hazardous waste collection
Ways to Reduce Hazardous Waste

How to Reduce Hazardous Waste

Dealing with unwanted hazardous materials in the workplace can be a risky and costly task, especially if you have high volumes of toxic waste. Even managing excess hazardous items at home, such as cleaning products, isn’t the safest chore. Reducing how much hazardous waste you produce initially is vital.

There are some safe ways to dispose of hazardous waste, but it depends on the type and classification. It’s also a trickier, riskier, and more expensive process than recycling many other materials, such as paper. If hazardous waste isn’t managed properly it can cause serious environmental harm and risk human health.

Reducing hazardous waste produced by businesses in the first place helps best protect the environment and human health. Learn how to reduce hazardous waste in your workplace or at home – as well as ways to reduce chemical, radioactive, and nuclear waste – with these tips.

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Why is it important to 
reduce hazardous waste?

Hazardous waste is one of the most dangerous types of rubbish in the world. This is why there are strict controls and laws in place covering the safe disposal and management of such materials – the Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005. Failure to abide by these can risk environmental and human health and lead to a financial penalty.

Reducing hazardous waste means there’s less chance of your business failing to meet these regulations. With less hazardous waste on site the safety of staff, customers, and wildlife – as well as the environment – is better protected. It minimises the risk of contaminating other waste or a serious issue arising.

Managing and disposing of many types of hazardous waste is also an expensive process compared to other rubbish due to its sensitive nature. Reducing hazardous waste can save your company money both in terms of requiring fewer waste collections and for the storage and disposal process.

Many hazardous waste disposal methods require lots of energy too, which has a negative environmental impact. These include incineration, chemical treatment, and biological processing. Simply using fewer hazardous materials and producing less hazardous waste in the first place benefits the environment best.

factory.

Hazardous waste facts

Production of hazardous waste has generally grown over time with the EU creating 5.1% more hazardous waste in 2020 compared to 2010. An awareness of the health and environmental risks such refuse possess has also become more apparent. However, the world still generates 13 tonnes of hazardous waste every second.

For a greater insight into the scale of this waste stream explore some more dangerous facts and stats about hazardous waste:

  • Around the world 400 million tonnes of hazardous waste are produced annually
  • 60kg of hazardous waste is generated each year for every person in the world
  • Around 5 million tonnes of hazardous waste are created across the EU every year
  • The EU’s chemical industry creates about 9 million metric tonnes of waste annually
  • The UK creates 3 million tonnes of hazardous waste each year
  • Just over 15% of the waste produced across the healthcare sector is hazardous waste
  • 95% of radioactive waste has very low level (VLLW) or low-level (LLW) radioactivity
  • About 80% of all solid radioactive waste volume is now in disposal

How to reduce hazardous 
waste in the workplace

Many industries and businesses deal with hazardous materials and therefore create hazardous waste regularly. This includes everything from laboratories and farms to cleaning companies. In many cases, producing hazardous waste is unavoidable due to the nature of the work, but striving to reduce it where possible is beneficial.

These are a few ways to try and reduce hazardous waste across various industries:

  • Conduct regular maintenance – checking your systems, equipment, and infrastructure that work with hazardous materials regularly is vital to reduce waste. For example, look for any leaks where hazardous products could be escaping and wasted and apply fixes.
  • Use non-hazardous materials – one of the easiest ways to eliminate hazardous waste is to switch to using a non-hazardous product in its place. Are there any alternative raw materials you can use, or could you alter your product, so it doesn’t need hazardous materials?
  • Update equipment – find ways to apply better controls with the latest technology and software updates. This could help improve process efficiencies that help reduce how much hazardous materials you use, and the amount of waste produced.
  • Reduce cleaning requirements – one of the main sources of hazardous waste is from cleaning products. Improve working practices to reduce how often and thoroughly equipment needs cleaning to minimise how many hazardous products you use and waste is created.
  • Train staff – properly train all staff to use equipment safely (which should reduce the need for excess cleaning) and enforce a strict hazardous waste storage and disposal policy focused on cutting back waste.

