Waste Management: Watch Your Reputation

Company executives are becoming increasingly aware of their corporate responsibilities regarding waste management practices within their organizations. Almost every week you can see negative headlines about a company that has either caused an environmental incident or been prosecuted for disposing of waste incorrectly. In 2012 the EPA resolved more than 3,000 cases with criminal fines and civil penalties amounting to a quarter of a billion dollars.* In addition to expensive fines, the companies involved also suffered significant damage to their reputations. 
 
The main reason most organizations end up in situations like this is a lack of knowledge about what practices are permitted. Examples include:

  • Beginning Oct. 1, 2014 Massachusetts will ban commercial operations from sending food waste to landfills. **
  • Many counties in the U.S. have now mandated that certain materials be recycled.
  • Storage of selected waste material must be carried out in a specific way and only permitted for a limited time period.
  • Many materials that once went to landfill are no longer allowed.

 
Disposal of chemical waste, whether hazardous or non-hazardous, presents additional challenges. The process can be technologically complex and a major expense for an organization. Prior to disposal, the material must be profiled to identify the correct disposal method, and when disposed of, records must be maintained. The length of time records need to be kept depends on the classification of the material and where it is produced and disposed, since guidelines vary from state to state.  Fortunately, a number of companies today have developed the technology for disposal of these materials, along with working practices to ensure that the correct records are maintained. When selecting a company to work with in chemical waste disposal, a number of factors should be considered. They include:

  • The company’s technical capabilities
  • The Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) that will ultimately be handling the material
  • How often the company audits the TSDF
  • The company’s insurance provisions to protect the generator from future liabilities.

 
Waste management is an important corporate responsibility. An in-depth knowledge of waste disposal practices, and the laws and regulations governing disposal, is vital. When chemical waste disposal services are needed, selecting a company based on their technical abilities, TSDF audit frequency and insurance provisions should be key factors in the deliberation process. Keeping these concerns in mind will help avoid possible criminal and civil penalties — and safeguard a company’s reputation.

*EPA 2012 Enforcement Annual Results
**Massachusetts landfill ban

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