Author: Maine Labpack

What Are the Different Types of Waste Streams?

Waste stream management refers to the comprehensive strategies public and private services employ to handle and control the flow of different types of waste streams generated by communities and organizations. A waste stream, per se, describes the complete lifecycle of a particular waste from its creation and source to its collection, treatment, and final disposal. It may consist of solids, liquids, gases, or a combination thereof. 

Most waste streams are generated in residential, commercial, or industrial environments. Management is crucial to ensure public health and safety as it is to protect the environment. To better understand how to handle, treat, and dispose of the waste properly, waste management professionals categorize waste streams based on where the waste originated from. Even though there are thousands of types of waste and numerous subcategories of waste, waste typically enters a stream through one of five main entry points, categorized as—municipal solid waste, industrial waste, construction waste, liquid waste, and hazardous waste. Let’s take a closer look.

Municipal Solid Waste

Often referred to as household waste, municipal solid waste (MSW) actually refers to the waste generated by households, commercial establishments, institutions, and certain industrial sources within a specific city or town, i.e., municipality. This waste typically includes everyday items like food scraps, paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metals, textiles, yard waste, and household hazardous waste. Overall, MSW encompasses the trash that people and businesses generate in their daily activities. Managing municipal solid waste presents a significant challenge for municipalities and governments and requires strategies for collection, transportation, disposal, recycling, and sometimes energy recovery to minimize its environmental and public health impacts.

Industrial Waste

On the other hand, industrial waste is generated by industrial processes and activities. It is generated strictly by businesses and industries, including anything from packaging materials and office waste to manufacturing byproducts and chemical waste. It encompasses numerous materials produced by numerous industries, such as manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and energy production. Industrial waste can include various forms of solid, liquid, and gaseous waste and hazardous and non-hazardous materials. Because industrial wastes have a greater potential to harm human health or the environment, their handling, transportation, and disposal are regulated by federal, state, and local agencies to ensure public safety and environmental protection.

Construction Waste

Construction waste refers to the byproducts and waste materials generated during construction, renovation, demolition, and site-clearing activities related to buildings and infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and housing developments. It includes such wastes as debris from demolition, excavated materials, packaging from construction materials, excess and unused materials, and hazardous materials and substances used or generated during construction or demolition activities. Pulverized concrete and bricks, disintegrated asbestos materials, excavated soil and rocks, excess insulation, asphalt, roofing, lead-based paint, solvents, and chemicals are common waste materials generated during construction projects. 

As a waste stream, construction waste poses environmental and economic challenges, including landfill space consumption, resource depletion, pollution, and greenhouse or chemical gas emissions. For that reason, effective management of construction waste is crucial to minimize its impact on the environment and promote sustainable construction practices.

Liquid Waste

Though a somewhat diverse category, liquid waste is, nonetheless, any type of waste generated in a liquid state. Wastewater from residential, commercial, and industrial sources and waste from agricultural operations and medical facilities are primary sources of liquid waste streams. This type of waste can take on many forms, from the simple wash water that accumulates in our sinks and bathtubs at home to the used oils, greases, and solvents generated through cooking or mechanical processes in food production, auto shops, or factories. Liquid waste can also consist of more hazardous substances resulting from industrial discharges and chemical waste, which may contain any number of harmful substances, such as heavy metals, solvents, and other toxic chemicals. 

Its proper treatment and disposal are vital to prevent significant environmental, health, and safety issues. Contaminated water bodies can not only harm aquatic ecosystems, leading to a decline in biodiversity and threatening the survival of various species, but any contamination of drinking water sources can result in a public health crisis. 

Hazardous Waste 

Due to its very nature, waste streams derived from hazardous materials substantially threaten human health, the environment, or both due to their chemical, physical, or biological properties. Because these wastes contain substances that are either toxic, corrosive, flammable, radioactive, or infectious, hazardous waste management is subject to strict regulations governing their generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal. 

Hazardous waste is generally sourced from various industrial and manufacturing processes, agriculture activities, healthcare facilities, laboratories, and even households. Chemical wastes like solvents, acids, pesticides, and fertilizers; heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) generated during certain industrial processes; and biomedical waste from healthcare facilities, research laboratories, and veterinary clinics are common hazardous waste stream sources. Radioactive materials contaminated with radioactive substances like spent nuclear fuel and radioactive medical isotopes are another type of hazardous waste stream. Even discarded electronic devices and equipment, referred to as electronic waste or e-waste, contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and brominated flame retardants that must be properly managed.

Waste stream management is a complex and multifaceted field. If your business or organization has questions concerning how your waste stream can be properly managed, contact Maine Labpack, Inc. We are one of New England’s leading waste management services providers, including hazardous waste management and sustainable waste management solutions. To learn more, call Maine Labpack today. 

Proper Hand Sanitizer Disposal: What You Need to Know

If your organization is dealing with the issue of proper hand sanitizer disposal as a consequence of Covid-19 then you’re not alone. Proper hand sanitizer disposal is necessary due to the environmental and safety risks associated with its chemical composition, which, as unlikely as it sounds, classifies it as a hazardous material. Most hand sanitizer is composed of isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, which is highly volatile if ignited and very harmful if swallowed or if its vapor is inhaled. 

