How Do You Dispose of Workplace Spills and Contaminated Waste?

Waste disposal Northern Beaches can help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and ensure you place the right thing in the right bin. Obviously, this can be a leading question. It really depends upon what the waste product is, where you are and, to a degree, what resources you have at your fingertips for the disposal. Whilst this sounds a little like a cop-out, it is true. Different states and countries have different rules for waste disposal. How Do You Dispose of Workplace Spills and Contaminated Waste?

A very important facet of your waste disposal policy should include the classification of waste. DECC (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water) or as it is now called Office of Environment and Heritage, sets out the rules for waste classification guidelines through various documents (most of which can be found online). In 2009 Australian authorities moved away from this USEPA (United States EPA) as a basic test method and changed the testing for waste classification and disposal.

USEPA 9095 is actually a test Method and has never been a Standard. It always was the most basic minimum of tests and was included by NSW EPA as an example of a type of test that would be acceptable to prove that liquids will not be re-released under the waste’s own weight. Unfortunately, as it is a Method and not a Standard, anyone can manipulate the test to make their product pass, and many do just that. In 2009 NSW EPA eliminated the stated example, but the requirement for testing remains.

Waste, is not simply waste. The disposal of the different classifications of waste vary according to state laws, local regulations and the environmental authority guidelines. There are, by the Office of Environment & Heritage guidelines, 6 waste classes in use. These are Special waste, liquid waste, hazardous waste, restricted solid waste, general solid waste (putrescible) and general solid waste (non-putrescible).

For now, I will focus on spilled oil or hydrocarbons, and the resultant waste once the spill has been cleaned up. The method of disposal of used absorbant product is based on whether the resulting waste produced from the spill clean-up meets the requirements of General Immobilisation Approval 99/06.

The GIA requires two main things:

1. “Oil absorbent materials for cleaning up spilt Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons C10 – C36 are capable of securely containing more than 100% of their own mass of such hydrocarbons.”

2. “Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons C10 – C36 that are contained within the used oil absorbent materials are immobilised and will not be released as free liquids during handling, transportation and disposal.”

Let’s take a look at floor sweeps. There are several suppliers of floor sweep and spill control equipment in the market today. If the product you are using does not fully encapsulate 100% of its own volume in hydrocarbon, you cannot simply keep on applying more and more absorbent in order to not have any free liquid present in the waste. This is to prevent our landfills from filling up with excessive amounts of sand, dirt or “kitty litter” (as they are filling up too quickly as it is). Thus, this criteria automatically excludes all adsorbents such as the inorganic ‘kitty litter’ products (zeolite, various clays, amorphous silica, DE), sand, dirt and even chunky sawdusts.

Different floor sweeps will vary in their characteristics – what they are made from and how they do what they do. Some may say ‘kitty litter’ or sawdust. Others will be a mixture of ingredients and will be a true floor sweep with greater absorption characteristics and bio-degradability. All these products have a place in a holistic view of spill control and waste disposal, but each may also have different rules for its disposal after use.

Firstly, you need to decide if your waste product, now comprising the spilled oil soaked up inside the floor sweep, is fully encapsulated within the floor sweep (or whatever you used to absorb it). This full encapsulation means that the oil will not ‘leak’ or leach back out of the product. Its disposal can be based on whether the resulting waste produced from the spill clean-up meets the requirements of General Immobilisation Approval 99/06. If it does, then the waste can be discarded as General Solid waste (non-putrescible). If it does not meet GIA 99/06, then the waste must be disposed as Hazardous Waste.

So, I hear you ask, how do you know what product to use that will fully encapsulate the liquid waste and enable easier disposal of your spilled oil waste?

I’m glad you asked. There is a test called the ‘Paint Filter Liquids Test’ that is commonly referred to in the spill control industry. This is a USA test method, and it is used to determine the presence of free liquids in a representative sample of waste. It is referred to by many suppliers of floor sweep to show the high quality of their product. It was also used as a basic test method to enable classification of waste as liquids free. I say ‘was… because in 2009 NSW EPA moved away from this as a test requirement and created Australia’s own testing measures for waste classification and disposal.

If you see a floor sweep company bragging about its compliance with the Paint Filter’s Test, whilst not a negative claim, you should bear in mind that Office of Environment & Heritage have changed the classification rules and the disposal rules for waste. This test is no longer applied in NSW (at least) and it is worth your time to investigate specific instances for waste classification (and disposal). Talk to your local council, state government or a certified waste disposal company for more information on specific waste classifications and disposal.

Warren R Ratliff, from Sydney, Australia, has over twenty years of real time experience within small and medium business in Australia. Over this time the environmental sector has grown, and now working with Chatoyer Environmental enables him to offer his experience within the environmental industry. Through his article and news writing he is able to offer assistance to business and environmental managers to enable them to better understand their responsibilities and offer solutions.

Living in the belief that the environment is worth protecting, Warren focuses on storm water pollution prevention and spill control.

Contact Warren at his email address [email protected] or visit the website to see how environmental protection can assist your business.

+61 458 185 910

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