How to reduce hazardous 
waste at home

Households also create hazardous waste, but not on the same scale as industrial operations and businesses. This is mainly through cleaning products. Responsible management and disposal is important to protect the environment. This includes reducing hazardous waste at home where possible. To do this:

  • Buy what you need – assess how much of the specific hazardous product you’ll need and only buy the amount you’ll use to minimise any leftovers. Read the label and where possible purchase the least hazardous or toxic product.
  • Use up all the products – if you only buy what you need you should use all the product. Many cleaning and other hazardous products have long lives, so it’s best to find a safe storage spot for any leftovers and use them up in the future.
  • Donate leftovers to others – offer any usable leftover products to neighbours, friends, or family if they have a use for them. Some community groups may accept usable cleaning products too.
  • Consider professional services – if cleaning products are your main source of hazardous waste consider using a cleaning service instead. This saves on buying excess items and they’ll manage and dispose of any hazardous waste properly.
  • Take hazardous waste to a HWRC – if you create hazardous waste check if your local HWRC accepts it to ensure it’s disposed of responsibly. Depending on how much you have, you might need to use a professional hazardous waste disposal company.
hands with Dettol cleaning spray.

How to reduce chemical waste

A common type of hazardous waste is chemical waste. Laboratories, schools, and cleaning companies that deal with many kinds of chemicals are some of the main places that produce such waste. If managed, stored, and disposed of irresponsibly these can also harm the environment and human health.

Reducing chemical waste creates a safer environment and minimises the risk of any harm. Here are a few ways to reduce chemical waste:

  • Find alternatives – minimise the use of chemicals in your operations by seeking alternatives with non-hazardous products where possible.
  • Reuse chemicals – use high-quality and appropriate containers to store any leftover chemicals and use them in the future. Reuse as many chemicals as possible if clean and uncontaminated.
  • Avoid overordering – assess the types and volumes of chemicals you need and order the exact amount. This should prevent creating excess chemical waste.
  • Maintain an accurate inventory – catalogue chemicals at least once a year, ensure clear storage locations, and remove chemicals from the inventory once used. Date and rotate chemicals when received so newer ones are used first. An accurate inventory should eliminate the chance of ordering chemicals you already have.
  • Ensure clear labelling – label every container with the full chemical name, date received, and potential hazards of its contents. This improves the safety of users and reduces the risk of unknown waste.

How to reduce nuclear 
and radioactive waste

Nuclear and radioactive waste are some of the most dangerous types that require strict control and management. If released into the environment they can contaminate and pollute areas, creating serious health implications and environmental damage. Reducing nuclear and radioactive waste reduces such a risk.

These are a few ways to reduce nuclear and radioactive waste:

  • Separate from non-radioactive waste – never mix non-radioactive and radioactive waste. If any radioactive or nuclear waste comes into contact with other waste it increases its volume, as all the waste then becomes radioactive and nuclear waste. Ensure you have the right types, sizes, and quantities of containers for separate storage.
  • Prevent producing nuclear and radioactive waste – review your processes and seek alternatives that will not produce (as much) nuclear and radioactive waste. Minimise the activity and volumes of radioactive/nuclear materials used. This could include using alternative materials.
  • Limit the number of users – the more people involved, the more radioactive and nuclear waste created (including the equipment each person uses and protective gear worn). Have only the essential number of people necessary involved.
  • Minimise the usage area – limit the area where radioactive and nuclear materials will be used and waste produced to reduce the risk of contamination by keeping everything in a controlled space.
  • Don’t over order – avoid ordering radioactive or nuclear materials in quantities that will exceed your usage. Accurately estimate how much is needed to ensure everything is used and waste is kept to a minimum.

Read more waste reduction guides

Discover how to reduce a wide range of other waste types in your business or home with our expert guides.

How to reduce waste
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