Characteristics of hazardous waste classification management examples

Hazardous wastes

Hazardous wastes are solids, liquids or gases that arise as by-products of production activity and are harmful to humans or the environment. These residues have a number of common properties; are residues from the manufacture of other products and have the ability to pollute the environment. In this article we will provide you the Characteristics of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste is capable of negatively affecting human health directly or altering the properties of vital substances (water, air, soil) and fundamental natural processes. They can be classified from different points of view, whether by nature, form of action or origin.

According to their nature, they can be chemical, physical and biological, while, due to their mode of action, there are corrosives, oxidants and toxic substances, among others. As for the origin, this will depend on the productive activity from which they are derived.

Depending on the nature and characteristics of each hazardous waste, there are protocols for its management in order to prevent, reduce or mitigate its environmental impact. Nuclear waste is among the hazardous waste that causes the greatest negative impact on the environment and, in particular, on human beings.

Characteristics of hazardous waste

Hazardous waste encompasses a wide spectrum of sources and substances that can cause harm to health and the environment. Therefore, the variety of characteristics and properties varies according to each type of waste and the circumstances of its release into the environment.

However, in order for a particular waste or secondary product to be classified as hazardous waste, it must meet certain conditions.


First, the matter at hand must constitute a waste, that is, something that originates from a production process but is not the purpose of production. Furthermore, this by-product should not be considered as raw material for a subsequent production process (its fate should be discarded).

Therefore, these materials must be disposed of, storing them or deactivating them before releasing them into the environment. In summary, a waste is a by-product that is not useful and is destined for disposal.

Danger condition

A waste is hazardous if it is capable of causing harm to humans or the environment, which can be established by going to established lists or performing laboratory tests. The hazardousness of a waste is manifested by the expression of one of the 5 properties, which are corrosiveness, flammability, reactivity, toxicity and infectivity.

In the first case, it refers to the ability of the residue to be highly acidic or alkaline. Flammability refers to the ability to generate fire and reactivity to generate hazardous reactions.

Toxicity has to do with substances that in water, air or food damage the metabolism of humans or other living beings. This includes organic breakdown, mutagenic (causing changes in DNA), carcinogenic (causing cancer) or teratogenic (defects in embryonic development) effects.

In the case of infectiousness, it refers to the fact that the waste has some pathogenic or disease-causing biological agent.


If hazardous wastes are released into the environment, they constitute a pollutant and a potential hazard. Depending on the nature of the hazardous waste, the routes of contamination and the type of contaminated environment, the level of its negative impact can be determined.

These residues can contaminate soil, water and air, depending on their source, characteristics and means of release. Waste gases from various industries, as well as particles emitted by combustion processes, are the main air pollutants.

For its part, the soil is contaminated by all types of hazardous waste through solid and liquid discharges. The waters of rivers, lakes, seas, oceans and groundwater are constantly contaminated by hazardous waste.

Types of hazardous waste


It is the oxidizing residues that promote fire when mixed with combustible substances. These include nitric acid, hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide) and halogens.


It includes any substance capable of spontaneously or induced fire, such as paper, wood chips and petroleum products.


They are residues that, under certain conditions, for example, high temperatures, produce a decomposition that produces a detonation or explosion. An example is the volatile hydrocarbons released from paint and solvent residues.


This category considers all residues of these substances capable of negatively altering the metabolism of living beings. Pesticides and heavy metals fall into this category.


When these residues come into contact with the mucous membranes or skin, they cause reactions such as redness, burning or inflammation. Examples of irritating residues are chlorine and ammonia.


They are acids or bases capable of corroding or damaging some surfaces on which they act (metal, organic matter), such as hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide.


All wastes that contain chemical elements that lose energy through the emission of radiation. An example of this is waste from thermonuclear plants, nuclear medicine equipment, among others.

Carcinogens and mutagens

Any residue of these substances that has been proven to generate some form of cancer or genetic alterations. For example, asbestos waste (asbestos), vinyl chloride and ethidium bromide.

biological infectious

Waste that may contain pathogenic organisms, such as hospital waste and sewage, is considered in this type.

Hazardous waste management

Each national legislation determines the criteria for the management of hazardous waste, but worldwide the Basel Convention (1989) establishes the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste.

driving concept

Hazardous waste management means the collection, transport, disposal, storage or inactivation of such waste. This includes monitoring storage sites or the behavior of supposedly inactivated waste.

These processes must ensure all necessary measures to avoid the impact on public health and the environment of waste.


Management starts with minimizing the generation of hazardous waste, as it is recycled or reused. Otherwise, when a hazardous waste is generated, it must be processed properly, depending on its nature.

In some cases, pre-treatment is implemented to modify the physical or chemical characteristics of the waste to facilitate its transport, storage or disposal. Thus, in the treatment of hazardous waste, chemical, physical and biological procedures are used, according to the nature of the waste.

For example, for hydrocarbon residues, chemical and biological procedures are used for their degradation. In the latter, bacteria, archaea and fungi capable of degrading hydrocarbons and their derivatives (biodegradation) are used.

In other cases, physical methods are used, such as the use of carbon filters or incineration in special ovens. While in the case of chemical treatments, chemical reactions are used that neutralize or cancel the dangerous effect of the residue.

radioactive waste

There are some wastes whose only option is to store them in safe conditions, such as radioactive waste. Depending on the type of hazardous waste, there are technical specifications for the appropriate containers to be stored, as well as the conditions of the storage location.

Containers must be properly labeled and identified in accordance with the specifications set out in national and international regulations. European regulations state that if a waste is potentially explosive, its container is identified with the symbol of an exploding bomb.

For toxic waste, a skull is placed over crossbones, like the pirate symbol, and all these symbols are highlighted in black on an orange background.

Hazardous waste list

The fundamental element for the management of hazardous waste is the official lists existing in each country and even worldwide. They specify the type of waste and its degree of danger. Below is a general list of hazardous waste.

  • atomic waste
  • Hospital trash
  • mining waste
  • Waste from the textile industry
  • Waste from the paper industry
  • Pharmaceutical industry waste
  • Residues from the production and use of biocides
  • Residues from the production and use of animal and plant health products
  • Residues from engine combustion and industrial gas emissions.
  • Food industry waste
  • Chemical industry waste
  • Residues and petroleum derivatives
  • Waste from the glass industry
  • laboratory waste
  • Electronic waste and supplements (batteries, batteries)
  • thermoelectric waste
  • Waste from the metallurgical and metallurgical industry
  • Waste from the automotive industry
  • Waste from the production and use of plastics
  • Urban, industrial and agricultural wastewater
  • Waste from the explosives industry
  • Waste from the cosmetic industry
  • military waste
  • Decontamination treatment waste

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