What are the Types of Hazardous Waste? – Understand Them in Detail

What are the Types of Hazardous Waste? – Understand Them in Detail
keyKey Takeaways:
  • Hazardous waste is classified into four categories: listed waste, characteristic waste, universal waste, and mixed waste.
  • Hazardous waste poses significant risks to both the environment and human health, necessitating proper understanding and management.
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a vital federal law that regulates the handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste in the United States.

The harmful effect of various types of hazardous waste on the overall environment and human health is worthy of worry. Still, its production is only going up.

In fact, you will find it astonishing to know that we produce 400 million tons of hazardous waste every year, as per The World Counts. This means 13 tons of hazardous waste is produced every second!

Thus, it is important to understand it and make people aware of this growing concern. So, in this blog, we will show you its various types. Let’s get started.

Understanding Hazardous Waste

It is any residue that poses a threat to human health, the environment, or both. The US has a regulatory authority called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dedicated to keeping it under check.

EPA is authorized under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). It is a federal law in the United States that plays a crucial role in regulating the management of hazardous waste. 

The purpose of RCRA is to establish guidelines and standards for the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste.

And to be better able to manage it, hazardous waste is classified into these 4 types based on its properties, characteristics, sources, and potential risks:

    • Listed waste
    • Characteristic waste
    • Universal waste
    • Mixed waste

Now, let’s look at each of them in detail to understand them better.

4 Types of Hazardous Waste

1. Listed waste

Listed waste

The Environmental Protection Agency identifies and lists hazardous waste into 4 categories based on its properties and sources. Here are they:


The waste included in F-list is also called non-specific source wastes as they are difficult to be traced back to a specific source. This is usually produced by manufacturing and industrial processes. Its examples are:

    • Discarded solvents
    • Spent cleaning solutions
    • Wastewater treatment sludges
    • Dioxin-bearing wastes
    • Wood-preserving wastes


Unlike the F-list, here, waste is generated from specific industries or processes. Thus, it is also sometimes referred to as specific source waste. This means you can easily trace its source to be better able to handle them. Here are a few examples of it:

    • Certain chemical manufacturing byproducts
    • Pesticide manufacturing wastes
    • Petroleum refining wastes


P and U are categorized based on their properties rather than their sources. P-list is made up of acute hazardous waste, i.e. waste that has a higher potential to cause severe harm or death. P-list can have:

    • Specific pesticides
    • Certain chemotherapy drugs
    • Certain unused pharmaceuticals


U-list contains those hazardous waste materials that have shown toxic characteristics. This is why it is also called toxic waste. Here are some of them:

    • Lead-based paint
    • Mercury-containing devices
    • Certain industrial byproducts

2. Characteristic waste

These are wastes that have certain characteristics that make them hazardous, as laid out by EPA. Any wastes that possess one or more of these traits can be classified as characteristic wastes.

    1. Ignitability

    If a waste is flammable or can easily catch fire under certain circumstances, then it is termed ignitable waste. Examples of such waste are solvents, gasoline, oils, certain chemicals, and some solid waste as well.

    It brings in significant risks like fire and explosion wherever it is. Thus, you will need to properly handle ignitable waste by storing it in approved containers and preventing it from coming into contact with anything that can spark a fire.

    2. Corrosivity

    Corrosive wastes are those that can corrode or dissolve materials when they come in contact with them. Thus, they require careful handling and storage in corrosion-resistant containers.

    This waste can cause severe burns, damage infrastructure, and contaminate the environment. Acids, alkaline solutions, and certain cleaning agents are some of its examples.

    3. Reactivity

    Reactive waste, when exposed to certain conditions, can undergo violent reactions like producing toxic gases, explosions, or releasing heat. Reactive hazardous wastes include oxidizers, peroxides, unstable chemicals, etc. 

    So, for safety purposes, it is crucial to manage them safely. How? By properly separating it from other types of waste, keeping it in specialized storage, and following handling procedures properly to prevent unintended reactions.

    4. Toxicity

    A waste that can cause harm to human health or the environment is termed as toxic. Some of such toxic wastes are various chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, and certain pharmaceuticals. 

    When exposed to toxic waste, it can cause acute or chronic health issues, contaminate water sources, and damage ecosystems.

