Chemicals are used in the production of just about every physical good made today. Scientists and researchers have spent hundreds of years refining modern chemistry, and the advancements made along the way have paved the road for safer industrial use of chemicals in manufacturing, medicine and beyond.
Unfortunately, chemical waste is an issue that must be dealt with whenever hazardous chemicals are used in any industry. The waste left behind after processing chemicals can sometimes be recycled, such as in the case of solvents. You can request a quote from NexGen Enviro Systems Inc. to learn more about solvent distillation, solvent recyclers and parts washers. When waste cannot be recycled, it must be disposed of, and this can be challenging when the waste is considered hazardous.
Four Categories Of Chemical Waste
Even if chemical waste can be recycled, it still typically falls into one of four different categories. These include: ignitable, corrosive, reactive and toxic. Any of these categories can include solids, liquids and gases as chemical waste comes in different forms. Additionally, waste products may fall into more than one category, and this can change how a chemical byproduct is treated during recycling or disposal.
Ignitable Chemical Waste
Liquid waste that has a flash point of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or less is considered ignitable. This simply means that the waste can be ignited, and the flash point represents the temperature at which ignition occurs. A liquid may be flammable, but that designation alone does not qualify it for the ignitable waste category.
Solids are considered ignitable when they can be ignited through surface friction, changes in chemical makeup or the absorption of certain liquids. An ignitable piece of solid chemical waste must also create a fire hazard that is vigorous and persistent, meaning solid chemical waste that can be set on fire does not qualify as ignitable based solely on containing flammable properties. Gases can differ in terms of ignition variables, but any gas that can be ignited falls into the ignitable waste category.
Corrosive Chemical Waste
Corrosive waste includes waste that has the potential to cause corrosion due to exposure. According to Boston University, liquids are corrosive when they are both aqueous and have a pH of two or less or a pH that is greater than 12.5. Liquids also fall into the corrosive waste category when they can corrode SAE 1020 steel at a rate of 6.35mm per year or greater. Many acids are included in the corrosive category.
Reactive Chemical Waste
Reactive chemical waste is deemed such when waste has the potential to produce a violent reaction when exposed to certain conditions. This waste does not produce detonation under normal conditions, but it can produce unpredictable reactions that include detonation when variables are introduced to the waste. In looking at the variables involved in reactions with this type of waste, reactions to water, air, chemical compounds and vapors should be considered.
Toxic Chemical Waste
Toxic chemical waste is waste that is included in the U list maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These are specific chemicals that produce toxic effects, and each has its own code on the U list. Disposal of toxic waste is the only option as recycling in the traditional sense isn’t possible. Toxic waste must be treated with curative chemical agents, buried or incinerated according to EPA guidelines. While some chemicals that have toxic or toxic-adjacent properties may be able to be recycled after treatment, definitively toxic waste must be treated and disposed of in a safe manner.