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Hazardous waste management is an area of the waste management field concerned with the proper containment, management, and disposal of wastes which could be considered hazardous. A number of types of waste are hazardous, from medical waste which carries the risk of infection to household waste such as paints and chemicals which could be flammable or explosive. In many regions of the world, it is not legal to dispose of hazardous waste in conventional waste containers, and special protocols must be observed when hazardous materials are being handled.
A number of concerns must be addressed by waste management authorities when handling hazardous materials. Pollution is a major issue, with most basic waste management facilities lacking the containment needed to keep the environment safe from hazardous substances. The potential for human or animal illness is also a concern, as is the risk of fire from flammable materials. Hazardous waste can also be a threat to national security, in the case of radioactive waste materials which could be acquired and abused by a foreign power or terrorist organization. Hazardous waste management is design to protect the public and the environment from dangerous waste.
There are several different aspects to hazardous waste management. One of the most important is the overall reduction of hazardous waste, closely followed by education of the public. Hazardous waste programs typically include community outreach and education to inform people about hazardous waste, alerting them to things which may be dangerous and providing recommendations to reduce the production of such waste. These programs also provide information about safe hazardous waste disposal.
For household hazardous waste like tins of paint and hazardous chemicals, it is sometimes possible to drop off waste at a designated point. The waste will be collected and disposed of safely by a company which offers hazardous waste management services. Small communities may have mobile trailers or vans which periodically rotate through communities to collect hazardous waste. Businesses which regularly generate hazardous waste may need a hazardous waste disposal contract with a waste management agency, which includes provision of specialized containers for waste collection.
Laws concerning specific types of hazardous waste can be reinforced by public health inspectors and members of law enforcement. These laws typically define hazardous waste, breaking it up by type, and dictate how the waste needs to be processed and disposed of by companies which handle hazardous waste management. Violations of the law may be penalized with fines, and possibly jail time, depending on the nature of the violation. An individual who tosses a paint can in the garbage may be fined, for example, while the executives a waste management company which buries hazardous waste in an unsecured landfill may incur jail time in addition to heavy fines.