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Waste Containers and What Is Inside

waste containers and what is inside

Waste management is just one part of keeping a company running — and it’s a critical one. If your business generates waste, you’ll need a practical way to handle it safely. A smaller, more commercially focused company may need a way to figure out what the garbage man will take from the curb each week. Industrial facilities — especially those that produce hazardous waste — may need to consult with professional disposal services to handle large volumes of challenging waste. 

This waste management program should include maintaining your waste containers as well as what’s inside them. An effective program can make your workplace safer and reduce the possibility of receiving penalties when you have an inspection. The guide below will discuss a few different waste container requirements and provide tips for keeping these receptacles clean and in good condition for inspections.

Understanding Waste Container Requirements

The waste containers used at commercial and industrial facilities must meet certain requirements. For instance, facilities must use approved, clean and sturdy containers and apply the appropriate waste labels to them. The containers must meet the required specifications according to the most recent codes and regulations. 

Different requirements exist for various types of waste depending on whether it is toxic or not. What is a toxic waste plant? Toxic or hazardous waste is any waste that could harm the environment or human health. Facilities that produce these wastes are hazardous waste generators and are subject to additional restrictions.

waste container types

Waste Container Types

The following are a few different types of waste containers your facility may need to use: 

  • Standard containers: Large 55-gallon drums are common in waste disposal. They are portable and relatively easy to transport and handle. 
  • Tanks: These stationary waste receptacles often store hazardous waste. 
  • Drip pads: Drip pads are wooden structures often used for drying. They are useful for collecting excess drippings from certain manufacturing processes.
  • Containment buildings: Containment buildings are specialized buildings designed to treat or store waste. They are generally completely enclosed stand-alone structures. 
  • Surface impoundments: Surface impoundments are typically natural or excavated outdoor structures that can hold waste. Examples include waste pits and the settling lagoons often used in wastewater treatment.

General Guidelines for Waste Containers

Below are a few guidelines you should follow with all your waste containers: 

  • Keep containers closed: Close and latch your storage containers tightly whenever employees are not discarding waste. Keeping them closed helps contain unpleasant odors and prevents contaminants from seeping out.
  • Inspect containers periodically: Inspect containers regularly for damage such as rusting and leaks. Your timeline may vary — a weekly inspection is often a good idea to ensure the waste containers’ ongoing structural integrity. Weekly inspections are required for hazardous waste generators unless they generate very small quantities of this waste.
  • Inspect for poor condition: Check for leaks or corroded areas on your containers. If you find any damage on your hazardous waste receptacles, your facility must transfer the waste to a container that is in good condition or otherwise manage the waste to contain any leaks.
  • Maintain compatibility: Ensure compatibility between the waste and its container. The container or its lining must not react with the substances the container will hold. Putting incompatible waste into a receptacle can compromise the container’s structural integrity or cause fires, explosions or gaseous emissions.

Labels for Waste Containers

You’ll need to label your waste containers appropriately to provide essential information about the type of waste they contain. If your waste is hazardous, follow the Department of Transportation’s guidelines for correct marking, labeling and placarding. You’ll need to include markings, labeling and placarding if the waste is any of these:

  • Overpacked
  • Hot
  • Fumigant
  • A marine pollutant
  • Suitable for transport by air only
  • Required to be kept away from heat
  • Explosive
  • Oxygen
  • An inhalation hazard
  • Nonflammable gas
  • Flammable gas
  • Flammable liquid
  • Flammable solid
  • Spontaneously combustible
  • Dangerous when wet
  • An oxidizer
  • A poison inhalation hazard
  • Radioactive
  • Infectious
  • Corrosive

You should also indicate the correct orientation of the waste containers — which side is the top, for instance. 

amount of waste permitted in facility containers

Amount of Waste Permitted in Facility Containers

How much hazardous waste can you place in a container? With hazardous waste or acutely nonhazardous waste — waste that could be incredibly toxic to people’s health or the environment — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the volume of waste that facilities can keep on their premises. It also restricts the length of time the waste can remain there. The EPA breaks waste-generating facilities down into three different types: very small quantity generators (VSQGs), small quantity generators (SQGs) and large quantity generators (LQGs).

