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What Is Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous waste is any material or by-product that can harm living organisms or the environment if released into our surroundings. These materials are typically toxic, corrosive, or otherwise potentially hazardous. Businesses or individuals generate hazardous wastes in their homes. In many instances, these wastes are produced by industries that have closed down or left the region.

This means that such hazardous waste is no longer under the control of an owner or operator who would otherwise be obligated to collect it for disposal. Not everyone knows the right way to dispose of hazardous waste; that is why it is essential to contact a professional company to offer you appropriate waste management.

This article will discuss how hazardous waste is managed, the legal aspect of waste disposal, the compensation and liability Act, and examples of hazardous waste in Australia.

Reactive And Nonreactive Substances

Reactive substances interact with something and change it in some way. Reactive substances generally require and become much more dangerous when exposed to heat (but not combustion). For example, sulphur reacts with oxygen in the presence of sunlight to form sulphur dioxide (sulphur oxide).

Thereafter, this gas interacts with oxygen molecules creating a chain reaction called ozone depletion (ozone pollution). Nonreactive substances such as mercury do not interact chemically with other materials.

Hazardous Substances Found In Waste Streams

Waste streams can also include products that have been used previously and which are now being broken down into raw materials for use again (e.g., used tires). These raw materials can include clay, gravel, and sand. The following is a list of some typical hazardous substances that may be found in the waste stream:

Radioactive waste

Radioactive material is a highly reactive, potentially explosive, and often toxic waste product. It is generated by nuclear power plants, research facilities, and medical use of radioactive isotopes.

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste includes materials that have been found to present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment if they are not appropriately and safely managed. Examples include industrial chemicals, pesticides, cleaning solvents, batteries (lead-acid), and explosives (nitrocellulose).

Combustible liquid and gaseous waste

These are liquids with flash points below 100°F (38°C). They are flammable at ordinary temperatures and burn vigorously when exposed to heat energy from a spark or flame source.

Combustible liquids include crude oil, paint thinners, turpentine, kerosene, gasoline (petroleum), diesel fuel, fuel oil, and similar products containing large amounts of petroleum fractions.

Pyrophoric gases contain flammable components that spontaneously ignite under certain conditions, such as high temperatures.

Hazardous Waste Management In Australia

The types of hazardous waste that pose a risk to human health and the environment are classified into different categories in Australia. The (EPBC Act) Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 classifies these types of waste according to their impact on the natural surroundings.

The four classes of hazardous wastes in Australia are:

• Class A: Highly toxic or reactive substances that may cause death or permanent injury to humans through inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or contact with the eyes. Examples include certain solvents and some organic peroxides.

• Class B: Toxic if inhaled, swallowed, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled into the lungs and may cause temporary or permanent injury to humans through ingestion.

• Class C: Toxic if swallowed and may cause temporary or permanent harm to humans through ingestion.

• Class D: Toxic if swallowed, and inhalation may cause temporary or permanent injury to humans.

Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA)

The RCRA is broken down into five parts as follows:

• Part A: This part prescribes requirements for managing hazardous wastes, including labelling, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.

• Part B: This part specifies requirements for managing non-hazardous waste, including labelling, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.

• Part C: This part of the RCRA establishes procedures for managing used oil and grease.

• Part D: This part of the RCRA establishes regulations for solid waste facilities that generate hazardous or non-hazardous wastes on-site or off-site. This regulation also applies to facilities that store or treat hazardous wastes from off-site sources.

• Part E: This part of the RCRA sets forth regulations governing treatment technology used to manage toxic substances.

Australia's Compensation And Liability Act

The Australian government has a comprehensive set of rules and regulations to ensure that you comply with waste management requirements. This is in the form of the Compensation and Liability Act. The Compensation and Liability Act was created so that those who damage or pollute the environment face higher penalties.

This Act makes it illegal to disturb a natural resource without first obtaining an environmental permit. The Act also requires that any company that causes pollution must pay for any damage they cause. In addition to the Compensation and Liability Act, there are many other laws in place that ensure we treat our environment responsibly and don't do harm to it.

