Non-Conforming Hazardous Waste Is a Serious Safety & Regulatory Issue

non-conforming waste

By definition, a hazardous waste is a waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. All wastes must go through a strict determination methodology to determine if the waste poses a threat to a person’s health and/or the environment – and would, therefore, be considered a hazardous waste by EPA regulations. Hazardous waste (HW) that is improperly classified – but managed off of a generator’s site to a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) – would be considered “non-conforming waste.”

The management and handling of an improper classified waste, on non-conforming waste, can lead to serious consequences at a TSDF. There are many instances over the years of injuries to TSDF employees, fires, explosions, and even some catastrophic events that have led to bodily impairment and death of TSDF personnel.

These are just some of the outcomes of improper waste classification. Other problems associated with non-conforming waste include environmental damage, liability issues, and higher disposal costs for waste generators. That’s why proper employee training and focus on regulatory compliance is so important.

Waste Shipments Must Meet TSDF Requirements

Each EPA permitted hazardous waste TSDF has a Waste Analysis Plan (WAP). A WAP is generally unique to the individual TSDF because it’s based on the treatment technology(s) conducted at the facility. Because of that, the WAP may require that different types and amounts of information be included on the HW profile.

An HW profile provides the physical description, chemical composition and properties, and specific constituents of the waste. It must accompany shipments delivered to the TSDF. Each container must have this information attached. All WAPs require the inspection of a specific percentage of containers (10% minimum) to ensure that the waste conforms to the information contained in its HW profile.

If the inspection and testing yield results outside the expected range, the shipment is categorized as non-conforming waste. The TSDF must segregate the waste in the receiving area and contact the generator for remediation.

Learn more about non-conforming hazardous waste identification and handling.

What Happens to Non-Conforming Waste?

Waste generators have “cradle to grave” responsibility for wastes generated from the time the waste is generated until ultimate disposal. Shipping it to a TSDF doesn’t relieve the generator of responsibility. When the TSDF inspection finds a non-conforming shipment, it alerts the waste generator to the problem. Whenever possible, the TSDF works with the generator to bring the shipment into compliance.

Common non-conforming waste issues include the following:

  • Paperwork discrepancies: The contents of the waste shipment must match the accompanying HW profile. Errors in the HW paperwork can cause a shipment to be held as non-conforming.
  • Mixed substances: Disallowed items or substances mixed with the waste can place the shipment outside the scope of the HW profile or the facility’s WAP. Depending on the situation, the TSDF may be able to remediate the problem on-site.
  • Physical Properties: A waste may be profiled as a solid and be received as a liquid. The waste may have an odor not consistent with the profiled constituents
  • Chemical Properties: The waste may be corrosive when profiled as neutral, or the waste may have a flash or off-gassing not consistent with the initial determination of the stream

Each of these situations requires extra work on the part of the TSDF. The generator usually bears those extra costs, and they can be substantial.

How Sharps Compliance Can Help

Even simple errors can lead to delays and extra costs when a waste stream is flagged as a non-conforming waste. We offer tools that help your employees gain knowledge and reduce the potential for errors. Here are some examples of how we can help:

  • Determine whether your waste is a RCRA hazardous waste under applicable federal and state requirements
  • Explain the general requirements in the federal hazardous waste regulations for managing HW – based upon its physical and chemical properties
  • Provide a checklist to assist you in conducting waste determination
  • Properly characterize hazardous wastes before managing them to a TSDF

Contact us to learn more about our industry-leading healthcare waste management solutions.

Joe Jordan

Author: Joe Jordan

Joe Jordan has a Bachelors of Arts degree in Chemistry from Washington and Jefferson College. He is certified in RCRA and DOT as well as 40 Hour HAZWOPER certified. Joe has been in the hazardous waste industry since 1990 and has managed industrial, healthcare, retail, and governmental clients, both large and small.