    Therefore, it is crucial to follow strict guidelines, use personal protective equipment (PPE), implement containment measures, and ensure proper treatment or disposal methods to minimize risks of toxicity characteristic waste.

3. Universal waste

The next hazardous waste category is universal waste. As you may have guessed from the name itself, this type of waste is the one that is generated more often and can be found rather commonly.

Universal waste

Thus, it is also called dangerous goods. EPA further divides this into 5 categories:

    • Batteries
    • Pesticides
    • Mercury-containing equipment
    • Lamps
    • Aerosol cans

4. Mixed waste

When hazardous wastes also contain radioactive materials, they are called mixed waste.  This is why mixed wastes are under federal regulations from both the EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

It also has another variant in the form of mixed radiological wastes which refers to hazardous materials that contain both radioactive and non-radioactive components.

These wastes can arise from wherever radioactive materials are utilized. Some of those places are nuclear power plants, medical facilities, and research laboratories.

Understanding these categories is vital for your business to comply with regulatory requirements as far as hazardous waste is concerned. 

So, by sticking to appropriate procedures, you can be responsible for reducing waste and minimizing risks to the environment.

However, one of the toughest parts for the waste management business is collecting it optimally and then sending it to the required destination. This is where route optimization can help you immensely. Let us shed more light on this topic.

Transport Hazardous Waste Using Route Optimization Software

Efficient route planning and optimization play a vital role in transporting hazardous waste without any risk. It ensures that your waste is transported safely while also minimizing costs and time spent on the road.

However, planning routes for waste collection manually can be really time-consuming and inaccurate. Instead, you can opt for waste management software like Upper which lets you plan routes quickly.

It enhances your overall efficiency in transporting such harmful waste by identifying the best routes for your drivers with just a few clicks. 

Get Efficient Routes For Hazardous Waste Collection

Optimizing routes for waste collection is crucial for disposing of your hazardous waste faster. So, get more efficient routes on Upper within seconds.


Its handling and disposal should be done by strictly following hazardous waste regulations. Store it in appropriate containers, transport it safely, and ensure it has proper packaging. Its disposal is also important whose method varies depending on the type of waste.

Improper handling and disposal of such toxic waste can contaminate soil and water, pollute air, damage ecosystems, and harm wildlife. It can also contribute to long-term ecological damage as some of these stay around for a long time.

Yes, there are. But they vary as per the country as they each have different regulatory authorities just as the US has Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But, to give you an idea, usually involves obtaining appropriate licenses and permits, following specific packaging and labeling requirements, and complying with transportation guidelines.

Yes, some types of hazardous waste can be recycled. Materials such as electronic waste (e-waste) and certain chemicals can undergo recycling processes to reduce the need for new production. However, one should keep in mind that recycling hazardous waste requires specialized facilities and processes to ensure proper handling and disposal of any residue.

To ensure the safe transportation of hazardous wastes, here are the steps that you should follow:

    • Follow all applicable regulations and obtain the necessary permits and licenses.
    • Use appropriate containers and packaging that meet safety standards.
    • Label containers clearly with the appropriate hazard warnings.
    • Train and educate people on proper handling and emergency response procedures.
    • Stay updated on new regulations and industry best practices to maintain compliance


Hazardous wastes are indeed very harmful to Mother Earth and us. Therefore, everyone should understand them better and integrate proper safety and disposal processes.

And not just that. As the problem of hazardous waste becomes more concerning, it is essential to stay informed about the latest regulations, industry best practices, and technological advancements.

By prioritizing safety, compliance, and responsible waste management practices, we all together can contribute to a cleaner and safer environment for present and future generations.

As a waste management business, you can use Upper Route Planner for faster transportation of hazardous wastes to minimize risk and build a sustainable future. Start your now.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel is the founder and CEO of Upper Route Planner, a route planning and optimization software. With 28+ years of experience in the technology industry, Rakesh is a subject matter expert in building simple solutions for day-to-day problems. His ultimate goal with Upper Route Planner is to help delivery businesses eliminate on-field delivery challenges and simplify operations such as route planning, scheduling, dispatching, take a proof of delivery, manage drivers, real time tracking, customer notifications and more. He loves sharing his thoughts on eliminating delivery management challenges via blogs. Read more.