Definitions: What is waste? (2023)

It may seem easy - "waste" is something that no longer has a use or purpose and should be discarded, right? Correct. The term certainly applies to discarded materials, but there are specific definitions of waste that affect how waste is regulated and must be handled, particularly in a business context.

The majority of household waste and veterinary practice waste is considered "solid waste", regardless of whether it is actually "solid" in physical form. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)defines solid wasteas "any waste or refuse, sludge from a sewage treatment plant, water treatment plant or air pollution control plant and other discharged material, including solid, liquid, semi-solid or contained gaseous materials, arising from industrial, commercial, mining and agricultural activities and from community activities.Based on this definition, examples of solid waste generated by veterinary clinics include, but are not limited to: animal tissue, fluids and carcasses, animal waste, chemicals used in laboratory, cleaning or radiographic procedures, syringes and other medical supply waste. medications, such as epinephrine and nitroglycerin, chemotherapy agents, mercury from thermometers, light bulbs and batteries, pesticides, dyes and other solvents, and more.

As you can see, "solid waste" is a broad category. It is further divided into sub-categories as shown here.

Definitions: What is waste? (1)

Solid waste is regulated at the federal level by the EPA underResource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which gives the EPA authority to regulate hazardous waste from "cradle to grave." This includes when it is made to when it is discarded and everything in between.

Waste stream
A waste stream is the flow or movement of waste from the point of generation (e.g. household or veterinary practice) to final disposal (e.g. landfill).

Hazardous Waste
A subcategory of solid waste, theEPA defines hazardous wasteas items that are classified as solid waste and that are potentially dangerous or harmful to the environment or human health. Hazardous waste is further divided into registered, characteristic, universal, dual and mixed waste. In addition to the broader categories associated with veterinary practice, duplicate and mixed wastes require special attention because they are biodegradable, leading to possible miscategorization and inappropriate disposal. If any of these are generated at your facility, it is critical to ensure that the company you use to dispose of each of them is authorized to do so.

For mere information:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Regulations on hazardous waste

  • 40 CFR 261 identifies and lists all hazardous materials regulated byResource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
  • 40 CRF 262 discusses the requirements for generators of hazardous waste, which depending on the situation may be classified as veterinarians.

Veterinary Compliance Assistance (VetCA)

Registered waste
A subcategory of hazardous waste, listed waste is subdivided into 4 categories: List F waste, List K waste, List P waste and U-waste. These substances are specifically defined in RCRA. For more information on these types of waste, see the specific entries in the Code of Federal Regulations (40CFR 261).

List F wasteare solid wastes from non-specialized sources and include some spent solvents and chemical baths as well as some sewage and other categories. This waste is more likely to be found in the laboratory of a veterinary practice. Examples include acetone, methanol, toluene, xylene and methylene chloride. Subclasses F001 to F005 are most relevant to veterinary practice. (For more information: 40 CFR 261.31)

Waste listed on list Kinclude those produced in the manufacture of pesticides, dyes, chemicals, wood preservatives, etc. They are generally not found in veterinary practices, but can be found in facilities that manufacture veterinary drugs. (For more information: 40 CFR 261.32)

Waste included on the P-listare products or chemicals that areacutely toxic, meaning that a very small amount has serious or fatal effects (oral dose LD5050 mg/kg or less), and include arsenic, warfarin, adrenaline (but not adrenaline salts), nitroglycerin, certain chemotherapeutic agents, and others. (For more information: 40 CFR 261.33)

List U wasteare products that arepoisonousand some also have other waste characteristics, such as flammability, corrosiveness, or reactivity) and include acetone, chloral hydrate, ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, mercury, phenol, reserpine, certain chemotherapeutics, and others. (For more information: 40 CFR 261.33)

Definitions: What is waste? (2)Of the listed wastes, the P-, U- and F-list (and especially the subcategories F001-F005) are the most important and should not be overlooked, because the violation of the rules for these products can lead to serious disciplinary sanctions.

Characteristic waste
Characteristic wasteis hazardous solid waste that possesses certain characteristics of flammability, corrosiveness, reactivity or toxicity. (For more information: 40 CFR 261.20 – 261.24) You will note that this coincides with the definition of U-listed waste – characteristic waste is a category of waste that is somewhat “better” than non-specific waste listed (K-, F-, P- or U-list), but has one or more of the 4 characteristics of flammability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity.

Total waste
Total wasteis hazardous solid waste that is largely generated by all sections of the population. This category includes goods such asbatteries, she gives itpear,Pesticidesin some cases, andequipment containing mercury. (For mere information: 40 CFR 273)

Mixed waste
Mixed wasteis hazardous solid waste that is radioactive. This includes waste related to the production of radionuclides (radioisotopes) and their use in veterinary medicine.

Double waste
Dual waste is both hazardous solid waste and infectious or potentially infectious items (controlled medical waste). Examples include non-empty syringes containing hazardous drug waste with needles attached.

Hazardous household waste
As the name suggests,hazardous household wasteis hazardous solid waste that is produced in small quantities by individual households across the country. This category includes various household cleaners, paints, solvents and other chemicals. Some of the items in this category, such as batteries, light bulbs and pesticides, are also considered general waste.

Non-hazardous waste
Non-hazardous waste, which constitutes the second category of solid waste, is the solid waste that does not meetResource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)and is not subject to RCRA subtitles C. However, it is not safe to assume that waste classified as "non-hazardous" poses no risk. This category is further divided into municipal solid waste and industrial waste.

Municipal solid waste
Municipal solid wasteis a broad category of non-hazardous solid waste that includes animal carcasses as well as typical refuse or garbage.

Solid agricultural waste
Agricultural solid waste is a subcategory of municipal solid waste and is waste produced by raising animals and producing or harvesting crops or trees. This category includes animal waste and animal carcasses. (For more information: 40 CFR 246.101)

Industrial solid waste

Industrial solid wasteis another subcategory of non-hazardous solid waste and includes solid waste produced by industrial processes and manufacturing. This category also includes medical waste and controlled medical waste, which are particularly important for veterinarians.

Medical waste/Controlled medical waste
Medical wasteis solid industrial waste "generated for the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of humans or animals, in research related thereto or for the production or testing of biological products"Medical Waste Monitoring Act af 1988. Depending on the situation, this category may include potentially infectious animal waste, bedding, carcasses or tissues.

Controlled medical waste, more formally known as "biohazardous" or "hazardous" waste, includes the following:

  • Disposable equipment, instruments, utensils and fomites (any substance capable of harboring or transmitting pathogenic organisms) from the rooms of patients suspected of or diagnosed with a communicable disease and therefore required to be isolated as required by the public health of the carrier;
  • Laboratory waste, such as pathological specimens (eg, all tissues, samples of blood elements, secretions and secretions from patients or laboratory animals) and consumables accompanying them;
  • Pathological surgical specimens and associated consumables and similar consumables from outpatient clinics and emergency rooms.

For mere information, se 40 CFR 246.101 (q)

There is variation among states in how they define and regulate waste generated from medical practice. At the federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are the primary regulatory agencies.

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