1. Very Small Quantity Generators

The EPA defines VSQGs as facilities that produce 220 pounds (100 kilograms) per month of hazardous waste or 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) per month of acutely hazardous waste. VSQGs cannot store more than 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of waste in their containers at one time. They also have to identify all the hazardous waste they accumulate and make sure it gets to a person or facility that can dispose of it correctly. 

2. Small Quantity Generators

The EPA defines SQGs as facilities that produce less than 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) but more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) per month of hazardous waste. SQGs can store hazardous waste in their containers without a permit for up to 180 days. That limit extends to 270 days if the facility plans to ship the waste more than 200 miles. However, the facility must never accumulate more than 13,228 pounds (6,000 kilograms) of hazardous waste in its containers at one time, and it must store its waste in standard containers or tanks. 

3. Large Quantity Generators

The EPA defines LQGs as facilities that produce 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) or more of hazardous waste in a month or 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of monthly acutely hazardous waste. Generally, LQGs can accumulate an unlimited amount of waste in their containers but must store it for only 90 days. They can use standard containers, tanks, drip pads or containment buildings. 

Container Guidelines for Select Waste Types

Follow these guidelines to keep the waste containers you use for different types of waste acceptable for containment:

1. Liquid Wastes

Below are a few ways to make sure you’ve stored your liquid waste properly:

  • Minimize external contaminants: Liquid waste containers should be free from external contaminants. Contaminated container surfaces could react with the liquid wastes. 
  • Choose the right size: Liquid waste containers should be the right size for the stored material. Containers that are too large are inefficient, while containers that are too small could cause overflows and spills. 
  • Leave some space: Facilities should not fill their liquid waste containers 100% full. Instead, they should leave a little room at the top to help make the containers more manageable and prevent overflow.
  • Use secondary containment: Facilities should also generally store their liquid waste containers in secondary containment. That way, if the liquid waste breaches the first container, the secondary containment system can prevent it from leaking into the surrounding building or storage area.

2. Dry Wastes

The following are a few ways to make sure you’ve stored your dry wastes properly:

  • Use sealed bags: It’s often best to put dry wastes into securely sealed bags. The bags will contain any dry particles that might otherwise become airborne and cause respiratory distress. 
  • Minimize protrusions: Dry waste bags should not have sharp corners or edges. Sharp protrusions could cut into the other bags and spill their contents into the storage area. 
  • Tape or tie bags: Facilities should tie the bags or tape them closed to prevent hazardous dry waste spills and leaks. 

3. Chemical Wastes

Below are a few ways to make sure you’ve stored your chemical wastes properly:

  • Keep containers tightly closed: Chemical waste containers should always remain closed during storage unless authorized personnel is actively putting waste in them. Keeping the containers closed helps prevent toxic fumes from leaking into the nearby environment and reacting with other substances or making people sick. 
  • Minimize potential reactions: A facility should use chemical waste containers only for specific types of waste. Never put a chemical waste product into a container that previously held a chemical the waste product could react with. 
  • Take immediate action to contain leaks: Facilities should be proactive in addressing chemical waste container breakdowns. If a chemical waste container begins to leak, the facility should immediately move the waste from the compromised receptacle to a sturdier one. Alternatively, it could pack the defective container into a working one. Whatever the chosen method, it must contain the leaks to prevent chemical contamination.

