January 3rd, 2018
People show up to HHW events with some extremely dangerous substances. The danger grows exponentially when we don’t know what the substance is. Often glass containers with powders and various liquids are brought to our events with no labels on them. Both the staff handling the material during collections and the staff properly treating the material need to follow certain safety protocols based on the material’s hazard characteristics.
That’s why it is extremely important to put a good clear label on any hazardous material you have in your home or work place. This way people will be able to handle the material properly. It will also eliminate possible mistakes downstream in terms of operations. Many HHW contracts specifically outline to residents that unknown material is not acceptable at the events.
When we get unknown liquids we immediately use pH paper to determine if the material is a strong acid or a strong caustic. Although that gives us the pH it does not say if the material has other hazardous characteristics. The material is labeled by the staff as an “unknown acid” or “unknown base.” The staff ensures the integrity of the container and puts it in the proper shipping container.
The next test we do is for reactivity. Using potassium iodide starch paper we ensure the material not reactive. “Reactive wastes are wastes that readily explode or undergo violent reactions. A waste is considered reactive if it: Explodes or reacts violently when exposed to water or under normal handling conditions. Creates toxic fumes or gases when exposed to water or under common handling conditions.” (per – http://ccelearn.csus.edu/wasteclass/mod6/mod6_14.html) We do not want reactive wastes packaged with no conforming wastes so there are no fires or explosions.
If the material is not corrosive or reactive then it is put with the toxic liquids, which ultimately go through the most secure incineration treatment.
Labeling material reduces that possibility dramatically. Please label any unknowns.
The most common reactive waste found at HHW events are Calcium Carbide and Solid Ox. Calcium Carbide was used in gas lamps for miners and old electric furnaces. As per Wikipedia: “SolidOx commonly refers to SolidOx Pellets or SolidOx Sticks used to supply the oxygen for the welding equipment. The SolidOx Pellets were made of potassium chlorate and were burned to produce oxygen.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SolidOx_(welding)) Both are extremely reactive with water and air. It is important the material is handled with extreme care and put into separate shipping containers. If you have any of these materials at your home ensure they are properly secured to ensure no contact with air, sunlight, or any other substance.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us for guidance on how to handle your reactive wastes.