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How to dispose of hazardous waste

How to dispose of hazardous waste

Hazardous waste threatens human health, safety, well-being, and life. It’s obviously something that you’d want to avoid, so how to correctly dispose of hazardous waste should be considered. 

The familiar symbol of hazardous waste might be the disastrous fallouts from nuclear reactors or old asbestos. But there are other subtle and dangerous examples, like your house’s toilet waste or expired medicines. 

Interestingly, household hazardous waste accounts for 7.4Mt of waste annually.

Managing hazardous waste requires disposal methods that separate it from human life. The challenge is that humans interact with dangerous substances and unsafe chemicals daily, sometimes in ways that they are unaware of. 

Hazardous waste management prides itself on effective and safe disposal methods. Australian law agencies work with environmental protection agencies, businesses, and individuals to minimise human risk. 

Types of hazardous waste

Defining what is and what is not hazardous waste is an integral part of how it can be appropriately disposed of. 

landfill, junkyard, garbage lot

Hazardous waste is defined as anything that has the potential to cause harm to human life or well-being and the environment, now or in the future. 

It is important to note that this definition includes potential future damages. An exhaustive list of what is and is not treated as hazardous does not exist. 

This is because any waste can become hazardous. Narrow definitions of dangerous waste are avoided. 

However, there are some characteristics that the Australian government focuses on. They are:

  • Anything explosive
  • Flammable liquids/ solids
  • Anything poisonous
  • Anything toxic
  • Anything ecotoxic
  • Infectious substances

Hazardous Waste Management

Various forms of hazardous waste, from electronic waste (also known as e waste) to pool chemicals and gas bottles, require careful management by local experts.

Even small amounts of mismanagement can result in a negative environmental impacts when it comes to waste.

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Imagine if someone were to incorrectly drain a series of septic tanks. The small quantities that are leaked into the surrounding environment would cause the soil to be contaminated. Worse, there’s the danger that this fault will go unnoticed until a severe situation is created.

Ideally, hazardous waste items should be designed for recycling, much like gas bottles, which can be reused. 

This form of resource recovery illustrates how good management practices can be done without involving extensive energy once the waste is created.

It can start from the product’s manufacturing, where resource recovery remains the end goal. This ensures that the net amount of waste produced is minimised through recycling.

But this is not always possible. Luckily, in Australia, guidelines exist for hazardous waste disposal. Let’s delve into them.

Guidelines for hazardous waste disposal

In Australia, regulations around hazardous waste disposal have been under a government act since 1989. This act focuses on importing and exporting dangerous waste and protecting humans, both domestically and internationally. 

An essential aspect of this act involves environmental protection. While human life is obviously important, the environment must also be considered. 

This promotes environmental sustainability. It is also a form of long-term protection against issues like climate change. 

How hazardous waste is handled and disposed of across Australia aligns with international conventions in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal. 

One of the stipulations of this agreement is that waste must be disposed of as close to where it was made as possible. In response, the Australian government has banned the export of waste, except in particular, often emergency, situations. 

Australian hazardous waste disposal laws are also aligned with The Waigani Convention. This prohibits the importation of dangerous waste. The only exception is the agreement with Timor-Leste, where hazardous waste exports are allowed into Australia.

Note that the differences between household hazardous waste and industrial hazardous materials tend to follow similar disposal methods. Both should be treated with the utmost care by an experienced team that is well-versed in the waste management industry.

While household chemicals seem different from the type of toxic chemicals produced by your local business, they should be considered equally dangerous and have the potential to have the same environmental footprint.

Disposing of hazardous chemical waste

When disposing of hazardous chemical waste, it is best to consult a professional hazardous waste management company. 

But, at times, you can do it yourself. 

Here are some tips for doing due diligence when disposing of hazardous chemical waste. 

  1. Never improperly dispose of hazardous chemicals
  2. Know the products by looking at the packaging
  3. Safely clean any containers that contain hazardous chemicals
  4. Do not burn any container that once held dangerous chemicals
  5. Know which local authorities to contact. 

Let’s unpack these points further:

1. Never improperly dispose of hazardous chemicals

Improper disposal of dangerous chemicals can cause massive issues. Not only is it illegal in most countries, but it can also be harmful, and potentially lethal, to human health and well-being. 

Because of this, it is essential that you know and understand what chemicals are and are not hazardous. If unsure, always treat it as potentially dangerous until you are confident. 