Large quantities of excess hand sanitizer left over from the pandemic have reached or far exceeded their expiration dates and need to be properly disposed of as hazardous waste. The same hand sanitizer used to curb the spread of infection is now causing a major hazardous waste management problem for municipalities, businesses, facilities, and institutions around the world. 

Hand sanitizer is classified as a hazardous waste due to the flammable properties derived from its high alcohol content. As a hazardous waste, expired hand sanitizer cannot be simply tossed in the trash or flushed down the toilet—the consequences could cause great harm. Pouring gallons of alcohol-based sanitizer down the drain can lead to contamination of water sources or potentially create enough flammable vapor in the local sewer system to generate an explosion. That vapor is also toxic and can pose serious health risks if inhaled. 

If your company, institution, or organization has large, excess quantities of expired hand sanitizer stored onsite, it will need to be properly disposed of as hazardous waste following the guidelines and protocols of the EPA and your state environmental agency. In Maine, that would be the DEP, the state Department of Environmental Protection. As a hazardous waste, the hand sanitizer cannot be stored indefinitely. 

By law, companies and institutions that handle hazardous materials have a legal responsibility to ensure the material is properly managed at all times. From the moment of possession, organizations must comply with the regulations that govern the safe storage, transport, and disposal of hazardous material. Companies must dispose of excess hand sanitizer as any hazardous waste by following specific guidelines to ensure its proper handling and minimize environmental and safety risks. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal consequences and penalties.

Here’s what you need to know to properly handle and dispose of the excess hand sanitizer:

Identify and Separate

Companies should identify hand sanitizers that are expired or unused and segregate them from regular waste. This helps prevent accidental exposure and ensures that hazardous waste is managed separately.

Proper Storage

Hand sanitizers should remain in their original containers or designated containers that are compatible with their chemical properties. They should be placed in cool, dry storage areas that are well-ventilated and away from sources of ignition.

Labeling

Containers holding expired hand sanitizers must be clearly labeled with appropriate hazard symbols and information, including the contents, date of accumulation, and any relevant safety precautions.

Transportation

The transportation of hand sanitizer for disposal must follow federal and state guidelines and regulations for the safe handling and transportation of hazardous materials. This may involve using specialized containers, providing detailed documentation stating the quantity and type of hazard, and complying with transportation regulations.

Disposal

Excess hand sanitizer should be disposed of through licensed waste management companies at designated facilities authorized to handle hazardous waste. These facilities employ methods such as incineration, chemical treatment, fuel blending, incidental reduction, or recycling to safely process hazardous materials while minimizing environmental impact.

If your company purchased large quantities of hand sanitizer that has since expired and is facing challenges in disposing of it, it may be time to contact a company that specializes in hazardous chemical waste disposal services. Maine Labpack is one such company with decades of experience in handling and disposing of hazardous materials safely and in compliance with environmental regulations. We have the expertise and resources to ensure that hazardous hand sanitizer is managed properly, minimizing risks to human health and the environment.

Maine Labpack can provide a comprehensive and informative waste audit and analysis for companies and institutions that have large quantities of hand sanitizer on site that need to be properly disposed of. For more information about how we can help your organization manage and properly dispose of excess hand sanitizer at your facility, contact Maine Labpack. We offer a variety of proper waste disposal solutions.

6 Reasons Small Businesses Need Professional Hazardous Waste Management

State and federal regulations for business hazardous waste disposal apply to any company, large or small, that generates hazardous waste. Even if you have a small business that generates a low volume of hazardous waste, by federal and state law, that small amount of hazardous waste needs to be handled properly for disposal. 

If you operate a small business that is generating hazardous waste you must first determine the amount and type of hazardous waste generated, and then acquire a hazardous waste permit. Though the EPA regulates hazardous waste, most hazardous waste permits are issued through state environmental agencies under federal guidelines. In Maine, that would be the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). 

Once it is determined that a business generates hazardous waste they are assigned a generator status based upon the volume of hazardous waste the company produces. Under federal law and Maine law, a business’s generator status falls under one of three categories, appropriately named—Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs), Small Quantity Generators (SQGs), and Large Quantity Generators (LQGs), or the Maine equivalent quantity generator status, SQG, SQG Plus, and LQG. 

There are very few exceptions to the hazardous waste permit program. Businesses will need to check with the DEP to determine whether or not they are eligible for exemption. Otherwise, by law, the safe management of hazardous waste is not only the responsibility of the business generating it but, in general, an excellent idea for your self-preservation. Hazardous waste has the potential to pose a very serious threat to human health and the environment, which, regarding the latter, may include the contamination of your place of business, premises, or work site. 

Thus, even for small businesses, hazardous waste disposal presents many challenges beginning with its proper management from the cradle-to-the-grave by regulations. This means safe containment and storage, correct labeling, transportation, treatment, accident prevention, emergency response protocols if necessary, and more. All must be adhered to. 

