Hazardous Waste is defined in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as a nonradioactive solid waste or a combination of solid wastes that, due to its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics, may cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious, irreversible, or incapacitating illness or pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.

Note that waste must meet two criteria to be classified as hazardous. It must be solid and it must be hazardous. Owing to the above definition, waste is considered solid if it is in the form of a liquid, solid, semisolid, or contained gas. Solid waste is considered hazardous if it exhibits one of the primary characteristics of hazardous waste — such as ignitability, reactivity, corrodibility, or measurable toxicity.

Indeed the improper disposal of hazardous wastes is one of the most pressing environmental problems in the United States. Reports have it that over 63 million tons of hazardous waste is generated annually. The chemical industry accounts for more than 35% of waste generated, followed by the petroleum and primary metals industries.

Methods for treating hazardous wastes include physical, chemical, and biological techniques to eliminate or change its toxic properties. In biological treatment, a variety of microorganisms break down organic and toxic materials into water, carbon dioxide, and other nontoxic matter. Physical and chemical processes are used to treat both inorganic and organic hazardous waste that is non-biodegradable or resistant to biodegradation.

Hazardous Waste Disposal Costs Per Ton for Businesses (With and Without Sub charges)

  1. Acids: $2.12 – $1.18
  2. Asbestos, Non-Friable – Roof Tar And Tile (Triple Wrapped And Wetted): $1.62 – $0.90
  3. Ballasts, Non PCB (Not Electronic Ballasts): $0.97 – $0.54
  4. Ballasts, PCB: $0.86 – $0.48
  5. Bases: $2.12 – $1.18
  6. Carbon Filters: $4.83 – $2.69
  7. Compressed Gas Cylinders: Case-By-Case
  8. Cyanide, Compounds/Solutions: $6.12 – $3.40
  9. Flammable Liquids: $0.41 – $0.23
  10. Flammable Solids: $4.50 – $2.50
  11. Halogenated Solvents: $1.91 – $1.06
  12. Lead: $4.50 – $2.50
  13. Lighters, Butane Or Other: $6.75 – $3.75
  14. Mercury, Compounds/Solutions: $23.85 – $13.25
  15. Mercury, Elemental: $23.85 – $13.25
  16. Organic Peroxides: $12.15 – $6.75
  17. Oxidizers: $2.28 – $1.26
  18. Paint, Oil-Based Paints/Stains: $5/100 lbs
  19. Paint Related Materials: $1.05 – $0.59
  20. Pesticides/Poisons, Liquid: $1.80 – $1.00
  21. Pesticides/Poisons, Solid: $2.18 – $1.21
  22. Photographic Chemicals: $1.80 – $1.00
  23. Water Reactive: $6.12 – $3.40
  24. Dig: ISO-Tubes: $7.85
  25. Dig: Well Jars: $2.49

4 Factors That Determine the Cost of Disposing Hazardous Wastes

The cost of proper hazardous waste disposal can seem daunting. With a little bit of research and the right tactics, you can learn and master everything you need to know about hazardous waste management pricing. There are factors that influence and dictate the cost of disposing hazardous waste in the United States. These include;

1. Transportation

The first thing to realize with the cost of waste disposal and how it relates to your hazardous waste is that the transportation fee will vary from company to company. However, if you’re looking for qualified, reputable hazardous waste management companies, don’t forget that anything too high might mean you’re being overcharged, and anything too low might mean you’re compromising on the integrity and quality of the service you’re receiving.

What you can expect to pay for transportation fees depends on the liability involved should there be an accident during transport. The potential cleanup and damage from a nonhazardous shipment is drastically less than with hazardous materials.

Also note that the drivers actually doing the transporting must go through a significant amount of training before they are certified to haul hazardous material. Owing to these extra training requirements and the increasingly demanding physical restrictions, some of the transport costs you assume is due to the requirements for these highly trained, highly regulated drivers.

2. Location

Prices are, of course, going to vary according to geographic region. Using Atlanta as an example, an average hazardous waste transport would be in the ballpark of $45 per drum. On top of that, a company can expect to pay $50 for a stop charge. Twenty-two percent for fuel is considered industry standard.

3. Treatment

The cost of treating hazardous wastes range from $52 to $131 per ton for bulk treatment and $146 to $381 per 55-gal drum. Stabilization and fixation processes for inorganic and HM wastes have been proven successful, establishing these processes as acceptable technologies for land banned restricted wastes.

Stabilization of organic wastes has had a varying degree of success, so there is general agreement that this treatment of organic wastes should be handled on a case-by-case basis. The cost of treatment depends on the type and size of the treatment process and the characteristics of the waste. Furthermore, treatment costs increase as the influent waste concentration increases.

4. Storage and Disposal

Hazardous waste is usually put in interim, short-term storage in above-grade facilities, at an annual cost of $12 per pound for solid hazardous waste and $7 per gallon for liquid hazardous waste. Existing technologies and methods of disposing hazardous wastes include fuel blending of chemical wastes, land disposal, incineration, acid-base neutralization, oil and solvent Recovery, and cyanide detoxification.

Note that in evaluating the various options for disposing hazardous wastes, a major consideration is whether to reuse or recycle the material. Instead of being discarded or incinerated, solvents are reclaimed, usually through blending, distillation solvent extraction, and evaporation.

Chemicals that cannot be reused or recycled are incinerated, if possible, or buried in a chemical landfill. On the basis of these considerations, incineration is the most expensive hazardous waste disposal option, costing from $71 to $600 per ton for on-site incineration.

Incineration of dioxin-contaminated soils has been estimated to cost $790 per ton, and incineration of materials contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls at concentrations greater than 25,000 parts per million costs from $1,130 to $1,833 per ton.

Owing to the factors mentioned above, the cost estimates for movement and disposal range from $300 to $510 per metric ton ($270 to $460 per ton) depending on the nature of hazardous materials and methods of excavation. Note that this estimate includes excavation/removal, transportation, and disposal at a RCRA permitted facility.

Additional cost of treatment at disposal facilities may also be included. Excavation and off-site disposal is a relatively simple process, with proven procedures. It is a labour-intensive practice with little potential for further automation.

Conclusion

In recent years, methods of treating, storing, transporting, and disposing of hazardous wastes have come under increasingly acute public and regulatory scrutiny. Concerns have been related to a variety of issues including aesthetics, safety, risks, technologies, land use, and costs.

In response to these concerns, many private and public institutions have undertaken programs for waste minimization, pollution prevention, risk assessment, land management, or technology research, development, and demonstration.

Ajaero Tony Martins