The benefits of recycling hazardous waste

benefits of recycling hazardous wasteMention the term ‘hazardous waste’ and most people will think of toxic industrial chemicals or glowing green radioactive sludge.

The reality is the definition encompasses far more than you might ever have imagined. Much common household and business waste falls into this category.

As with any form of recycling, there are clear environmental benefits – all the more so in this case. But there are also economic benefits that go hand-in-hand with that, meaning it could be smart to spend a little more time and effort on your hazardous waste recycling programme.

What is hazardous waste?

Broadly speaking, hazardous waste is anything that could be considered harmful to the environment.

As we understand more about how our modern lifestyles and industrial processes affect the world around us, the list is steadily growing.

Some are fairly obvious: solvents and paints, oil and fuel. Others are less so. Light bulbs, computer equipment and consumer electronics, toner cartridges, batteries, some inks…

You can find more information on the Environment Agency’s website. Generally if something contains materials that are toxic, corrosive or flammable, it will be considered as hazardous waste and should be disposed of or recycled accordingly.

Why recycle it?

There are at least two reasons to recycle your waste: environmental and economic. The environmental case is clear. As with any recycling, the purpose is to reduce the unsustainable consumption of the earth’s resources.

In the case of hazardous waste, there is the additional factor that dumping these materials in landfill or down the drain can be extremely harmful to the environment.

Solvents and heavy metals leach into the soil, contaminating water supplies and habitats. Once they are there, they are very difficult to clean up and cause devastation to surrounding flora and fauna.

Many materials considered hazardous will include petrochemical derivatives – oil and other fossil fuels that are being depleted at an alarming rate and that release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Certain chemicals are many times more serious than CO2 in terms of climate change; Sulphur Hexafluoride, which is used as an electrical insulator and a temperature insulator in glazed windows, is around 24,000 times more potent as a greenhouse gas.

The economic case

It often makes good financial sense to recycle hazardous waste, too. For starters, there are regulations surrounding the proper disposal of these materials, and stiff fines for breaching them. At the very least it makes sense to avoid these by getting a reputable recycling company to do the job for you.

Recycling can side-step some of the costs involved in disposing of hazardous materials – and even bring direct financial benefits.

It’s easy to throw out old computers or mobile phones that have ostensibly outlived their usefulness.

But reconditioning and reusing or selling these – or donating them to educational charities – can breathe a new lease of life into them, avoiding both the landfill and the costs associated with it.

Likewise, there are valuable materials embedded in larger items like cars. Now I know you wouldn’t throw a car in landfill, but I’m astonished at how many unused cars I see on people’s land or tyres I see fly tipped. If you find a local junk yard, you’ll get money for your old unused vehicles. You’d be crazy not to take that up, right?

Corporate Social Responsibility

There are additional benefits in terms of reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility.

This isn’t just a question of ‘greenwashing’ your company – carrying out token initiatives to present an environmentally-friendly façade to eco-conscious customers.

Aside from the regulatory requirements, there is an increasing emphasis on ‘integrated reporting’ that takes into account social and environmental outcomes for your organisation, not just its financial bottom line.

In the United States, a new form of business known as a Benefit Corporation is gaining traction. These build such factors into their everyday operations and reporting.

In an age where more and more people are questioning both the financial and environmental sustainability of business as we currently know it, these are proving to be an area of rapid growth and public interest.

ESE Projects strive to sustain and improve the natural environment for the benefit of all and are dedicated to improving the efficiency with which resources are used and complying with relevant environmental regulation and legislation.