Why Small Businesses Need Professional Hazardous Waste Disposal

Here are six important reasons that professional hazardous waste management services are essential for small businesses:

1. Compliance

As mentioned, the proper management and disposal of hazardous waste is mandated by federal and state regulations to protect public health and the environment. Businesses that generate hazardous waste must comply with the laws governing its proper management. Professional hazardous waste management services work with you to ensure your business complies with all relevant laws and regulations, avoiding potential liabilities.

2. Expertise and Resources

Professional hazardous waste management companies have the knowledge, experience, and resources to handle a wide range of hazardous materials safely and efficiently. They can guide waste classification, storage, transportation, and disposal, as well as ensure that regulatory requirements and best practices for managing hazardous waste are met. In doing so, small businesses are relieved of the burden of managing these complex processes internally.  

3. Cost-Efficiency

While it may seem like an additional expense upfront, professional hazardous waste management can save small businesses money in the long run. Mishandling of hazardous waste can lead to costly accidents and environmental cleanups, legal fees and fines, and damage to reputation that can result from improper waste management practices.

4. Safety

Handling hazardous waste requires specialized knowledge, equipment, and training to minimize the risk of accidents, spills, and exposure to harmful substances. Professional management services help mitigate these risks by implementing proper handling procedures, training employees on safety protocols, and ensuring compliance with regulations.

5. Focus on Business

Outsourcing hazardous waste management to professional services allows small businesses to focus on their core activities while ensuring compliance, safety, and environmental responsibility in waste management practices.

6. Peace of Mind

Entrusting hazardous waste management to professionals, small businesses can have peace of mind knowing that their waste is being handled safely, legally, and responsibly. By demonstrating a commitment to proper hazardous waste management, they can also enhance their reputation and brand image, attracting environmentally-conscious customers and investors.

Contact the Professionals at Maine Labpack

Maine Labpack is a professional hazardous waste management company that provides hazardous waste disposal for small businesses throughout the state and New England region. We are a licensed provider and offer comprehensive hazardous waste collection services to ensure our customers comply with Maine regulatory obligations. If you are unsure of or need help with your business hazardous waste disposal, contact the professionals at Maine Labpack. 

What Hazardous Materials Should Be Transported in a Lab Pack?

Lab pack waste refers to any type of waste composed of hazardous materials or like waste that may hold hazardous properties. This waste can include a wide range of materials, liquid, gas, or solid, that can pose a threat to human health and the environment if not handled properly. The use of the lab pack has proven to be an effective means for companies, organizations, and institutions that generate hazardous waste materials to safely remove, transport, and dispose of these materials. Above all, lab packing helps them remain compliant with federal, state, and local regulations for the proper disposal of hazardous waste. 

Laboratories, hospitals and medical centers, manufacturers, warehouses, and educational institutions generate a significant amount of hazardous waste each year in small amounts that must be properly managed. Generators may unintentionally accumulate numerous smaller containers of hazardous waste—varying types of chemicals, solvents, reagents, solutions, and so forth, that may go unused or expired. By law, these hazardous materials cannot be permanently stored onsite. Generators have between 90 and 180 days, depending on their generator status, to remove the hazardous material.

Correctly discarding these materials, however, can be challenging, costly, and time-consuming. Lab packs are a cost-effective way and approved method that helps to ensure safe transportation and disposal of the material. For any industry or organization generating hazardous waste, fully understanding a lab pack, the benefits of lab packing, and the type of materials that can be transported, is essential to remaining compliant. 

What Is a Lab Pack?

A lab pack is a specially designed drum-shaped container that can be filled with many other small containers of hazardous waste packed in non-biodegradable absorbent materials. The purpose of a lab pack is to consolidate and manage these materials in a manner that minimizes the risk of spills, leaks, and exposure to personnel and the environment. A container typically holds approximately 55 gallons of waste. Once the smaller containers of waste are placed within the lab pack, they are carefully sorted and cushioned with inert packing material that ensures compliance and allows for the safe transport and disposal of the waste.

Lab packing allows businesses, organizations, and institutions to safely collect, store, and transport smaller containers of hazardous waste materials generated by them. These materials can include chemicals, solvents, acids, aerosols, bases, and other potentially harmful substances. 

Lab packing is a procedure used to categorize, inventory, package, and dispose of small amounts of hazardous materials, chemicals, and laboratory waste. It not only offers organizations a convenient and cost-effective option for transporting hazardous materials off-site but allows for the safe transportation and disposal of these materials while adhering to Department of Transportation regulations. Lab packing also streamlines the disposal process by packaging multiple small containers of waste into a single drum. This allows hazardous waste management companies to better prepare the hazardous materials and substances for proper disposal and also ensures that organizations meet regulatory requirements for shipping the materials.

What Type of Hazardous Materials Should Be Transported in Lab Packs?

Lab packs are designed to transport small quantities of various hazardous materials found at or generated by laboratories, businesses, pharmaceutical companies, schools, universities, medical facilities, hospitals, or maintenance departments as a byproduct of industry. 

Materials that should be disposed of in lab packs include chemicals, acids, bases, and reagents; aerosols, compressed gases, and organic peroxides, oxidizers and solvents; medical waste and cleaning and disinfecting agents; toxic, flammable, corrosive, pyrophoric or explosive materials; and inks, dyes, paints, paint thinners and varnish strippers; radioactive materials and reactive materials from metals, mixed and universal waste, and even unknown or unlabeled waste.

