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Designate your waste — is it dangerous?

Most businesses in Washington generate some type of dangerous waste — waste that’s potentially harmful to our health and environment. You are required to know whether the waste your business generates is dangerous. Designation is the process of determining if a waste is dangerous and what the hazards are. It’s the first step in managing your waste properly.

Dangerous or hazardous?

Washington uses the term "dangerous waste," while the federal government uses "hazardous waste." Washington's Dangerous Waste Regulations are based on the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The definition for "dangerous waste" includes more wastes than are in the federal "hazardous waste" definition because Washington's rules are more protective.

Where should I start?

Watch our introductory video. It will help you understand the process. Then follow our step-by-step guide:

The guide is an overview and you may need more help. Contact a compliance specialist at your regional office with questions about designating or managing your dangerous waste.

Waste codes

Designation will help you identify waste codes. These are four-character codes that describe the type of waste and the risks it represents. A dangerous waste might have multiple codes. All applicable codes must be assigned. Example codes:

  • D001: ignitable.
  • D008: tests for lead.
  • D039: tests for tetrachloroethylene (also called perchloroethylene, or PERC).
  • WT01: Washington state-only toxic waste.

Why is designation important?

Designation is an important part of running your businesses successfully. You need to know what types of waste you have and their hazards so you can keep your workplace and community safe. If your waste is dangerous, you must make sure it’s handled safely while on site and then disposed of properly.

You must designate your waste to:

It’s the law: You are responsible for the dangerous waste your business generates from cradle to grave — you’re responsible even after you send it for disposal. If you have a chemical spill that gets into the storm drain, for example, you are responsible for the legal and financial consequences. If you send your waste to a disposal facility that doesn't manage the waste properly, you are responsible. So know your waste and follow the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Many businesses hire a waste service provider to transport and dispose of dangerous waste. Some help designate the wastes and provide waste labels with the applicable waste codes. However, you are responsible for the waste, so you want to make sure the waste is designated properly.

Continue to Step one: Get ready to designate