Hazardous Waste

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What Is Hazardous Waste Recycling?

Many industrial hazardous wastes can be recycled safely and effectively. A hazardous waste is recycled if it is used, reused, or reclaimed. Furthermore, RCRA hazardous waste regulation makes an important distinction between materials that are used or reused without reclamation and those that must be reclaimed before reuse. A material is reclaimed if it is processed to recover a usable product, or if it is regenerated.

Commonly Remediated Hazardous Waste:

  • Contaminated Soil
  • Underground Storage Tanks (USTs)
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs)
  • Universal Waste (i.e. batteries, pesticides, florescent bulbs)


As stated by Congress, the objectives of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are "to promote the protection of health and the environment and to conserve valuable material and energy resources." With these goals in mind, EPA developed the hazardous waste recycling regulations to promote the reuse and reclamation of useful materials in a manner that is safe and protective of human health and the environment.
Many industrial hazardous wastes can be recycled safely and effectively. A hazardous waste is recycled if it is used, reused, or reclaimed. Furthermore, RCRA hazardous waste regulation makes an important distinction between materials that are used or reused without reclamation and those that must be reclaimed before reuse. A material is reclaimed if it is processed to recover a usable product, or if it is regenerated. Common hazardous waste reclamation activities involve recovery of spent solvents (e.g., recovery of acetone) or metals (e.g., recovery of lead).
  • Listed Wastes: Wastes that EPA has determined are hazardous. The lists include the F-list (wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes), K-list (wastes from specific industries), and P- and U-lists (wastes from commercial chemical products).
  • Characteristic Wastes: Wastes that do not meet any of the listings above but that exhibit ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.
  • Universal Wastes: Batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g., thermostats) and lamps (e.g., fluorescent bulbs).
  • Mixed Wastes: Waste that contains both radioactive and hazardous waste components.
  • Waste Identification Process: Details about the process for identifying, characterizing, listing, and delisting hazardous wastes.


Approximately 566,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) nationwide store petroleum or hazardous substances. The greatest potential threat from a leaking UST is contamination of groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. EPA, states, and tribes work in partnership with industry to protect the environment and human health from potential releases.
EPA's federal underground storage tank (UST) regulations require that contaminated UST sites must be cleaned up to restore and protect groundwater resources and create a safe environment for those who live or work around these sites. Petroleum releases can contain contaminants like MTBE and other contaminants of concern that can make water unsafe or unpleasant to drink. Releases can also result in fire and explosion hazards, as well as produce long-term health effects.
Several methods have been successfully used for over a decade to clean up thousands of sites. Often the specific characteristics of the site (for example its type of soil, proximity to groundwater) make it a better candidate for some cleanup methods rather than others. A contaminated site will need a site characterization (also referred to as site assessment as the terms are used interchangeably) that can help professionals choose the best cleanup method. Professional cleanup contractors base their decisions on site-specific investigations and with local environmental agency approval. In some cases, state or federal regulators take the lead at a contaminated UST site and will make all the cleanup decisions.


PCBs belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. PCBs were domestically manufactured from 1929 until their manufacture was banned in 1979. They have a range of toxicity and vary in consistency from thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids. Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point, and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment; as plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products; in pigments, dyes, and carbonless copy paper; and many other industrial applications.
Although no longer commercially produced in the United States, PCBs may be present in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban. Products that may contain PCBs include:
  • Transformers and capacitors
  • Other electrical equipment including voltage regulators, switches, reclosers, bushings, and electromagnets
  • Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems
  • Old electrical devices or appliances containing PCB capacitors
  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Cable insulation
  • Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork
  • Adhesives and tapes
  • Oil-based paint
  • Caulking
  • Plastics
  • Carbonless copy paper
  • Floor finish
PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of adverse health effects. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals. PCBs have also been shown to cause a number of serious non-cancer health effects in animals, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects. Studies in humans provide supportive evidence for potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of PCBs. The different health effects of PCBs may be interrelated, as alterations in one system may have significant implications for the other systems of the body. The potential health effects of PCB exposure are discussed in greater detail below. 


Several diseases are caused by fungi and bacteria present in bird and bat droppings.
What is Histoplasmosis?
It is an infectious disease caught by inhaling the spores of the histoplasmosis capsulation fungus. While it is not contagious, the disease can affect a wide variety of the population who may not even be aware they are at risk.
How do I know if I have Histoplasmosis?
The disease first affects the lungs, and often those with the disease have no or very mild symptoms within the first few days. On an average, around 10 days after exposure, many sufferers complain of flu-like symptoms: fever, chest pain, loss of appetite, dry cough, headache, shortness of breath, impaired vision, and possibly joint and muscle pains. Because of the vague symptoms, you may have been exposed to the disease and not know it.
Risk of Infection:
  • Birds - Although cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, and psittacosis infections are rare, they can occur. Individuals who are young, elderly, or immune-compromised are most at risk. These infectious agents can pose a significant health risk if left unattended to.
  • Bats - Rabies can be prevalent in bats and exposure is a concern.  But a lesser known danger, and one that is not as easy to avoid, is histoplasmosis, a disease you can get from exposure to bat guano (bat droppings).

Bird & Bat Guano Waste Remediation

Remedial clean-up and controlling an area is ultimately responsible for all required cleanup and bird/bat control measures. Humans may be infected by inhalation of fungi- or bacteria-contaminated dust (Histoplasmosis) or close contact with contaminated material. Therefore individuals who work in, or clean up, areas contaminated with bird or bat droppings may become exposed when the material is disturbed or dust is created.

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