Following regulatory requirements as well as safety, it’s important to properly identify and segregate these hazardous materials to ensure they are packed properly and to prevent any incompatible materials from coming into contact with each other, which could lead to dangerous reactions.

Contact the Lab Pack Professionals at Maine Labpack

Lab pack waste services provide businesses, organizations, and institutions with a safe and effective way to dispose of these hazardous materials. Maine Labpack is one of New England’s leading providers of hazardous waste management services, offering sustainable waste management solutions to customers throughout the region since 1997. If you have questions or need more information about lab packing, reach out to Maine Labpack today.

6 Helpful Tips for Handling Hazardous Waste in Maine

Maine hazardous waste regulations are directed by the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP issues regulations and establishes rules that govern the safe management and transportation of hazardous wastes in the state to protect people, workers, communities, and the environment. Though the framework for the state rules and regulations are built upon the minimum Federal rules, they are tailored to Maine’s unique coastal and inland environment and its strong reliance on groundwater for drinking water. 

The business of properly handling hazardous waste in Maine is taken very seriously. All hazardous waste generated in the state must be properly handled and disposed of following DEP rules and regulations. Failure to comply with hazardous waste disposal regulations can penalize organizations and businesses.

To ensure that your company, lab, or institution is up-to-date and in compliance with the law, here are 6 helpful tips for handling hazardous waste in Maine:

1. Proper Storage Containers

The use of appropriate hazardous waste storage containers is essential for safe disposal. Hazardous waste materials must be stored and sealed in containers compatible with the waste being stored there. Incompatible wastes cannot be stored or mixed in the same container. Containers have to be in good condition, without any rust or cracks that could result in leaks or spillage, and made of weather and corrosion-resistant materials.

2. Designated Storage Areas

Facilities, labs, and institutions should have a designated area within the building to store hazardous waste. Inspections of the containers in storage areas should be conducted at least once a week. Inspectors should check to ensure the containers are sealed properly, look for any signs of wear or leakage, and document in writing the date, time, observations, and repairs if needed. 

3. Labeling and Marking

Hazardous waste must be properly labeled and marked with hazardous waste stickers to protect handlers from hazardous material. Labeling or marking of tanks, barrels, or any kind of container used for storage, accumulation, and shipping is mandated by law. The hazardous waste stickers should correctly identify the presence of hazardous materials, the generator of that waste, when the waste was placed in the container, and its composition, i.e., the hazardous properties of the waste. The stickers must be placed in clearly visible locations on the container for easy reading. 

4.  Hazardous Waste Training 

Hazardous waste training of personnel is mandated by law for all employees who handle hazardous waste for your company or organization. All employees handling hazardous waste must be properly trained by successfully completing a training program directed by a person trained in hazardous waste management procedures. Instruction may be in the classroom, through computer-based online training, or direct on-the-job training. At a minimum, the curriculum must train facility personnel to be familiar with emergency procedures, emergency equipment, and emergency systems about the generator status of the company or organization. 

5. Managing Your Generator Status

Under federal and Maine law, a company’s generator status is determined by how much hazardous waste that company generates per month. The EPA has 3 categories of generators: Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs), Small Quantity Generators (SQGs), and Large Quantity Generators (LQGs). Maine’s equivalent quantity generator statuses are categorized as SQG, SQG Plus, and LQG. The state must be notified of any changes in hazardous waste quantity generated. The amount of hazardous waste generated per month can not only affect your status, it impact how waste is properly handled and managed. For example, how much hazardous waste training your employees receive depends on your company’s generator status. LQG facilities must have designated hazardous waste personnel with specialized training in handling hazardous waste. On the other hand, the small generators need only have their hazardous waste personnel  “thoroughly familiar” with emergency response systems, and proper waste handling procedures.

6. Maintain Your Generator Identification Number

In Maine, hazardous waste generators must obtain a generator identification number assigned by the EPA and the DEP, including any specific identifying number or letter that the state may assign. Small quantity generators need only a state identification number. Generators can only offer hazardous wastes for disposal to licensed transporters who have obtained an identification number as well. 

Contact Maine Labpack

Following these helpful tips will help your organization or business establish the proper procedures and protocols to remain in compliance with Maine hazardous waste regulations. They can also help ensure your facility, lab, or business, and employees, are protected. If you are unsure of or need help with handling your hazardous waste, contact the professionals at Maine Labpack. We are a licensed provider and offer comprehensive hazardous waste collection services to make sure our customers comply with Maine regulatory obligations. 

6 Types of Regulated Medical Waste

Regulated medical waste is a term applied to any category of biomedical waste contaminated by blood or bodily fluids, or any type of healthcare waste that contains any infectious or potentially infectious materials derived from a person or an animal. Such waste is generated during diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of humans or animals. It can also result from research activities pertaining to biological substances. 

The majority of regulated medical wastes are typically generated in hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes, and research laboratories, but also in primary care settings, and in physician, dental and veterinarian offices. Because biomedical waste can pose such serious health risks to humans and the environment, by law, it must be properly managed and disposed of. 

