Minimising hazardous waste at work

Protecting the quality of our water, soil, and air by preventing the release of toxic compounds is the main focus of hazardous waste prevention programmes. In addition to promoting proper storage and disposal of toxic waste, many programmes are emphasizing pollution prevention.

Reducing waste at the source (known as "source reduction") is the most efficient method of minimizing waste. This method means consuming less and using existing resources more efficiently. Because source reduction prevents materials from entering the waste stream in the first place, it reduces the need to reuse and recycle discarded materials.

What types of waste are hazardous?

Wastes are classed as hazardous according to the definition in Section 4(2) and associated Schedules of the Waste Management Acts 1996-2007 (Article 1(4) of Council Directive 91/689/EEC). Wastes are classified according to the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) and Hazardous Waste List, which is available from the EPA and can either be purchased from them or viewed on www.epa.ie. Hazardous wastes are identified with an asterisk * placed after the EWC number, for example:

  • EWC 15 01 10* packaging containing residues of or contaminated by dangerous substances.
  • EWC 17 05 03* soil and stones containing dangerous substances.
  • EWC 20 01 19* pesticides.
  • EWC 20 01 29* detergents containing dangerous substances

Common hazardous wastes include:

  • PAINTS, THINNERS, WOOD PRESERVATIVES, AEROSOL CANS, ADHESIVES.
  • FLUORESCENT LIGHT TUBES, BATTERIES, USED INK/TONER CARTRIDGES
  • OIL WASTES (excluding edible oils), USED OIL FILTERS / OIL RAGS.
  • WASTE ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT (WEEE) e.g. TV’S, COMPUTER MONITORS, FRIDGES
  • LABORATORY AND PROCESS CHEMICALS WITH HAZARD WARNING LABELS

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibility for establishing and reviewing the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan which can be viewed on their website www.epa.ie. The EPA’s Paper Tool for Identification of the Hazardous Components of Waste is also available on their website.

Reducing waste at the source (known as "source reduction") is the most efficient method of minimizing waste. This method means consuming less and using existing resources more efficiently. Because source reduction prevents materials from entering the waste stream in the first place, it reduces the need to reuse and recycle discarded materials.

Legislation

Legislation puts the onus on businesses to minimise waste and to ensure that any waste generated is segregated, securely contained and labelled, with final recovery or disposal at an approved facility. Waste contractors that take waste off-site must be approved under the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations S.I. No. 820 of 2007, as amended.

Regulations which address specific waste streams include:

  • Waste Management (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Regulations S.I. No. 355 of 2011
  • Waste Management (Batteries) Regulations S.I. No. 268 of 2008 / S.I. No. 556 of 2008
  • Waste Management (End of Life Vehicles) Regulations S.I. No. 282 of 2006
  • European Communities (Waste Oils) Regulations S.I. No. 399 of 1992

Certain other regulations refer to hazardous waste in general, such as:

  • European Communities (Shipments of Hazardous Waste exclusively within Ireland)
  • Regulations 2011 S.I. No. 324 of 2011
  • Waste Management (Shipments of Waste) Regulations 2007 S.I. No. 419 of 2007.
  • Waste Management (Hazardous Waste) Regulations 1998 S.I. 163 of 1998 - covers asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s)

Reducing Waste at Source

General

  • Top management need to display their full commitment.
  • Actively involve employees and provide feedback on the improvements made.

Measure - Monitor - Manage

Step 1 Conduct a Waste Audit

  • Establish the different sources, types and amounts of waste.
  • Measure the cost of waste – not just for disposal but other related costs such as labour, materials, energy and water.

Step 2: Establish Targets and Implement Programme

  • Waste reduction can often be made through simple, low-cost measures.
  • Assess how hazardous waste can be eliminated or reduced through material substitution e.g. replacement of solvent–based paints with water-based paints.
  • Redesign of process or product can save time and money as well as avoiding waste generation.
  • Look at ancillary services to see how wastes e.g. used oils or cleaning agents could be minimised. Use rechargeable rather than disposable batteries. Avoid the use of aerosols.
  • Recovery such as reuse of solvent can lead to lower purchase and disposal costs.
  • Safe off-site recovery or disposal is essential for any waste generated.

Step 3: Review Progress

  • Monitor how targets have been met.
  • Set further targets and thus feed back into the cycle of continuous improvement.

Important Note:

This leaflet is not intended to be a definitive guide. Businesses need to have knowledge of and consult directly with all relevant legislation and publications for a full and legal interpretation of requirements. All legislation and standards for handling of hazardous materials must be followed.