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Jan 30
What is hazardous waste and what to do with it in Portland, OR

What To Know About Hazardous Waste Material

What is Hazardous Waste Material?

  There is a range of household products that are considered hazardous materials. The EPA defines hazardous waste/material as leftover household products that can catch fire, react, corrode, or explode under certain circumstances. Hazardous waste can be categorized into four distinct categories: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.

Ignitability

  Ignitable wastes are products that can easily catch on fire and sustain combustion. Ignitable products and wastes can have any of the following characteristics:

  • Liquid with less than 24% alcohol by volume, with a flashpoint below 140 F (60 C) 
  • A non-liquid that is capable, under standard time and pressure, of starting a fire through friction, absorption of moisture, or spontaneous chemical changes. When ignited, it can burn vigorously and persistently, making it a hazard.

Corrosivity

Corrosive wastes are acids or bases (pH level of less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5) that are capable of corroding metal, plastic, and other materials. Here are a few examples of chemical compounds with high and low pH balances.

Acids (Low pH levels)    

  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Chromic acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Nitric Acid

Bases (High pH Levels)

  • Ammonium hydroxide
  • Potassium hydroxide 
  • Sodium hydroxide

Reactivity

  Reactive wastes are metals and metal oxides that readily explode. This reactivity can be found in alkaline metals such as Lithium, Sodium, and Potassium. Here are some characteristics of reactive waste:

  • Capable of releasing large amounts of thermodynamic energy rapidly. 
  • Reactions can occur through contact with water, friction, heat, or shock.

Keep in mind, most everyday uses for Lithium, Sodium, and Potassium are ionized and pose no threat. Therefore, there is no need to worry about your electronics (Lithium-Ion Batteries), Table Salt (Sodium Chloride), or your bananas and potatoes (Potassium Chloride). While most of these reactive elements are stabilized for everyday use, some solvents and cleaners may need to be double-checked.

Toxicity

  Toxic waste is defined as objects or unwanted material in all forms that can pose harm through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin. Most toxic substances, both organic and inorganic, are found in every state of matter. Here are a few examples of the toxic materials found in varying states of matter.

Organic

  • Methoxychlor (Gas/Insecticide)
  • Trichloroethylene (Liquid/Solvent)
  • Aldrin (Gas/Pesticide)

Inorganic

  • Lead (Solid/Batteries)
  • Vanadium (Solid/Alloys)
  • Selenium (Solid/Rodent Killer)

As previously mentioned, there are some exceptions. Harder, solid elements such as Selenium, in mineral form, have been discovered in some foods. Studies have suggested that Selenium can be used as a health supplement and anti-oxidant. In all, researching chemicals and compounds found in your everyday household products will go a long way in helping you determine hazards and health.

Products

  Having a general understanding of these categories helps in spotting hazardous waste or material. While there may be quite a few essential products containing hazardous properties, here are a few everyday use products to be mindful of.

Products with Ignitable Properties

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Extension Cords
  • Aerosol cans
  • Gasoline, turpentine, and paint thinner
  • Hand sanitizer

Products with Corrosive Properties

  • Oven cleaners
  • Drain cleaners
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Automotive batteries

Products with Reactive Properties

  • Batteries
  • Remote Control Powered Accessories

Products with Toxic Properties

  • Pool Cleaner Chemicals
  • Mothballs
  • Furniture Polish

When looking out for any potentially hazardous materials, there are also a few home hotspots to be mindful of. Many of the products mentioned above may be stored in the following places.

  • Laundry Room
  • Kitchen
  • Garage
  • Basement
  • Attic
  • Pool

Unsure of What Else Might Be Hazardous?

Alpha Environmental provides hazardous waste disposal consulting that includes an assessment of the waste, sampling, inventory, packaging, transportation, and ultimately the proper disposal of the commercial or household waste. We take care of every aspect in an affordable, safe way to make sure that you don’t have to worry if the waste is being correctly disposed of.

While hazardous waste disposal is mostly for commercial properties, there are instances where household hazardous waste needs to be managed and disposed of. Alpha Environmental can handle any of these problems because you should not be disposing of hazardous waste like light bulbs, thermometers, and paints in the trash.

Proper disposal ensures that no one is exposed to the risk of inhaling toxic substances and reduces the chance of fires or explosions. Never pour or flush hazardous materials down the drain where they will enter the sewage system. This will lead to corroding plumbing and cause failure in septic systems before they make their way to our waterways and oceans.

If you have questions or are in need of removal of your hazardous chemical waste, call Alpha Environmental at 503-406-6686.

Contact Alpha Environmental
Matthew Micheletty

About The Author

Matthew has been Alpha's Director of Operations for over four years. He works directly with our clients in effort to provide exceptional customer service as well as managing the day to day of the company. When he's not at the office, you can find him at Red Tail Golf Club or cruising PDX in one of his project cars.