Federal Agencies That Regulate Medical Waste

The majority of laws that regulate medical waste are not covered by federal environmental laws or US EPA regulations, except for medical waste that also meets the definition of hazardous waste. Instead, the regulation of biomedical waste, principally, falls under state jurisdiction. State health and/or environmental agencies or departments regulate medical waste in conjunction with a handful of federal agencies that manage certain aspects of regulated medical waste. 

These federal agencies include OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration), which administers bloodborne pathogen standards to protect the health and safety of employees. The DOT (Department of Transportation) has specific packaging requirements that regulate the transportation of medical waste. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommends that health care facilities and labs must use FDA-approved sharps disposal containers for used needles and other medically classified sharps. The FDA recommendations follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines on how to treat or decontaminate medical wastes for safe handling.  

In Maine, the legislature directed the state’s Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to adopt rules to regulate the handling and disposal of biomedical waste. Maine’s BEP is an independent decision-making authority that is part of the Department of Environmental Protection. The rules issued by the BEP not only identifies what biomedical waste is subject to regulation, but establishes the proper packaging, labeling, handling, storage, transportation and treatment requirements for it. 

BEP rules define biomedical waste as those wastes that “… may contain human pathogens of sufficient virulence and in sufficient concentrations that exposure to it …” could affect the public health, its safety and welfare, and that of the environment. The rules further identify six categories of biomedical waste and one category of cytotoxic substances as wastes subject to regulation. The categories of biomedical waste subject to regulation are:

1. Human Blood and Body Fluids

This category of biomedical waste includes discarded human blood, serum, plasma, and any blood products. It also includes discarded body fluids resulting from surgery, obstetrics, emergency care, autopsies, or embalming, including cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, and also peritoneal fluid, pericardial fluid and amniotic fluid.

Blood or bodily fluid saturated material would include discarded items that are used to perform surgeries, obstetrical procedures, medical treatment, autopsies and so forth that are soaked or dripping with human blood, blood products or body fluids. Surgical gloves and masks, sponges, aprons, dressings, drapes, disposable sheets and towels, underpads, suction canisters, and plastic tubing, used syringes without needles, and dialysis unit wastes are prime examples that fall under this category.

2. Pathological and Anatomical Waste 

Human tissues, organs, and anatomical (body) parts including teeth which are discarded from surgeries, autopsies, obstetrical and laboratory procedures are subject to regulation. Pathological wastes are typically small tissue sections derived from biopsies or surgical procedures for examination in a laboratory to understand the nature of a disease or affliction. Anatomical wastes are human tissues, organs, or body parts that are removed during surgery, autopsy, or other medical procedures, and are intended for disposal.

3. Sharps

Medical sharps are those items such as hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, suture needles, disposable razors, lancets, capillary tubes, Pasteur pipettes, broken glassware, needles attached to IV tubing and dialysis bags, and any other objects capable of causing punctures or cuts, that have been used in patient, animal, and cadaver care, or in medical and biomedical research laboratories. 

4. Cultures and Stocks of Infectious Agents

This category includes cultures and stocks of infectious agents that need to be discarded, as well as the culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate and mix the infectious agents. Also, clinical specimens and the associated containers or vials that are ready to be discarded, along with the discarded biologicals and the waste generated from the production of biologicals and recombinant DNA research.

5. Animal Research Byproducts

Any type of biomedical waste generated in animal research facilities that contains organisms or agents not usual to that animal’s normal environment and which are hazardous or pathogenic to humans are considered a regulated medical waste subject to proper management and disposal. This could include carcasses, body parts, bedding or other waste generated by research.

6. Cytotoxic Substances

Wastes from cytotoxic (antineoplastic) drugs that are not identified as hazardous wastes in Chapter 850 per the Department of Environmental Protection regulations, and chemotherapy waste materials that have trace amounts of cytotoxic agents, are to be managed and disposed of as biomedical waste. 

Proper disposal of biomedical waste is crucial to prevent health risks to humans and to protect the environment. Maine Labpack offers comprehensive, no-contract biomedical waste disposal services for businesses, facilities and generators of all varieties. We can help ensure your facility is in compliance with regulations and that your personnel, patients, staff and visitors are safe from biomedical hazards of any kind. To learn more about Maine Labpack’s biomedical waste services, please contact us today

e-Waste Management Techniques: How to Reduce e-Waste as a Generator

Learning how to reduce e-waste streams might be one of the biggest challenges of the digital age. The introduction of e-waste management techniques by principal generators—the companies, industries, and organizations who are the bulk consumers of electronic and electrical equipment—is an important step in efforts to reduce e-waste streams. Bulk generators of e-waste should invest in management techniques that incorporate the entire life cycle of the electronic products they use. Such techniques can be cost-effective, but also slow the growth and impact of e-waste, along with the potential environmental risks that accompany it.   

What Is e-Waste?

The term e-waste, short for electronic waste, refers to discarded or obsolete electrical and electronic devices and components. This would include numerous consumer goods, and a substantial amount of IT and office equipment like computers, laptops, servers, CPUs, smartphones, tablets, televisions, printers, hard drives, fans, microwaves, DVD players, lamps, gaming consoles, and on and on. E-waste can also include the components and peripherals associated with these devices and equipment—keyboards,  motherboards, circuit boards, batteries, surge protectors, and a myriad array of cables and wiring. Essentially, anything that contains electronic components or runs on electricity will eventually fall under the category of e-waste.

