What is Environmental Waste Management?

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  • Written By: Sheryl Butterfield
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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Environmental waste management is the disposal of any type of waste in an environmentally conscious way. From paying bills online and reducing paper waste to disposing of hazardous waste at a designated site, managing waste properly can help preserve the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)claims that waste generated by Americans is as high as millions of tons.

The EPA regulates all U.S. waste through compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Waste is categorized into broad subcategories. Households generate garbage. Commercial manufacturers and industrial companies generate solid waste. Within the household or commercial categories, waste is further defined as hazardous or non-hazardous.

Hazardous waste contains dangerous or harmful elements that are ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic. The RCRA puts hazardous waste onto one of four lists: F-list, K-list, P-list or U-list. F-list wastes come from non-specific sources, such as any manufacturing or industrial process using heavy cleaners or degreasers.

The K-list wastes are source-specific and generated by industries such as water treatment plants, petroleum refineries or pesticide manufacturers. On the P-list and U-list are commercial chemical products that have been thrown away. Pesticides and pharmaceuticals are hazardous once discarded.


Hazardous household waste (HHW) consists of items that are corrosive, ignitable, toxic or contain reactive ingredients. Common household items, including paint, medicines, batteries, cleaners, and pesticides are considered hazardous. At one time, homeowners regularly disposed of these items by either pouring them down drains, dumping them onto the ground or including them in ordinary garbage. With the growth of environmental awareness, communities and the U.S. government began providing safer disposal options.

HHW can be reduced through consumer environmental waste management. Purchasing fewer hazardous products and using eco-conscious methods for cleaning or health care reduces toxic materials use. HHW disposal is key to environmental waste management.

Many communities host designated collection days, drop-off points or permanent collection sites for HHW. Businesses may accept products for recycling or disposal. For example, computers and cell phones are collected at office supply stores. Motor oil can sometimes be taken to local auto garages for recycling.

Environmental waste management aims to minimize hazardous waste. The EPA researches safer methods of reuse and recycling of hazardous materials. The agency analyzes, tests, samples and monitors waste's effect on the environment,

Many corporations are putting environmental management systems (EMS) into place to improve environmental waste management. These practices ensure a company is complying with regulations and successfully managing waste. An EMS can increase work efficiency and operations.


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