Hazardous Waste

Due to severe environmental risks, the management of hazardous waste requires special attention within any waste management system. Improper handling, treatment and disposal of hazardous substances from industries and commerce facilities, agriculture, medical facilities and even households may lead to serious public health problems as well as detrimental environmental pollution. The improper disposal of hazardous wastes may lead to the formation of contaminated sites. Many sites remain untreated because they have extremely high rehabilitation costs, which in turn, prolong their harmful effects upon the environment.  Most often, new generations are laid with the burden of having to undertake the costs and responsibility.

In the Cartagena declaration on the prevention, minimization and recovery of hazardous wastes and other wastes found under the Basel Convention, the signatory countries stated that "the challenge we face regarding hazardous wastes and other wastes is a threat to human health and the environment, and is best addressed through the avoidance of the use of hazardous substances in products and processes as well as through production methods that prevent and minimize waste generation". The Basel Convention addresses the issue of the trans-boundary movements of hazardous and other waste including the management and disposal in an environmentally sound way.

While a lot of effort is made to minimize the creation of hazardous wastes, the generation of these wastes will not cease any time soon. Waste management systems are obligated to organize the collection, transportation, treatment and disposal (incineration or landfilling in special compartments of a sanitary landfill) of wastes in the most comprehensive manner, while rendering each traceable step. Resource recovery and treatment technologies must be developed and implemented as well.

While developed countries are often able to address these challenges in a rather successful way, in many low- and middle-income countries, institutional and technological capacities are too insufficient at creating conditions for an effective management of hazardous waste. Quite often, the consequential contaminations along the most vulnerable areas are disastrous.

Waste Streams

The Basel Convention, the European legal framework and the legislation of many other countries define wastes as "any substances or objects which the holder discards/disposes or intends or is required to dispose/discard".

Waste is an aspect of the life cycle of objects and substances. Generally, wastes are solid, sludgy or liquid, but never gaseous emissions.

The European Union and many other countries all over the world have issued Lists of Waste to enforce the uniform identification, classification, reporting and control of waste and to give clear guidance for the transport, handling and disposal of waste. These classification systems usually include specifications for hazardous waste. For management purposes, different types of wastes are often summarized into waste streams. The following non-comprehensive overview on some waste streams highlights certain wastes that are subjected to contributions on this platform. Examples of waste streams summarized by:

Origin / Source:

  • Municipal solid waste;

  • Construction and demolition waste;

  • Industrial waste;

  • Healthcare waste;

  • Mining waste;

  • Agricultural waste etc.

Substance / Chemicals contained in the waste:

  • Chemical waste = Waste that consist of chemical substances, chemical byproducts of large manufacturing facilities and laboratories, as well as smaller-scale solvents and other chemicals disposed of by households;
  • Obsolete / Waste Pesticides = Waste containing any concentrations of pesticides, including excess pesticides, suspended / expired pesticides, left over spray solutions, rinse material from containers and spray equipment etc.;
  • PCB/PCT and Wastes containing PCB/PCT
  • Mercury and Wastes containing mercury
  • Waste Asbestos (fibers, dust) etc.;

Group of Waste Product / Equipment

  • E-Waste / WEEE;
  • Spent batteries and accumulators
  • Package and packaging waste etc.
  • Biodegradable waste