Growing Concerns of e-Waste

As a waste stream, the amount of e-waste generated annually has reached revised estimates of a staggering 63 million tons. On a practical level, the need to manage this waste stream has never been greater. However, because of the dangerous or hazardous materials that many electronic devices contain, managing and properly disposing of e-waste is also the law. 

It’s not simply that many electronic devices contain harmful elements like lead, cadmium, beryllium oxide, chromium, or mercury and harmful compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons, brominated flame retardants, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—they do. As landfills are the most commonly used method of disposing of e-waste, there is a real danger from accumulation of these elements and chemicals leaching into soil and water tables. Another common method of disposal, incineration, can release harmful gases and toxic fumes, with ashes containing harmful compounds like lead. If e-waste is managed and disposed properly, these toxins cannot leach into the environment nor pose risks to human health and ecosystems. 

Growing concerns for an increase in e-waste can be attributed in large part to how electronics are consumed. With ongoing advances in technology, electronic devices become outdated and replaced by newer models relatively quickly, leading to the disposal of still fully functional devices. Continuous upgrades of electronic devices combined with marketing strategies designed to compel consumers to buy newer versions of products contribute to increased e-waste. On the other hand, many electronic products simply have limited lifespans. Made with cheaper parts and components, the cost to replace a device is often on par with repairing it, making it more practical to simply buy a new one. 

e-Waste Management Techniques

Consider a Product’s Complete Life Cycle

One important management technique that bulk generators of e-waste could institute would be to consider the entire life cycle of an electronic product and their place in it. The role a company plays from the time the electronic device is acquired to the time it is discarded is, obviously, substantial. One way companies can contribute to reducing e-waste is by participating in a closed-loop supply chain that incorporates plans for the various stages of a product’s service life. This management technique increases sustainability by preparing for the reuse, repair, reclamation and recycling of the product. The technique serves as an integral component in the end-to-end management process vital to any circular economy model. In regard to electronic and electrical equipment, the idea is, by enabling recovery and reuse for end-of-life products, those products can be kept in service longer and, in doing so, will lessen the impact on the e-waste stream.  

Reuse Functioning Devices

When considering a product’s entire life cycle then, an important first step to reduce e-waste would be to reuse the electronic devices and equipment that still function. These products can be donated or resold instead of thrown out. Another aspect of this end-to-end process is incorporating or utilizing repair services. Generators should look to repair malfunctioning devices and equipment first before recycling. Repairing the devices not only slows the demand for material, but reduces e-waste as well. 

Donate to “Give Back” Programs

Another management technique to reduce e-waste is for your company or organization to participate, when applicable, in “Give Back” programs to the companies from where the electronic products were purchased. Many companies accept old electronic products to recycle, modify, donate, or resell at lower prices. 

Recycle

Finally, proper recycling of dated electronic and electrical equipment is an important e-waste management technique that every business must observe. As e-waste is composed of dangerous or hazardous materials, generators are required by law to properly manage and dispose of the old equipment when its service life ends. 

Contact the e-Waste Disposal Experts at Maine Labpack, Inc.

Maine Labpack assists its customers with managing and recycling their e-waste to provide a more sustainable practice for their companies. We serve a wide variety of industries and organizations, from telecom, OEMs, and microelectronic companies, to healthcare, educational institutions, research facilities, and government agencies. Whether the equipment is no longer in use or has become outdated, we can assist you with its proper disposal. We will ensure that your e-waste is transported to a destination facility where the electronics are categorized and taken apart either for the scrap to be collected and reused in manufacturing electronics and other equipment or to be shredded appropriately. 

For more information on how we can help you effectively reduce your e-waste stream, contact the experts at Maine Labpack today.

What is the Procedure for Microbiological Waste Disposal?

Adhering to and following microbiological waste disposal procedures is crucial to public health. Proper disposal of microbiological waste is essential to prevent the spread of disease and infectious outbreaks. The extreme risk the waste poses to human health and the environment is, in every sense of the word, very real. Improperly disposing of or mishandling microbiological waste can lead to catastrophic consequences—look no further than the COVID pandemic as to what can happen.

What is Microbiological Waste?

Microbiological waste, or biohazardous or biomedical waste, is those waste materials contaminated or exposed to potentially infectious microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi. Such waste is typically generated in healthcare and laboratory settings, research facilities, veterinary hospitals, and clinics during normal operations and procedures. Proper disposal procedures for microbiological waste protect against exposure to potentially hazardous and dangerous contaminants by the physicians, nurses, scientists, and personnel who work in facilities, along with the patients and visitors there and all service staff who handle the infectious material downstream. 

How is Microbiological Waste Generated?

Microbiological wastes are generated in a variety of ways. Via cultures and specimens, for example, from Petri dishes, test tubes, vials, and other containers used to grow and transport microorganisms for diagnostic or research purposes. Sharps—needles, scalpels, objects used in medical procedures or laboratory work, and equipment like pipettes, centrifuge tubes, and glassware used in microbiological experiments or procedures.

