- Industries such as chemical manufacturing, petroleum and coal products, and waste treatment are major contributors to hazardous waste generation.
- Sustainable waste management practices, regulatory compliance, and public awareness are crucial in tackling the challenges associated with hazardous waste.
- Minimizing hazardous waste generation requires a circular economy approach, alternative technologies, and active participation from individuals and businesses.
Hazardous waste is mounting up and that too at a rapid pace. And it isn’t just the litter that is concerning but also the harmful effects of hazardous waste on humans and the environment.
If you are wondering what exactly makes waste harmful, then understand that it is these 4 characteristics – ignitability, corrosivity, toxicity, and reactivity.
Thankfully, in the United States, we have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that acts as an authority to control regulations related to such waste.
But, their efforts need to be complemented by our support to tackle this huge challenge. So, in this blog post, we will provide you with some shocking hazardous waste statistics to show you how grim the current situation is.
Table of Content
Global Hazardous Waste Generation Stats
Here are concerning stats about the hazardous waste that you should know, as per The World Counts and Environmental Protection Agency.
- 13 tons – that is how much hazardous waste is produced every single second!
- The total hazardous waste produced each year has reached 400 million tons.
- There has been a 400 times increase in the production of man-made chemicals in just one generation – from 1 million to 400 million tons.
- As per our current rate of hazardous waste production, each person contributes 60 kg of it on average each year.
- As many as 700 various hazardous chemicals are found in humans that are not supposed to be there.
- The worst chemicals from hazardous waste can cause cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, or damage our DNA.
- DDT and PCBs – the two most dangerous chemicals banned a long ago – were found in 99% of volunteers in a study on human chemical contamination.
- A staggering 3.3 billion pounds of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment in 2021 alone. (EPA)
- Cancer or other chronic human health effects
- Significant adverse acute human health effects
- Significant adverse environmental effects
- Air releases of TRI chemicals decreased by 26% between 2011 and 2021, driven by reductions from electric utilities.
Hazardous Waste Generation in the United States
- Wastewater represented 80% of the total quantity of hazardous wastes generated in the US in 2019.
- Only 5 US states contribute to approximately 80% of all the hazardous waste produced in the country – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Kansas.
- $8.9 billion of revenue was generated from hazardous waste disposal and treatment in 2021. This is an increase in revenue of $430 million as compared to 2020.
- A total of 773 kg of food, plastic, and hazardous waste is produced per person every year in the US.
- The US produces 3 times more waste than the global average.
- New Jersey has 115 hazardous waste sites, which is the highest among all the US states. Next comes California with 96 sites and then Pennsylvania having 90 sites.
- The US makes up 4% of the planet’s population yet produces 12% of municipal solid waste.
Thus so far, we have only seen some eye-opening figures about hazardous waste. But, have you wondered who contributes to creating it in the first place? This is why, next we will see industrial sectors that are the biggest hazardous waste generators.
Top 3 Industrial Sectors for Hazardous Waste Generation
The top three sectors that generate the most hazardous waste are:
1. Basic chemical manufacturing industry
The chemical manufacturing industry has produced the highest amount of hazardous waste over the years. It all happens due to various processes such as creating styrofoam, dyes, and chlorine.
In 2019, this sector reported 20.1 million tons of hazardous waste generated. Usually, the waste generated from chemical manufacturing includes solvents, distillation residues, wastes with organics like benzene, and metals like barium and silver.
2. Petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry
Next in line comes petroleum and coal products manufacturing which creates products such as asphalt (used for roads), biodiesel fuels, lubricating oils, and greases. This sector generated 5.3 million tons of hazardous waste in 2019.
Solvents, spent catalysts, tank sludges, chromium, lead, selenium, benzene, toluene, and xylene are the typical harmful waste produced by this industry.
3. Waste treatment and disposal industry
The waste treatment and disposal industry generated 3.3 million tons of hazardous waste in 2019. This comes as a result of engaging in the manufacturing of various chemical products.
This reality seems even more pitiful when we add the fact that this industry is quickly growing at 3.1% over the past 5 years and now values at $25.9 billion.
Stats related to other industries:
- Out of the total amount of waste generated by healthcare activities, approximately 85% is non-hazardous. That means only the rest of the 15% is hazardous.
- 16.35 billion pounds (56% of the total) of production-related waste was created by only a single industry in 2021 – chemical manufacturing.
- The metal mining industry releases the most TRI chemicals, 44% of the total releases in 2021.
Are There Any Solutions to Tackle Hazardous Waste?
Many new solutions have emerged to keep hazardous waste under check. Here are 6 of them:
1. Circular economy approach
This is one of the many recycling trends that is spreading fast all over the world. This focuses on promoting recycling and reuse to reduce waste generation and minimize the disposal of hazardous materials.
2. Sustainable waste management
Sustainable waste management practices have started to be used widely. One example of such a practice is waste-to-energy conversion. This aims to turn hazardous waste into useful resources like energy or raw materials.
3. Better handling of e-waste
As electronic waste has been surging quickly, it needs to be better handled to reduce it. Thus, there is a growing trend for effective e-waste management strategies such as proper refurbishing and recycling of electronic devices.
4. Regulatory compliance
Stricter hazardous waste regulations and standards are the need of the hour to ensure it is properly handled, transported, and disposed of. This bounds people and businesses, in general, to follow rules and behave responsibly.
5. Public awareness and education
Public awareness and education regarding hazardous waste are must if we need to overcome this challenge. Thus, efforts are being made to educate people about the proper management and usage of toxic substances.
6. Faster waste collection
The more people stay in contact with hazardous waste, the higher they are prone to diseases. So, to collect such waste faster, waste management businesses are integrating waste pickup route planning software like Upper into the daily process.
Thus, if you also run such a business, try using Upper Route Planner, which helps you plan and optimize hazardous waste pickup routes in a matter of seconds.
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Exposure to hazardous waste is like inviting serious health risks such as respiratory issues, organ damage, cancer, and birth defects. And not just humans, it also harms the environment by polluting soil, water, and air. This, in turn, leads to disruption of the ecosystem and the endangerment of plant and animal species.
Hazardous waste is usually disposed of or treated through various methods, including landfilling, incineration, composting, physical and chemical treatment, as well as recycling them.
Challenges in handling and managing hazardous waste include:
- Proper classification and labeling
- Safe transportation, storage, and disposal
- Lack of public awareness
- Need for advanced technologies and infrastructure
As per EPA, hazardous waste is classified into 4 categories: listed, characteristic, universal, and mixed. Listed waste is further divided into F-list, K-list, P-list, and U-list. Whereas characteristic waste is categorized based on traits of hazardous waste – ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.
Hazardous waste brings significant challenges and carries severe consequences for both human health and the environment as you can see in the stats mentioned above.
Thus, we need to fully embrace sustainable practices like the promoting circular economy approach and converting waste to energy. But, we cannot completely leave this matter on the shoulders of regulatory bodies like the EPA.
We, as human beings, need to step up together to make an individual contribution by being responsible and also spreading awareness regarding it.
To collect and manage waste, one more thing you can do is integrate Upper Route Planner into your daily business operation. It makes collecting waste not just faster but also more economical. Start your 7-day FREE trial now.