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Hazardous waste generation

This indicator tracks the amount of regulated, recurrent hazardous waste produced and recycled by certain businesses and facilities in Washington. It reflects approximately 1,200 businesses and organizations that generate more than 2,640 pounds each of hazardous waste per year. It does not include the 2,800 businesses that are either smaller waste generators that are not required to report waste amounts, or facilities that did not generate hazardous waste (for example, transporters).

Why do we measure hazardous waste generation in Washington?

The amount of hazardous waste generated is an indication of risk to human health and the environment from hazardous substances used in Washington. Environmental and human exposures occur throughout the life cycle of a hazardous substance, from use, management, and transportation, to final disposal.

Hazardous wastes, defined under both federal law and state regulations, have toxic, corrosive, reactive, flammable, or persistently hazardous properties that make them dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. They can be in any form - liquids, solids, gases (in containers), or sludge. Some of these wastes can often be reclaimed or recycled, instead of being disposed. A common example is the distillation of a used solvent to make the solvent reusable.

Recurrent hazardous wastes are generated from the ongoing use of hazardous materials in a production process, a service activity, or routine spills and cleanups.

A graph showing recurrent hazardous waste generated and recycled, 2000 - 2014. Data file is linked in image caption.

Recurrent hazardous waste generated and recycled, 2000 - 2014. View our hazardous waste generated and recycled data

This indicator shows recurrent generated wastes targeted by pollution prevention efforts. It does not include the following:

  • One-time wastes from site remediation (usually large-scale cleanup of contaminated soil and structures).
  • Hazardous waste mixed with radioactive waste (from the U.S. Department of Energy at Hanford and other sites).
  • Wastes reported by businesses that receive and manage hazardous waste generated by others (called TSDs for treatment, storage, and disposal businesses).
  • Materials reused before becoming wastes, such as parts cleaner solvent that is continually purified in a closed-loop system.

Recurrent hazardous waste generated in Washington has decreased by approximately 50 percent since 2000. The overall downward trend is due in large part to a variety of waste reduction strategies employed by businesses and other organizations.

This indicator also shows the amount of recurrent generated wastes managed by a recycling method. We classify four waste management methods as recycling:

  1. Adsorption (contaminant particles are separated from a contaminated liquid or gas for reuse) (before 2012*)
  2. Metals recovery
  3. Solvent recovery
  4. Other methods of materials recovery.

*The adsorption waste management method code was not available for Washington State's annual reporting after 2012. The hazardous waste management method codes we use are assigned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The adsorption management method code was consolidated with other management codes, which we do not consider to be recycling management after 2012.

The total amount of recurrent hazardous waste that is recycled has remained fairly constant over the last few years. However, when compared to the decrease in hazardous waste generation, the percentage recycled has increased substantially, from 16.32 percent in 2000 to 23.52 percent in 2014. The HWTR program has set a target for hazardous waste reduction in Washington State of 80 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. The state is currently on track to meet that goal in 2020. Currently, there is approximately a 4 percent reduction of hazardous waste every year.

What are the benefits of decreasing generation of hazardous waste and increasing hazardous waste recycling?

  • Conserves valuable resources
  • Reduces risks to human health and the environment
  • Saves money for businesses that find alternatives to hazardous substances.

What actions are being taken to decrease generation of hazardous waste and increase hazardous waste recycling?

  • Offering sector-based technical help to businesses
  • Encouraging "green chemistry" and other product-design solutions
  • Providing technical assistance to facilities who are required to develop Pollution Prevention Plans
  • Working with Washington businesses to incorporate lean manufacturing techniques into their production processes
  • Providing technical assistance to industry on recycling opportunities.