Other examples of microbiological wastes can derive from contaminated human or animal tissues, body fluids, and pathological waste. Disposable materials like bandages, swabs, and dressings that have been in contact with infectious materials, as well as all the personal protective equipment (PPE)–the used gloves, gowns, masks, and other protective gear worn by hospital, clinical, and laboratory personnel. 

Procedures for Microbiological Waste Disposal

Typically, microbiological waste is collected in specially labeled and color-coded containers, subject to strict regulations and guidelines for safe handling, transportation, and disposal. Though federal oversight and regulation is limited—the EPA primarily defers regulation to state environmental and health departments—the US Department of Transportation does specify packaging. It regulates transportation, and OSHA has established standards for handling and disposing bloodborne pathogens and diseases to protect employee health and safety.  

For example, researchers of microbiological waste in Maine, in healthcare, research, and clinical facilities, are required to register as generators with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP has packaging, labeling, handling, storage, transportation, disposal, and treatment requirements that must be adhered to by generators.  Transporters of microbiological waste and owners of disposal and treatment facilities must be licensed. The disposal of untreated microbiological waste in Maine is against the law. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines and, if violations are intentional, the possibility of imprisonment.

General procedures for microbiological waste disposal begin with keeping it segregated from regular waste at the source. Use dedicated containers clearly labeled with the appropriate biohazard symbol to indicate and identify the microbiological waste. These containers should be leak-proof and have a tight-fitting lid or seal. Some waste can be subjected to sterilization through autoclaving or incineration. Other wastes will need to be transported. A licensed provider must transport microbiological waste from a facility to an off-site disposal and treatment center. All waste must be in properly labeled, leak-proof containers with detailed documentation. 

Contact Maine Labpack for Hazardous Waste Disposal Solutions

Specific procedures for microbiological waste disposal can vary depending on the type of waste, the level of risk associated with the microorganisms, and regulations. To ensure compliance, Maine Labpack works with generators of microbiological waste to safely remove and dispose of these harmful materials from facilities. We are a licensed, reputable microbiological waste removal service company that offers comprehensive, no-contract microbiological waste disposal for healthcare, research, and clinical facilities throughout the state. We offer various services to dispose of microbiological waste, including onsite consultation, removal, and supply with containers for future pickups. For more information, contact Maine Labpack today.

How Your Facility’s Generator Status Impacts Hazardous Waste Collection Requirements

A facility’s generator status significantly determines its hazardous waste collection requirements under federal laws established by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Following suit, many states, including Maine, authorized its own RCRA program to ensure the proper management of hazardous waste.  

On a federal level, the EPA regulates the management and disposal of hazardous waste and sets requirements for generators and generator status. A generator is any company, institution or individual that produces hazardous waste as a matter of business or causes a waste to become hazardous and subject to regulation. The generator status is determined based on the quantity of hazardous waste generated per site by a company within a specified time frame. As importantly, all generators of hazardous waste are responsible for accurately determining their generator status to ensure regulatory compliance. The EPA established three main generator categories to comply with:

Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG)

These entities generate 220 pounds (100 kilograms) or less of hazardous waste per month. VSQGs are sometimes referred to as “conditionally exempt small quantity generators.”

Small Quantity Generator (SQG)

SQGs generate more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) but less than 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of hazardous waste per month. An SQG category is subject to fewer regulatory requirements than Large Quantity Generators.

Large Quantity Generator (LQG)

As the category suggests, LQGs generate 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) or more of hazardous waste per month. Due to large quantities, this category is subject to the most stringent regulatory requirements under RCRA.

In contrast to the three main categories of generator status established by the EPA, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) categorizes its quantity generator statuses as SQG, SQG Plus, and LQG. Maine’s SQG status is nearly equal to the federal level VSQG, with SQG Plus equal to the federal SQG. The state and federal LQG status requirements are nearly similar. To read the specific status requirements for Maine, refer to the DEP’s Handbook for Hazardous Waste Generators.

Hazardous Waste Collection Requirements by Generator Status

Under federal or state law, how a company’s generator status impacts its hazardous waste collection requirements is determined by the quantity it generates within a given period of time. VSQGs (or state equivalent) have the least regulatory burden. They are generally not required to obtain an EPA Identification Number, which is needed for hazardous waste transport and disposal. Instead, they can use a licensed waste collection service or an authorized consolidation point to manage their hazardous waste. 

SQGs (or state equivalent) must follow specific storage, labeling, and recordkeeping requirements for hazardous waste on-site. They have limitations on accumulating hazardous waste stored on-site and must properly manage and dispose of waste within the regulatory time frame. SQGs must obtain an EPA Identification Number (and/or state number) and use this number on all hazardous waste manifests.

Due to the large quantities of hazardous waste generated, LQGs have the most stringent requirements. They must obtain an EPA Identification Number and follow comprehensive regulations for managing hazardous waste, including labeling, storage, reporting, and recordkeeping. They are subject to more frequent inspections and must have contingency plans and emergency response procedures. All LQGs must use a licensed hazardous waste transporter and complete hazardous waste manifests for all waste shipments.

