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Hazardous Waste

In this video, Nathan B. English introduces us to Hazardous Waste
<v ->Alrighty, let’s talk about hazardous waste.</v> So hazardous waste is a waste type, and I think it’s a really interesting waste type because, it interacts with our environment and with us in a really meaningful way. And that is our health. And it can have really serious impacts on our health. Fatal impacts on our health, if we don’t manage it correctly. And so this short lesson will be about the different kinds of hazardous waste. And it’ll set us up for how do we dispose of hazardous waste appropriately in a later step?
So what is hazardous waste? Look basically hazardous waste is not municipal solid or industrial solid waste, and it’s any one of the following. So it’s anything that can have a serious health impact. So it’s ignitable or flammable. It’s corrosive, it’s reactive, it’s toxic, it’s radioactive and it’s not, it can be anything that’s, it can be a solid, it can be liquid, it can be a gas. And so hazardous waste is its own waste type in that it, it can be a lot of different things.
And so it ends up being sort of a waste pin or all the other things we can’t categorize, but it has to have this sort of meaningful and, and sometimes either immediate or late health impact, you wouldn’t want to be in the same room with some of these materials for any length of time. And some of the examples here, I’ve got, you know, oil cans that you might have out of your shed, batteries are probably the most common waste type that we all deal with every day. And probably one of the ones that we most often dispose of improperly, perhaps.
And it’s really an easy one to, to come up with a solution for, and then increasingly electronic light bulbs, fluorescent light bulbs, led light bulbs are also now a hazardous waste because they might have mercury in them. The old fluorescent light bulbs would have mercury in the ballast, or they have rare earth elements or heavy metals in the light bulbs themselves. And then I think paints and thinners and all sorts of lacquers and house household products you might associate it with your shed are often toxic or reactive corrosive or flammable. And that’s when they fall into that hazardous waste category.
But look, we’re looking at solids could be looking at gases, but typically they’re solids or liquids, hazardous, hazardous waste might be, a good example of that might be radon gas in a basement, in an area with a granite geology. And that’s just because of the radioactive decay of potassium and granites. Don’t worry if you, if you live in a house on granite you’re, you’re probably okay. But if it’s, if it’s a real issue in your area, you will have been probably required to get a radon check when you bought the house or, or when you’re a landlord bought the house.
So this is just a summary table and I think it, it goes over pretty well, all the different kinds of hazardous waste, including se-waste, which we’ll talk about later as well in its own separate step. But the drivers of what is hazardous waste is it’s persistence in the environment. It’s a threat to human health and environmental quality and the cost of disposal. So hazardous waste is, is a really interesting waste category. And because it’s so scary, quote unquote is so scary. It does drive people to be exceptionally careful. It’s scary because it has a big impact. So we’ll just go through the different kinds of hazardous waste.
It’s not all of the kinds of hazardous waste, but just a few of the most common ones and look synthetic and crude oil derived compounds. So plastics, rubber tires, rubber tires are the, are the largest by volume category of hazardous waste. Believe it or not rubber tires are, are hazards. They leak all sorts of hazardous chemicals into the environment, how hazardous molecules into the environment that are not good for health that seep into groundwater. And they also have an additional impact that they collect water and can be a vector for mosquito born diseases, but that’s not here nor there would preserve it as pesticides, flame retardants, you name it.
If it’s derived from synthetic or crude oil, generally it may be considered a hazardous compound. Many are toxic mutagenic, carcinogenics, teratogenic, disruptors of hormones, and they’re easily absorbed through skin. I used to work in a lab where one of the, one of the faculty members would hang his jock strap up in the fume hood next to the tall chimney, we always thought that was a rather poor idea, but then we realized he was done having kids. So it wasn’t going to really affect any of his offspring, just a fun little story.
The organic compounds can be hazardous and their resistance to decay makes them persistent pollutants. And I think I wanted to talk a little bit about persistence in the environment with respect to the organic compounds here. And look it’s really, they do last a long, long time, tens to decades to centuries. And because they’re resistant, they’re not degradable. They tend to essentially leach into the environment for decades, if not the life for their lifetime. And you all know a rubber tire can last a long, long time out in the environment. And it’s not just, you know, the rubber, it’s all the other additives that make it a durable material, same thing with wood products.
And you might find this in industrial construction waste the use of pesticides in treated timber. Often your parents might’ve told you when you were a kid not to burn the Greenwood. And that’s because that green wood was actually a copper compound added to make it resistant to pest, but you wouldn’t want to breathe that those chemicals in, if you put them in a, in a fire. Heavy metals are becoming a more, more visible and a growing problem as well. They’re employed in electrical and electronic devices, metal fabrication, plating, pigments, dyes, sinkers, pellets. My son’s probably lost a couple, a couple tens of kilograms of sinkers on the great barrier reef.
And I just kind of shake my head every day, thinking that maybe someday he’ll take up scuba diving and go back out and get all those sinkers off the GBR because it just makes me feel terrible. So lead is an important one. Historically lead was in paints and it had a huge environmental impact and human health impact because small children in houses with lead paint would ingest the dust or flakes of that lead paint. And it would, it would intellectually impair those children for their lives. So lead in the environment is a problem also lead used to be included in petrol and gasoline for auto auto cars, auto automobiles. And that was another vector for lead.
Fortunately, we don’t use lead in our gasoline anymore because it was realized to be a problem. Again, growing se-waste, we’ll talk about that in a later step, but those se-waste do contain those heavy metals of lead chromium, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, tin, and copper. And again, the toxicity is enhanced through absorption through the skin and accumulation in our fatty tissues. And this leads to bio-accumulation bio concentration or bio amplification. And those are all different terms. I encourage you to look those up, and that’s just basically that our bodies have a hard time getting rid of those particular metals at the same rate that we ingest them.
And so if we’re ingesting them faster than we can get rid of them, or if we’re eating animals that have high concentrations of mercury, we’ll begin to accumulate those metals until they reach toxic levels and have an impact on our health. So heavy metals are a real issue.

Hazardous waste is a category of waste that can have an impact on health. It includes toxic and corrosive materials as well as combustibles.

Watch Dr. Nathan B. English describe the different types of hazardous waste and their sources and drivers.

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