Here are some examples of improper chemical waste disposal methods:

  • Dumping 
  • Littering
  • Not recycling when a product should be recycled
  • Ignoring local and international regulations
  • Incorrectly declaring the type of chemicals
  • Ignoring safe disposal best practices

2. Know the products by looking at the packaging

Products that contain potentially harmful chemicals are packaged in containers that will make their potential harms known. This is true for both industrial and commercially available products.

Consider the “do not ingest” warnings on many household cleaning supplies. 

If this product is dangerous to use, then its packaging can be harmful to dispose of as it can contain trace elements of hazardous chemicals.

Remember that even if your use for the product has ended, the container is still potentially hazardous.

3. Safely clean containers that contain hazardous chemicals

Safely clean any container that once stored dangerous chemicals. This aids in the long-term process of waste disposal.

It is essential when it comes to household waste. Even items like dishwashing detergent can contaminate soil. If they end up somewhere, like a landfill, where soil health can be impacted, you should minimise their potential damage. 

But remember, always be safe. When handling potentially harmful materials, wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

4. Do not burn any container that once held hazardous chemicals

Improperly disposed of chemicals can cause danger to human health and well-being. 

Because there are trace elements of waste in all containers that once held hazardous chemicals, they must be appropriately disposed of.

Do not burn any container that once held hazardous chemicals. These chemicals can convert into gas during this process, causing air pollution that can be very harmful if inhaled. 

The containers are usually made of materials that react negatively to fire and can pollute the air.

These containers should be recycled or reused safely. 

5. Know which local authorities to contact

We’re lucky to live in an age of information. If you are still determining who to contact, there’s someone in your local vicinity who you can contact.

We name the Best Hazardous Disposal Sites in Australia below.

Remember that waste disposal, while runoff by government and international laws, can be done by local businesses. Many of these businesses will be happy to help answer your questions and will be more than happy to take your load.

What to look for in Good hazardous waste disposal sites

The most common type of hazardous waste disposal system is a landfill. Here, unwanted waste is not merely discarded. It’s placed in a controlled environment that minimises its risk of spreading into the land, sea, or air. 

A good landfill considers the form in which the hazardous waste is present. If, for instance, the waste is in liquid form, it must have been capable of safely storing liquid for long periods. It should focus on leaks that could affect the surrounding ground and evaporation leaks. 

Most landfill sites are on the city outskirts, away from human habitation. Unfortunately, as cities grow more overcrowded, many begin looking for homes in places nearer and nearer to the landfills. 

This speaks to an issue affecting most landfills: that of permanence. Once zoned to house hazardous waste, most sites become unfit for human habitation. With proper management, the long-term environmental impacts can be minor. However, some sites can still threaten human life and health. 

Having these features should make them a leading provider in waste disposal.

Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites near you:

disposal, dump, garbage

If your household or your business needs to disposal of hazardous chemical waste, here are some great sites across the country for you to consider:

Waste Disposal Sites in Brisbane:

If you live in Brisbane, you’re lucky. The Brisbane City Council has four recovery centres where you can dispose of most household waste. They are open all year round and, best of all, they’re free to use.

Here’s a list of the sites run by the Brisbane City Council:

  • 1372 Nudgee Road, Nudgee Beach
  • 101 Upper Kedron Road, Ferny Grove
  • 728 Tilley Road, Chandler

Waste Disposal Sites in Perth:

People living in or around Perth have a host of options. These are administered by the Western Australian Local Government Association and help with storing, transporting, treating, and recovering household hazardous waste.

  • Recycling Centre Balcatta, 238 Balcatta Rd
  • Henderson Waste Recovery Park, 920 Rockingham Rd
  • Stanley Road Waste Management Facility,  Lot 45 Stanley Road

Waste Disposal Sites in Sydney:

Given its size, Sydney offers a host of hazardous waste disposal facilities. While you can go to the one closest to the waste that you are trying to dispose of, here’s our list of some of the top options:

  • City of Canada Bay Recycling Centre, 15-17 Regatta Road
  • Inner West Council Works Depot, 15-17 Unwins Bridge Road
  • North Sydney Community Recycling Centre, 8 Waltham Street

Waste Disposal Sites in Canberra

In Australia’s capital city, Canberra, there are many hazardous waste sites from which to choose. 

  • Waste Away, 25 Sheppard Street
  • Cheapest and Same-Day Rubbish, 19 Jardine Street
  • Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre, Mugga Lane

Hazardous Waste Disposal Near Me

If, even after reading this, you’re still struggling to find how to safely dispose of your waste, whether it be liquid waste, electronic waste, pool chemicals, unwanted household chemicals, or other materials that you know which to recycle or be rid of, then contact your nearest waste management centre.