4. Yard Waste

If your facility has expanses of lawn to mow or trees and shrubbery to maintain, it probably generates substantial amounts of yard waste. The requirements for yard waste containers are likely to vary locally. Below are a couple ways to make sure you’ve stored your yard waste properly:

  • Check local ordinances: Contact your local authorities to determine how to contain and dispose of yard waste.
  • Invest in appropriate containers: With yard waste, it’s easy to supplement your existing receptacles if need be. If you have a few days or weeks of heavy landscaping maintenance and tree work or if a destructive storm comes through, you may want to consider renting a dumpster or large yard waste bag to accommodate all the extra debris. 
maintaining your waste containers

Maintaining Your Waste Containers

To maintain your waste containers properly, consider following these steps:

  • Address deterioration immediately: Your waste containers should not be cracked, rusted or leaking. These issues can cause dangerous leaks, dirty the surrounding area and contribute to the emission of unpleasant smells. If you notice these deteriorations, replace your containers right away to ensure your storage area is safe, clean and ready for your next inspection. 
  • Maintain compatibility: Ensure waste compatibility by putting wastes into containers made of the correct material. The material in the containers — or at least their inner layers — should be a substance that will not react chemically with the waste. If you have a facility inspection, inspectors will want to see that your containers are correct for the wastes they hold.
  • Wipe out containers: It’s a good idea to clean your receptacles periodically by wiping them down. Doing so can help remove moisture that could lead to rusting and prevent contaminant buildup that could lead to odors and chemical reactions.
  • Latch lids: Even if you’re storing nonhazardous waste, keeping your container lids latched is usually a good idea. It helps you prevent spills and maintain the surrounding area by keeping it clean.

Loading Waste Containers Properly

To get the most out of your waste containers, you’ll first need to load them correctly. Below are a few tips for proper waste container loading: 

  • Close the lids completely: Arrange your waste in a configuration that allows you to shut the lids all the way. If waste items stick up too far, they may prop the tops open, and then waste or odors may escape.
  • Be careful with bulky items: Bulky waste items may require specialized handling. They are likely to be too big for your containers and can cause damage if you try to force them in. You may need to make special arrangements for oversized items to prevent them from causing cracks and leaks. 
  • Don’t overload containers: If your facility begins producing high volumes of waste, it can be tempting to stuff the waste into your existing containers to dispose of it quickly. Overloading containers can damage them or lead to spills. If your waste volumes change, look into obtaining more containers or scheduling additional pickups instead. 
  • Put containers out at the correct times: Is it illegal to leave your garbage cans out after pickup day? It depends on your area, so check with your local authorities. In some municipalities, you can receive a citation for leaving your containers out too long, though enforcement may be sporadic. Some local ordinances deem the containers unsightly, and in some areas leaving containers out in the open for too long can attract nuisance wildlife. This issue may not affect industrial facilities, but smaller businesses, especially those in residential areas, may need to consider it.

Avoiding Common Violations

During a facility inspection, a few common violations often come to light. These violations are largely avoidable if you monitor your facility regularly and engage sufficient waste transport services:

  • Open containers: Hazardous waste containers should remain closed except during periods when employees are actively discarding waste. Leaving containers open beyond these times can lead to a citation. If you have closed-head drums or closed-top drums, you can use special funnels with spring-closed lids, manual lids or similar devices to meet this requirement. 
  • Lack of internal inspections: Failure to perform proper inspections can also cause a violation. If its waste is hazardous, a facility should inspect containers weekly to ensure safety and catch any small problems before they escalate. VSQGs are exempt from the requirement for weekly inspections.
  • Storing too much waste: The facility may have accumulated more waste in its containers than it is legally allowed to store at one time. Especially if the waste is hazardous, facilities need to limit their waste storage by law for safety reasons.
  • Storing waste for too long: A facility may have stored waste in its containers longer than permitted, especially hazardous waste. Federal law requires waste generators to move waste out of the facility relatively quickly to ensure proper disposal. 
make vls environmental solutions your trusted waste disposal partner

Make VLS Environmental Solutions Your Trusted Waste Disposal Partner

To gain the peace of mind that comes with letting experienced professionals handle your waste containers, partner with VLS Environmental Solutions for responsible waste disposal

Because we are a full-service environmental company, we can dispose of various types of waste, treating them in our specialized facility before sending them on for landfill disposal. We also pride ourselves on our keen industry insight, sustainable practices and environmental responsibility and awareness. When working with us, you can rest assured your waste disposal is compliant with all applicable requirements and you’re doing your part to keep the earth green and healthy for future generations.

Contact us today to learn more. 

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