-term exposure symptoms. Perc plants generate spent solvents, spent cartridges, distillation residues and cooked power residues that contain perc. Unused perc also becomes hazardous waste.
  • Non-perc plants: Dry cleaning facilities that do not use perc often use chemicals such as trichloroethane and chlorofluorocarbons. These plants also generate hazardous waste that includes spent solvents, spent filter cartridges and distillation residues.
  • Petroleum solvent plants: Petroleum solvent plants use Stoddard’s solvent, also called white spirit, in their dry cleaning processes. White spirit can cause adverse effects such as respiratory and eye irritation, liver and kidney problems, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. These plants typically generate spent solvents as their hazardous waste.

Educational and Vocational Shops

Educational and vocational shops can include mechanics’ shops, auto body repair shops, metal shops, woodworking shops and graphic arts plate preparation shops. These facilities generate hazardous wastes, such as ignitable wastes, solvent wastes, paint wastes, acids and bases.

Equipment Repair

Equipment repair often involves processes, such as degreasing, rust removal, painting, paint removal and more. These processes generate hazardous wastes, such as acids, bases, ignitable wastes, paint wastes and solvents.

Furniture Manufacturing and Refinishing

construction and surface preperation

Furniture manufacturing and refinishing processes generate several types of hazardous waste, including:

  • Construction and surface preparation: Construction and surface preparation generate wastes, such as acetone, alcohols, methyl ethyl ketone, methanol, methylene chloride, mineral spirits, petroleum distillates, toluene and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Staining and painting: Staining and painting generate wastes such as acetone, alcohols, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone, petroleum distillates, pigments and VOCs.
  • Finishing: Furniture finishing generates wastes such as alcohols, petroleum distillates, pigments, toluene and wastewater.
  • Brush and spray gun cleaning: These cleaning processes generate wastes such as acetone alcohols, isopropanol, methanol, mineral spirits, petroleum distillates, VOCs and more.


Laboratory applications, including diagnostic testing and other types of medical testing, generate hazardous wastes, such as spent solvents, reaction products and contaminated testing samples, plus materials like human tissue, contaminated gloves, containers, equipment and bandages.

Leather Manufacturing

Leather manufacturing generates several hazardous wastes through various procedures, like:

  • Soaking: Soaking hides generated wastes, such as a high volume of wastewater and suspended solids.
  • Bating, deliming and hair removal: These processes generate wastes, such as alkaline wastewater, ammonium sulfate, hydrogen sulfide and suspended solids.
  • Tanning: The tanning process generates wastes such as chromium, acid, and acid and alkaline salts.
  • Re-tanning, dyeing and fatliquoring: These processes generate wastes such as chromium, kerosene, overspray from solvents and dyes, solvent still bottoms, toluene and toxic dyes.
  • Buffing and coating: Buffing and coating the hides generates wastes such as alcohols, chromium in leather dust, esters, glycol ethers, methyl ethyl ketone and overspray, plus still bottoms from solvents, toluene, volatile organic emissions and more.
  • Product storage: Product storage generates waste such as chromium, kerosene, methyl ethyl ketone, trichloroethylene and toluene.

Motor Freight and Railroad Transportation

Motor freight and railroad transportation generate a variety of hazardous wastes.

  • Unloading and washing tank trucks and rail cars: These processes generate wastes such as acid or alkaline cleaners, residuals from shipments of hazardous waste, spent solvents, volatile organic emissions and more.
  • Degreasing parts, washing and rust removal: These processes generate wastes such as ammonium hydroxide, benzene, chromic acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, mineral spirits, oil, grease, petroleum distillates, sulfuric acid, toluene, toxic metals, volatile organic constituents, wastewater, sludges and more.
  • Painting: As in other industries, painting generates wastes, including alcohols, mineral spirits, paint pigments, volatile organic compounds and more.
  • Spray gun, spray booth and brush cleaning: These processes generate wastes like acetone, alcohols, methanol, mineral spirits, paint pigments, petroleum distillates and volatile organic constituents.
  • Parts replacement: Replacement of mechanical parts generates hazardous wastes such as batteries, which can contain lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel, iron and carbonate, plus scrap metal and used tires.
  • Maintenance and fluid replacement: These processes generate hazardous wastes such as fluids contaminated with heavy metals, radiator flushing solutions, used oil and used oil filters.
  • Storage of cleaning chemicals: Chemical storage generates hazardous wastes, including acetone, hydrofluoric acid, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, mineral spirits, toluene, xylene and more.

Pesticide End Users and Application Services

Pesticide users, such as farms and commercial buildings, as well as pest control services, generate hazardous chemical wastes, like used and unused pesticides, solvent wastes, ignitable wastes, contaminated soil, contaminated rinse water and contaminated empty containers.

