The 4 Characteristics of Hazardous Waste

In 2021, hazardous waste management presents a variety of challenges for most businesses and industries in the United States. Almost all medium- to large-scale industries generate some kind of hazardous or universal waste streams and it can be hard for business owners to keep it all straight. From heavy metals and acids in the metal finishing industry to solvents, paints, and aerosols in manufacturing plants, more and more businesses are generating hazardous waste, and the regulations that govern the industry are becoming more complicated to keep up with. Even those batteries and light bulbs that were once just tossed in the trash bin have become a part of waste stream regulations. When was the last time you went into any business that worked by candlelight? Every modern business creates some kind of regulated waste.

Informing Yourself on Waste Regulations

Current regulations create the need for efficient hazardous waste management and its proper disposal, which is a growing concern for many businesses and industries. Now more than ever, basic knowledge of waste management is paramount to minimize the exposure these waste streams have on life, property, and the environment. One major incident is enough to incur hefty fines, and in some cases, even permanent plant closure or jail time.

A great way to prevent these negative consequences is staying informed and up-to-date on current regulations and rules for your industry's waste streams. Even a basic knowledge of the different types of hazardous waste that your business generates is a great start to staying compliant and keeping your business running smoothly.


Types of Hazardous Waste


Corrosive waste is classified as a substance that can degrade the integrity of certain materials, destroying them in the process.

There are two types of corrosives to be aware of:

  • Acids - Substances with a pH of equal to or less than 2.5 on the pH scale. Acids can erode metal, drums, tanks, and barrels. Some stronger acids can even eat right through your bones.
  • Bases - Substances with a pH of equal to or greater than 12.5 on the pH scale.
  • Both of these types of corrosive waste can harm clothing, the skin, and the body with very little exposure. Anything that can eat through metal is, without doubt, something that you don’t want on any part of your body.


Ignitable waste is classified as any substance that can easily erupt into flames and has the tendency to produce harmful vapors. Ignitable substances typically have a flashpoint lower than 140 degrees Fahrenheit and can even spontaneously combust.

Other substances in this category to consider are oxidizers, compressed gasses, gasoline, and paint thinners.


Reactive waste is classified as substances that are unstable under normal conditions and can create poisonous or explosive gasses by undergoing violent reactions when combined with other chemicals. Reactive substances can also be dangerous when exposed to air and water, in some cases.


Toxic waste is classified as any substances that can poison animals and humans that come into contact with them and may also contaminate the environment in certain cases. Toxic substances can be fatal, even in small doses, and can pose long-term threats to human and animal life, health, and the environment.

Let the Experts Handle Your Waste

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the dangers associated with hazardous waste. In fact, this information is just the tip of the iceberg concerning your business's hazardous waste management. Dealing with and properly managing hazardous waste can be a complicated and time-intensive process. Taking steps to familiarize yourself with your company’s particular situation and arming yourself with knowledge about your company’s health and safety plan is the first stepping-stone to staying compliant and keeping your employees safe. Making a plan and working with a reliable hazardous waste disposal company like Environment Management Technologies is the best way to effectively and efficiently handle and manage your hazardous waste. For more information on choosing the right fit for your company, contact us today or visit our related blog post, 3 Questions You Should be Asking Your Hazardous Waste Hauler.

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