These laws include the ones listed below but are not limited to them:

• The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

• The Pollution Control and Environment Act 1999

• The Water Resources Management Act 2000

• The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988

Types Of Hazardous Waste

There are copious types of hazardous waste that can be found in the world. All kinds of hazardous waste have to be handled with care and skill.

There are several ways in which hazardous wastes are released into the environment. They include:

• Leakage from industrial processes and disposal sites

• Improper storage or disposal of chemicals

• Improper treatment of hazardous waste materials

• Use and reuse without proper treatment

• Accidental release from vehicles and containers

• Spillages from ships or aircraft

The primary sources of hazardous waste are manufacturing industries such as oil refineries, paint factories, and pesticide processing plants. Industries that deal with chemicals in general also generate large amounts of these dangerous substances, which they must deal with safely; otherwise, it would be challenging for them to function correctly.

Households can also generate hazardous wastes through their activities such as cooking food or disposing of their household garbage in the right place by following all the rules set out by authorities concerned with such matters.

Examples Of Hazardous Wastes

Examples of hazardous wastes include:

• Chemical wastes - These include things such as solvents and other chemicals, not excluding waste from petroleum refining, and chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and xylene.

• Chemical solvents - These are used in oil extraction from rock formations; ferric chloride (used in electroplating.)

• Compressed gas cylinders - These contain toxic gases such as chlorine or ammonia.

• Radioactive materials

• Domiciled waste such as asbestos shingles or cinder blocks.

• Unmodified engines or engine parts - For use in racing only.

• Other waste - Generated during manufacturing processes.

There are very many examples of hazardous wastes. Let us dig deeper with a few examples. Below are some of the common examples.

Household hazardous waste

Household hazardous waste can be seen as any waste that does not meet the definition of hazardous waste but still presents a hazard to health, safety, or the environment.

While many of these materials can be recycled or reused safely, some are considered hazardous. Examples include:

• Tobacco products

• Pesticides and herbicides

• Motor oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products

• Household cleaners and paints

Batteries and fluorescent bulbs

• Rechargeable batteries (e.g., cell phones)

• Drain cleaners

Medical waste

Medical waste is the material that comes from medical, dental, and veterinary clinics and other health establishments. It can be classified as hazardous waste. These wastes contain infectious disease vectors such as blood, body fluids, tissues, sharp objects, syringes, and instruments.

The most common types of medical waste are sharps, corneal cells, and pathological specimens. Sharps are needles, scalpels, razors, and other sharp objects used in the treatment of patients. These should be disposed of in a biohazard bag that has been sealed and appropriately labelled.

Sharps can be disposed of at your local pharmacy or a designated collection centre for low-level radioactive waste. Corneal cells are removed during eye surgery. They must be incinerated or buried at a certified landfill.

Suppose you do not have access to a certified landfill site nearby. Use a needle disposal program approved by your county health board or city council that accepts used hypodermic needles (needles only).

Radioactive materials

Radioactive materials are dangerous substances that emit high-energy radiation from gamma rays, beta particles, and neutron radiation. They are used for a number of medical and industrial purposes, such as creating radioisotopes for industry and medicine.

They can cause cancer and death if the body is exposed to a huge dose. The most common types of radioactive waste include:

• Positron emission tomography (PET) scanners which are used to diagnose cancer

• Radioactive tracers for medical imaging

• Biomedical waste from hospitals and clinics

• Low-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants

Waste from other industries also contains harmful substances. For example, toxic chemicals such as mercury or arsenic are often found in waste products that come from manufacturing processes.

Mercury can cause severe damage to not only the brain but the nervous system. This is in the event that it enters the body by way of the mouth or nose. Arsenic can cause skin rashes, hair loss, and even death if it enters a person's bloodstream.

Contamination from oil spills

The primary carrier of petroleum products is the air. After a significant spill, contaminated air can be blown into the atmosphere and cause regional pollution. Examples of hazardous waste are petroleum products and contaminated soil and water from oil spills.

