The Environment Agency defines hazardous waste as that which contains substances or has properties that might be harmful to human health or to the environment.
As well as chemicals, many everyday items such as fluorescent tubes, televisions and computer monitors are classified as hazardous waste and, as such, require special handling and processing.
In April 2011 The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 were implemented dictating how hazardous waste should be handled. In addition to these regulations the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations may also apply when handling or disposing of some materials.
If you are in possession of or have control of hazardous materials you have a legal duty of care to make sure that any waste that you produce is handled in accordance with these regulations. This is to ensure that it causes no harm or damage. You must safely and securely store all hazardous waste in suitable containers, clearly labelled showing any effects that they might have on health or the environment.
Chemicals or substances that carry a risk of reacting with each other must be stored separately. There are substances that can be relatively harmless if stored on their own but if combined with others may present a greater risk to health.
There are a number of options available for the storage of hazardous waste, from IBCs and stillages to UN approved drums.
If you need to store or transport large quantities of bulk liquids, such as chemicals and solvents or granulate substances then you should use an IBC (intermediate bulk containers). IBCs are reusable industrial containers most commonly made from plastic composite and housed within an iron cage attached to a pallet. They are stackable and the pallet means that they can be moved using a forklift truck.
In addition to plastic, IBCs can be manufactured from fibreboard, aluminium, carbon steel or galvanised iron depending on the material being stored, the needs of the shipper and any legal requirements.
Heavier gauge plastic IBCs don’t require a steel cage and have a pallet moulded into the bottom.
Most common sizes are 1040 litres and 1250 litres, which puts them in the middle of the range between drums and tanks, hence the name intermediate.
For smaller quantities of liquids and powders you may choose to use a drum. These are most commonly made from steel but can also be made from plastics or paperboard. They are the most common method of storing and transporting dangerous goods and the make of drum will be matched to the type of goods it contains in order to comply with regulations.
Drums have standard dimensions to allow stacking of mixed pallets and have a nominal volume of 205 litres.
Drums come in two types – open top and welded top, which have small bungholes for filling and emptying. Open top, also known as clip top, drums are sealed using a mechanical ring clamp, which makes an airtight seal against a gasket. If they are used to transport dangerous goods across international boundaries then they will need UN certification.
Drums are often stored on pallets for ease of transportation.
A stillage is similar to a pallet but with a cage or sides. This makes them ideal for containing bulky or unusually shaped items either for storage or transportation. They are specifically tailored to the type of material they are intended to transport. Stillages are mainly used to transport goods without the need to unload them, saving on time and decreasing the chance of damage.
Metal stillages are usually made of sheet steel and are designed to take heavy loads. Because they are more robust and designed to last longer than stillages made of other materials these steel examples are often the most cost effective solution.
Stillages are available with mesh or sheet sides, meaning that they are suitable for the storage and transportation of a wide range of materials. They can also be collapsible, so once the goods have been delivered the unit can be collapsed therefore saving on space that would otherwise be taken up by empty units.
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In addition to the containers that you keep your materials in, you must also consider the location in which they are kept. Where there is a risk that hazardous liquids could spill you must ensure that they are contained usually by the provision of something called a bund.
Basically a bund is a low wall that is constructed to contain spills and in many countries is a legal requirement around storage vessels and tanks.