Hazardous Waste Guide: Vermiculite

Many customers ask us why we pour what looks like gravel or dirt into their containers of hazardous waste or dangerous goods shipments. Like shipping any material, hazardous goods need something to cushion them during shipment. So, what are the materials we use for that? The answer is vermiculite.

Vermiculite, or “verm” for short, is a shiny, fire-resistant, absorbent mineral that looks similar to gravel, but is very lightweight. Generally, it has a gold-like sheen and has visible layers within its small pieces. You may have come across the mineral in the gardening section of your local hardware store or the insulation in your attic. But what are the benefits of vermiculite for shipping, particularly shipping dangerous goods and hazardous materials?

Benefits of Vermiculite in Shipping

For decades, hazardous waste handlers and shippers alike know the numerous benefits of using vermiculite to ship highly sensitive materials. Verm is ideal for shipping hazardous materials because:

  • It makes a great absorbent material: The mineral’s spongy structure allows it to draw and lock in moisture. This helps hazardous materials stay dry – particularly water-reactive ones or become corrosive when moistened. In the event a spill occurs, this also means vermiculite has the ability to stop the spread of a spill, and prevent a hazmat incident in-transit. 
  • It’s non-reactive & non-flammable: When exposed to nearly all chemicals, verm does not break down, dissolve, or emit harmful gases and will not create a hazardous situation for the shipper. It’s also flame-retardant and is resistant to fire. Being both chemically safe and flame retardant makes it a great universal tool for shipping nearly all hazardous materials and waste. 
  • It has a spongy & lightweight texture: The mineral is not only lightweight, but it also has a spongy, compressible feel that helps absorb the shocks associated with shipping. This makes it a great option for materials that can be shock-sensitive, are in brittle containers or are generally fragile. This works well for hazardous waste and unused chemicals which are often not stored in pristine containers. 

Although many people associate foam and bubble-wrap with shipping materials, in the hazardous waste and dangerous goods world, vermiculite is the go-to. So, the next time you see your hazardous waste vendor or dangerous goods consultant pouring what looks like gravel into your containers, you’ll know it’s there to keep your products safe during shipment. 

Have questions about the benefits of vermiculite when it comes to shipping hazardous materials or dangerous goods? Contact us today to learn more about our hazardous waste disposal services and dangerous goods shipping options.