The importance of regulation and compliance in the disposal of your chemical waste


Waste management firm Chloros Environmental specialises in the disposal of hazardous waste and recycling solutions. Here, managing director Richard Hurdle offers a contemporary perspective on hazardous waste disposal

No matter where you are based, all business owners are legally obligated to follow certain business waste regulations. Chemical waste in particular can be harmful to health and the environment, and it’s crucial to understand the steps you need to follow to remain compliant. Here are the main things you need to consider:

Defining hazardous chemical waste
‘Hazardous chemical waste’ is any substance that poses a health threat to humans or could cause damage to the environment, if not managed correctly. Chemical waste can be generated by many sources, ranging from chemical laboratories and industrial manufacturing to the disposal of household batteries or cleaning fluids. As a rule of thumb, a chemical is hazardous if it’s flammable (flashpoint below 60°C) or if it is corrosive and has a pH lower than 4 or higher than 1. It will also be classed as hazardous if it is unstable, explosive or reacts violently with water; or if it is toxic and could harm people or the local ecosystem.

Minimising your output
Even if your business relies heavily on the use of chemicals and potentially hazardous materials, there are things you can do minimise your usage. Where possible, you should choose the purest, least hazardous and non-corrosive materials and, if there aren’t any safer chemical alternatives available, you should use only the minimum amount required and re-use as many chemicals as you can.

Monitoring COMAH Levels
As a business handling chemical waste, it’s crucial that you are aware of the COMAH [Control of Major Accident Hazards] regulations and monitor your levels. The regulations have been in place since 1999, with the aim of preventing, controlling and mitigating the effects of accidents involving chemicals that could cause serious harm to people and/or the environment. Such accidents include fires, explosions, toxic gas releases and leaks of hazardous substances to rivers and land.

There are two threshold levels of COMAH site: ‘Lower Tier’ sites which hold a smaller number of hazardous materials and ‘Upper Tier’ sites which have larger hazardous inventories and are more potentially hazardous. The regulatory requirements for Upper Tier sites are more stringent, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the regulations, determine which tier you fall into and understand your obligations.

As part of this, you should keep strict inventory control to manage your chemical stocks, keep track of the shelf life of materials and ensure you don’t order too much or too little of any chemical.

Preventing spills
You need to fully assess your site and ensure it is optimised for waste reduction, which includes checking there is adequate space between storage and work areas and there are no dangerous obstructions. You should also minimise the need for chemicals to be taken from storage by scheduling production carefully. This will not only reduce the risk of leaks and spills but will ensure materials are only handled when absolutely required.
Disposing of your waste appropriately

Anybody who generates, stores, works with, and disposes of waste is bound by a duty of care, and chemical waste, like other hazardous waste, needs to be treated, disposed of, or recycled safely in order to protect your workforce and comply with regulations.

Hazardous waste must be pre-treated before it goes to landfill, and you must not treat it yourself unless you are authorised to do so. Even if you outsource your waste to a waste management company, you are responsible for ensuring the waste is being dealt with appropriately, so it is vital to check the credentials of the company you are working with to ensure it is reputable and reliable.

Outsourcing your chemical waste management
You should choose a waste management company that has robust systems in place for handling and disposing of your waste. The most reputable companies will adhere to the ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) guidelines – the most optimal techniques for preventing or minimising emissions and impacts on the environment.

These techniques include using covered storage for areas to store the waste in as it arrives, on-site lab testing capabilities to confirm different types of waste when they arrive, and stock control areas to divide various types of waste and ensure they are treated in the correct way.
Look for a company that also has accredited quality and environmental management systems. This will ensure the company is working to the highest standards and continuously reviewing and improving these systems.

Examples of innovative improvements include software systems to manage and track data associated with the waste handled and infra-red heat monitoring cameras link to 24hr monitoring centre which notify the business if waste is heating up to avoid the outbreak of a fire.

Overall, understanding regulation of the production of hazardous chemical waste is a goal that should be shared by all organisations in order to benefit from a safer and more compliant workplace. If in doubt, seek the advice of an external expert who will be able to provide further guidance and ensure you are following the correct protocol.