Petroleum products considered hazardous include jet fuel, kerosene, gasoline, and diesel. Contaminated soil and water from oil spills are also regarded as hazardous wastes because they contain materials that can cause health problems to people living near the site of an oil spill.


Mercury is an incredibly toxic substance that is found in many products. Mercury contains a metallic element, which can cause health problems if it enters the body. The most prevalent way for mercury to enter the body is by inhaling or ingesting it. While it is possible to get some of this metal from fish, most come from products like thermometers, thermostats, and fluorescent light bulbs.

The process of breaking down certain types of waste also releases toxic heavy metals into the atmosphere. These metals include nickel and chromium, known carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. The EPA estimates that approximately 70% of all hazardous waste produced in the United States is disposed of improperly, leading to increased risks for people who work with these materials.

Pesticides, herbicides, and rodent poisons

Pesticides, herbicides, and rodent poisons are examples of harsh chemicals that have no place in the environment. According to the EPA, pesticides are harmful to people, animals, and the environment. They can contaminate water sources, harm crops, and kill wildlife. Pesticides can also harm humans by entering our bodies through contact with food or drinking water.

Herbicides are another type of harsh chemical that can cause severe damage to plants. Herbicide drift occurs when chemicals are sprayed on fields, but then rain washes them into nearby streams or lakes, where they contaminate fish, birds, and other wildlife. Herbicide drift can also affect humans if someone ingests contaminated fish from a stream or lake.

Rodent poisons are another harsh chemical that you should never release into the environment. They pose a severe threat to wildlife such as birds and small mammals. Rodent poisons can also be deadly to humans, who may accidentally consume them when they eat rodents that have ingested these poisons.


Asbestos is a hazardous substance linked to severe health problems. It's also known as an aggressive carcinogen (cancer-causing material).

There are many different types of asbestos, and they can be found in various places, such as the following:

• Roofing materials

• Insulation materials

• Floor tiles, vinyl, and acoustic ceiling tiles

• Fireproofing materials

• Ductwork

The most common type of asbestos found in Australia is chrysotile asbestos, which contains white or brown fibres. It's a naturally occurring mineral mined for thousands of years before it became illegal to mine in most countries worldwide.

Some people still receive this type of asbestos exposure today through their daily life activities, such as:

• Construction workers who handle roofing materials containing chrysotile asbestos. They breathe in airborne fibres from these materials while working on roofs.

• People who work with or have been exposed to someone who works with asbestos-containing materials, such as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and painters, may inhale dust from these materials while working with materials that contain asbestos.

Electronic waste (e-waste)

E-waste comes from many sources, including computers and other electronic devices, that are discarded as people upgrade their technology. It's a growing problem worldwide as more people purchase new electronics instead of repairing old models. It's not just electronic components being thrown away — plastic bags containing mercury batteries are also common in e-waste streams.

Handling And Storage Of Hazardous Wastes

Hazardous waste management should be handled by professionals to prevent them from entering the environment. This means that hazardous waste sites must be located away from residential areas and other sensitive zones such as schools and day care centres. An item is considered hazardous if it contains certain chemicals or heavy metals that may cause harm when released into the environment.

Hazardous waste sites must be monitored regularly for leaks, spills, and other issues that could contaminate nearby soil and water sources. Hazardous waste sites must be cleaned up after disposal so that they don't pose any further threat to public health or safety.

Hire Experts To Dispose Of Hazardous Waste

The Hazardous Waste Act has been in place for more than two decades and is designed to be environmentally protective not just of the environment but for people and property. The Act ensures that all waste is managed to minimise its impact on people, the environment, and the community.

Hazardous wastes may be considered materials that are toxic, corrosive, or otherwise potentially hazardous to human health or the ecosystem. Knowing which materials are deemed hazardous will help you dispose of them properly and keep your family safe.

Even though most people know that these types of wastes are toxic to humans, they may not realise how harmful they can be until they see their children suffer from exposure to them. Getting in touch with a safe and professional company to help you dispose of hazardous waste is essential.

The federal government has established guidelines on how these companies handle different types of hazardous waste. If they fail to follow the guidelines set out by the government, they could be fined by the government or even face criminal charges!