Contact the Experts at Maine Labpack

A company’s generator status directly impacts its hazardous waste collection requirements, with more stringent regulations applying to larger generators. Specific generator status is determined not at the company level but at the facility level. In other words, hazardous waste generator status is related to a particular place and the amount of hazardous waste generated there. The EPA recognizes that a single company may have multiple locations and that only some may generate hazardous waste. 

The total volume of hazardous waste generated in a calendar month determines the hazardous waste generator status and what regulations apply to that generator.  Any facility that generates hazardous waste is responsible for it from when it is generated until it is properly disposed of. If you are unsure of your hazardous waste generator status or have questions on hazardous waste, contact the professionals at Maine Labpack. We are a licensed provider and offer comprehensive hazardous waste collection services to ensure our customers comply with regulatory obligations on the state and federal levels. 

A Guide to Cannabis Waste Management in Maine

Cannabis waste management in Maine is governed by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), following established Solid Waste Management Rules for proper disposal. Cannabis waste is all material byproducts resulting from cannabis cultivation and production activities that are not marketed for medical use or adult use. 

Maine’s DEP rules regulate waste generated by licensed cannabis cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, sample collectors, and stores where the waste from cannabis and cannabis components is generated. Examples of cannabis waste include any growing materials used in cultivation, excess cannabis chaff in production, i.e., the trimmings, stems, and stocks, unused or expired cannabis products like edibles, and unused cannabis paraphernalia such as packaging, vape pens, or containers. 

Though cannabis is an organic product, cannabis cultivation, and production activities can generate wastes that may be nonhazardous or hazardous. If cannabis waste is hazardous, it must be disposed of differently in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. Whether hazardous or not, businesses must make these items unusable and unrecognizable before disposal. Therefore, how cannabis waste is disposed of depends on the way the waste is produced or generated. 

Non-Hazardous Cannabis Waste Disposal

For disposal of nonhazardous cannabis waste, all cannabis licensees in the State of Maine are encouraged to practice sustainable Best Management Practices (BMP) in such ways as to dispose of waste through composting. Composting can be done at the facility in which the cannabis cultivation is located, or it can be taken to an agricultural composting operation site. On-farm composting or off-farm composting of cannabis waste is encouraged as long as the process follows regulatory guidelines and the waste does not contain any solvents or chemical extraction agents used in producing cannabis products. 

Composting operations must meet regulatory-based exemptions, and the waste must be rendered unusable, meaning that the non-salable marijuana trimmings and plant matter must be ground and mixed at a 50:50 ratio with other organic waste materials such as those from other cultivated agricultural byproducts or manure. The content of the plant’s psychoactive compound THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) must also be adequately degraded to 0.3% or less to allow unregulated use of the final compost product. By adhering to regulations, composted cannabis waste material can be returned to the soil as fertilizer and, as it is considered agricultural waste, is exempt from further regulation by the DEP.  

Organic cannabis wastes may also be composted off-farm as a Type 1A Residual, a classification of wastes from a known source that does not contain hazardous substances. The waste must be transported to the composting facility by a state-authorized entity such as licensed companies, individuals, or law enforcement officials. Facilities offering off-farm composting may only accept 10 cubic yards or less of cannabis waste in any 30-day consecutive period or obtain a DEP compost facility license. 

Finally, organic cannabis waste may be disposed of at DEP-licensed municipal solid waste landfills or incinerators. Cannabis waste can also be processed at aerobic digestion facilities licensed to accept such materials from municipal solid waste streams. 

Hazardous Cannabis Waste Disposal

Though cannabis plants and trimmings are not considered hazardous, certain production processes can produce hazardous waste. Some extraction processes of THC and CBD (cannabidiol) oils utilize flammable, toxic, or other dangerous solvent materials. 

Of particular concern is ethanol, propane, butane, and methane. These solvents are typically used as chemical extraction agents and can render the resulting cannabis waste hazardous in solid or liquid form. For example, butane honey oil solutions used to draw resin from cannabis buds is a highly flammable, hazardous material with a low flash point. The extraction waste must be properly disposed of as a hazardous material.

Cannabis testing labs and grow rooms typically generate hazardous waste while conducting or performing routine material analyses. Hazardous waste can also be generated during secondary distillation processes used to extract cannabinoid compounds from the plant. Any cannabis waste containing chemical extraction agents is considered hazardous waste, subject to Maine’s DEP Hazardous Waste Management Rules regulations, and must be disposed of properly.

Proper disposal of cannabis waste, whether hazardous or nonhazardous, is the responsibility of all licensed cannabis parties involved in the cultivation, production, testing, and selling of cannabis products. Farmers, manufacturers, scientists, and merchants must comply with state laws.

Contact the Experts at Maine Labpack

All hazardous and nonhazardous cannabis waste must be disposed of properly according to Maine State cannabis waste regulations. If you are a cannabis generator with waste disposable needs, Maine Labpack provides cannabis waste management and dispensary recycling services per regulations under the DEP’s Solid Waste Management Rules. We offer generators comprehensive waste analysis and disposal for hazardous and nonhazardous cannabis waste. Contact Maine Labpack today for more information or to discuss your cannabis waste disposal needs and requirements.