Annually, industrial facilities generate and manage about 7600 million tons of non-hazardous industrial waste, 97% of which is wastewater. In addition, there are large quantities of hazardous waste produced. City sewage and industrial waste contaminate rivers and lakes. (See endnote 2 and Chapter 14, “Water Quality and Water Pollution,” for information on wastewater treatment and disposal.)
Industrial wastes consist of a wide range of: packaging material, paper, cardboard, and straw; chemicals including oils, solvents, resins, paints, adhesives, raw chemical materials, finished products, and byproducts; metals of all types including heavy metals; plastics of all types and compositions both contaminated and non-contaminated; glass; wood; ashes; sludge; street sweepings; animal remains; used carbon filters; non-combustible inert materials; dirt and gravel; treated infectious waste; food waste from cafeterias, etc.; related to the specific industry which is producing the given products, byproducts, and waste. Industrial wastes may be solids, liquids, or gases. The wastes may range from extremely hazardous to non-hazardous. (See endnote 22.)
(For hazardous waste disposal, see the special section on “Hazardous Wastes” below.) (See endnote 2)
Best Practices in Disposal of Industrial Wastes
Because the large numbers of different industries to evaluate would be beyond the scope of this
book, the author has chosen the brewery industry and pharmaceuticals in hospitals as examples of industrial waste disposal. Also see the “Source Reduction/Waste Minimization” section
below. (See endnotes 23, 24.)
• Review purchasing practices and purchase quantities of substances which will be needed immediately and a small amount for backup until new orders can arrive. Use an ongoing inventory control system and stock rotation to avoid substances from becoming outdated and unusable.
• Change the composition of the product if possible to reduce the amount of waste, eliminate hazardous materials, and use new technology for measuring and cutting to use only the raw materials that are absolutely necessary.
• Return waste materials to the original process if possible instead of new raw materials.
• Process waste material as a byproduct which can be sold or used by another industry or within the existing industry.
• Provide for a cleaner process in a clean environment to reduce potential levels of pollution caused by poor housekeeping and poor operation procedures.
• Segregate non-hazardous waste from hazardous waste as it is produced to save time and not contaminate the non-hazardous waste.
• Determine if certain substances are expiring before they are used and change the purchasing process to obtain smaller quantities.
• Make a waste audit to determine waste from plastics, processing, packaging, and storage, the quantity of the waste, frequency of pickup, and means of disposal.
• Determine from the audit the amount and type of solid waste generated and what portion of it is hazardous and non-hazardous. Use reduction of raw materials, reuse of materials, and recycling where possible.
• Sort and store wastes on-site for treatment or disposal and train personnel how best to do this in a cost-effective manner. Determine how much can be recycled or reused to avoid disposal.
• Create appropriate waste treatment programs on-site to reduce the amount of waste going to public landfills or incinerators and thereby protect the environment as well as save substantial costs for hauling and disposal.
• Utilize case studies of other companies in the same industry in order to learn the Best Practices to use in all facets of production, storage, transportation, and disposal.
• Gather data within the industry and the company concerning all facets of operation, delivery, on-site treatment programs, and disposal, and determine if the company is meeting the industry norms and if not why not, and then make necessary changes in procedures.
• Determine if increased production can be accomplished with less waste.
• Ask for input from employees and reward them for innovative ideas that may result in savings to the company and reduction of waste. Then establish Best Practices and implement them in all facets of the operation of the company.
• Establish a special communications and education program for all employees to keep them aware of what is going on in the company and how best to implement Best Practices in various operations.
• Evaluate the ongoing process periodically and use specific tests which may be voluntary or directed by the environmental and public health authorities.
• Determine if the employees are wearing appropriate protective clothing for all facets of the operation including waste disposal.
• Spent grains are byproducts of the brewing process which are still high in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. This can be used as animal feed, in bakeries for cookies and dog biscuits, etc. This is an example of other industries using the unwanted byproducts of a different industrial group. It helps protect the environment and reduces the quantity of waste for disposal. Spent grains can also be composted.
• Diatomaceous earth is used for filtering in the brewing process and then is usually sent to a landfill. This material can be reused as an additive to concrete and brick.
• Packaging materials have the greatest potential for recycling. This would include corrugated cardboard, aluminum cans, glass bottles, and paper.
• Pallets are frequently used for storage of products as well as raw materials. They can be reused numerous times if they are sturdy, and if they need to be sent for disposal they can be converted into wood chips that can be used for landscaping.
• Develop a green team that evaluates all portions of the operation to determine where savings can be made and the waste can be reduced.
• Food wastes from the various food service operations can be reduced by sorting out all recyclables before placing in appropriate containers for removal.
• Composting can be done on the property if it is cost-effective and there is room to do it properly. Balers can be used for reducing the volume of solid waste to be recycled or for disposal. Depending on the size and nature of the industry, a waste to energy project could be instituted.
• Never dispose of pharmaceutical waste in sink drains or toilets to avoid contaminating bodies of water.
• Replace pharmaceutical samples with vouchers for free medication for a 30-day test.
• Empty containers that have been used for hazardous materials which can be considered to be non-hazardous waste and dispose of normally if the inner liner has been specially treated to remove all toxic substances.
• Non-hazardous pharmaceuticals which may be both controlled and non-controlled substances can be mixed with liquid or solid substances such as coffee grounds, kitty litter, or other absorbent material and then placed in a sealed bag or other container to prevent leakage and sent with normal solid waste to landfill or an incinerator.