Photo Processing

Photo processing generates hazardous waste through several different processes:

  • Processing and developing negatives and prints: These applications generate hazardous wastes like bleach fixers, untreated tires, reversal bleaches and system cleaners.
  • Washing and stabilizing: Photo washing and stabilizing both generate silver as a hazardous waste.
  • System cleaning: System cleaning generates wastes such as acid regenerates, system cleaners, photographic activators and dichromate-based cleaners.
  • Storing products: Storing photographic products generates wastes that are hazardous because of their corrosive nature or ignitability.


Printing generates hazardous wastes through a variety of applications, including:

  • Ink usage: Using ink in processes like letterpress, lithography, screen printing, flexography and gravure generates many types of waste. These include waste ink with chromium, barium and lead content, as well as waste ink contaminated with cleaning products such as trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, trifluoroethane, xylene, acetone, methanol and many more.
  • Plate processing: Plate processing generates wastes such as acid plate etching chemicals from metallic lithographic plates and flexographic photopolymer plates.
  • Cleaning printing equipment: Cleaning printing equipment generates spent organic solvents as hazardous waste. These often include trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, carbon tetrachloride, trifluoroethane, chlorobenzene, xylene, acetone, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone, toluene, carbon disulfide and benzene.
  • Developing negatives and prints: Developing processes generate waste photochemical solutions from fixers, rinse water and alkaline or acid-process baths.
  • Printing processes: Printing processes generate wastes such as unused inks, solvents and other chemicals.

Textile Manufacturing

A few different processes within the textile manufacturing industry generate hazardous waste:

  • Bleaching: Bleaching generates wastes such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium silicate and organic stabilizers.
  • Mercerizing: Mercerizing generates wastes such as alkali and sodium hydroxide.
  • Equipment maintenance: Equipment maintenance generates wastes such as tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, isopropyl alcohol, mineral spirits and more.

Vehicle Maintenance

oil and fluid replacement generate wastes

Several different applications involving vehicle maintenance generate hazardous waste:

  • Air conditioner maintenance: Air conditioner maintenance generates dichlorodifluoromethane as a hazardous waste.
  • Battery replacement: Battery replacement generates wastes such as lead dross, zinc, copper and spent sulfuric acid.
  • Body repair and refinishing: These processes generate scrap metal as a hazardous waste.
  • Car washing: Car washing generates wastes such as methylene chloride, trichloroethylene and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
  • Oil and fluid replacement: Oil and fluid replacement generate wastes such as used oil, oil filters, and fuel filters contaminated with cadmium, chromium, lead and benzopyrene. They also generate antifreeze contaminated with lead, along with petroleum distillates and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
  • Rustproofing, painting and paint removal: These processes generate spent solvents such as acetone, toluene, methanol, methylene chloride, isopropyl alcohol and more. They also generate waste paint thinner and paint, paint filters and spent rags.
  • Parts washing and degreasing: These processes generate waste such as benzene, phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sodium hydroxide, heavy metals, petroleum distillates and spent rags.
  • Product storage and storage tank cleaning: These processes generate various solvents and petroleum products, including those that are potentially outdated or off-specification.
  • Radiator repair: Radiator repair generates wastes such as zinc chloride — a coolant — plus chlorinated solvents and lead solder.
  • Shop cleanup: Cleanup generates used oil and drain or sump sludges that may be contaminated with metals, petroleum and solvents.

Why Does Waste Require Special Handling?

Waste requires special handling for several different reasons, including:

  • To protect human health: Special handling ensures toxic wastes are disposed of properly. Incineration helps keep hazardous medical waste from coming into contact with humans, and proper use of transport vehicles and landfills helps keep dangerous substances away from places where people could breathe them in or absorb them through their skin.
  • To protect the environment: Special handling also keeps both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes from contaminating the soil and groundwater. Proper use of landfills — sometimes lined landfills — helps prevent hazardous chemicals from leaching into soil and water. And segregating even non-toxic waste materials helps ensure a healthy and pristine landscape for everyone to enjoy.
  • To prevent spills, leaks and fires: Special handling helps prevent the damage that spills, leaks and fires can cause. Proper disposal of toxic, corrosive and flammable materials helps prevent catastrophic accidents, and proper disposal of non-toxic materials also helps prevent inconvenient spills and leaks.
  • To develop and encourage sustainable practices: Dumping billions of tons of waste into dumpsters and landfills every year is wasteful and unsustainable, but the right waste management practices help increase companies’ ability to reuse and recycle and diminish the amount of waste that ends up as landfill.

Contact VLS Environmental Solutions for All Your Waste Management Needs

With all the rules and regulations in place, waste management is a complicated business. Many companies wish they could shift the burden of waste management from their shoulders to a trusted and reliable source.

Luckily, VLS can help. We can help you find the waste solution that works best for your business, no matter how big or small, and we can help your business meet its sustainability goals, as well. We offer waste transportation and disposal services, along with specific industrial waste management and recycling services. We specialize in a variety of industrial waste.

Contact us today to learn more about our non-hazardous waste management services.

contact vls for all your waste management needs

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