Got Waste? What to Know About Industrial Non-Hazardous Waste

August 14, 2023

Non hazardous waste disposal social image.

Every business produces some form of waste, but industrial facilities often face the burden of managing multiple waste streams. Hazardous chemical waste is strictly regulated—and rightly so—but industrial non-hazardous waste makes up the majority of waste at most facilities. Yet, non-hazardous waste regulations are very often misunderstood or ignored altogether due to lack of education and support for proper disposal of these materials.

It’s important to know that as a waste generator, you’re responsible for your company’s waste from the moment it’s created until it’s safely disposed of. Failure to maintain regulatory compliance can impact your company in many ways, ranging from citations to fines up to $72,000 per violation per day. In addition, there could be a significant impact to your reputation and the potential loss of credentials and certifications within your industry. 

The first step toward compliance is determining whether your industrial waste streams are regulated according to the Code of Federal Regulations’ Identification and Listing of Hazardous Waste. Once a determination has been made, developing a strategic waste management plan to appropriately dispose of non-hazardous and hazardous materials helps your facility stay in compliance with state and federal regulations as they pertain to your business.

What is the difference between hazardous and non-hazardous waste?

If waste is harmful to people or the environment, it’s classified as hazardous. Hazardous waste is typically toxic, corrosive, flammable or reactive, and heavily regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Industrial non-hazardous waste doesn’t pose these risks but must still be carefully disposed of per local policies. 

When hazardous materials run off into wastewater or are leftover as solid waste, they carry a high level of risk. Careful disposal procedures must be in place so toxins aren’t released into the air or leaked into groundwater, which can contaminate the environment and any people exposed to the toxin by inhaling it or absorbing it through the skin. Therefore, the responsibility you take on for the safety of your employees and operations must also translate to ensuring your hazardous waste materials are handled safely offsite, as well.

Non-hazardous waste likely doesn’t set off as many alarm bells, but mismanaged disposal procedures still lead to unhealthy results in the surrounding area. Waste is waste, after all. Due to lower regulations surrounding non-hazardous waste, you can save your business time and money by understanding the difference and how to properly dispose of both.



Workers at a waste treatment facility.

What is industrial non-hazardous waste?

Industrial non-hazardous waste classifies waste liquids and solids produced during industrial processes as low risk for endangering individuals or the environment when discarded. Examples include oils, metals and organic materials. Hazardous and non-hazardous waste often co-exist in a facility, so it’s important to understand each.

For facilities handling vast quantities of waste, it can be difficult to make the distinction between what is considered hazardous or not, which is a risky position to be in when it comes to compliance and safety. For example, the World Health Organization estimates 85 percent of waste from medical facilities is non-hazardous. However, the 15 percent that is hazardous is highly dangerous and infectious—not to mention more expensive to safely dispose of. If you’re unsure which substances on site are dangerous to dispose of, knowing the types of non-hazardous waste is a good way to get started developing a safe, cost-effective strategy.

Types of Non-Hazardous Waste

Types of non-hazardous waste vary depending on the industry and production materials. Examples include oils, lubricants, metalworking coolants, contaminated groundwater, oil spill clean-up, metals-laden process water, sludges and more. Agricultural facilities, laboratories, manufacturing facilities, chemical processing plants, food processing plants and environmental remediation sites produce high volumes of non-hazardous waste.

Centralized Waste Treatment Guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency include a comprehensive list of potential non-hazardous waste streams falling within the general metal, oil or organic materials categories constituting the majority of non-hazardous waste. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Oil-water emulsions or mixtures
  • Contaminated groundwater clean-up from petroleum sources
  • Contaminated soil and petroleum-soaked absorbent materials
  • Used oil or petroleum products
  • Rinse waters from petroleum sources
  • Interceptor wastes 
  • Off-specification fuels
  • Underground storage tank remediation waste
  • Tank cleanout from petroleum or oil sources

On the flip side, waste generated from specialized industrial processes is almost always classified as hazardous waste depending on the nature of the process. Some of these hazardous waste hotspots include metal finishing facilities, wood treatment facilities and pesticide production centers, as well as facilities working with explosives, veterinary medicine and wastewater generated by refineries. Toxins like arsenic, nicotine and formaldehyde in any application are strictly regulated from usage through proper disposal.

If you’re uncertain whether or not your waste streams are hazardous or non-hazardous, it’s always smart to submit samples for lab analysis to determine waste characteristics. After all, industrial non-hazardous waste and hazardous waste each have their own regulations in place to keep people and the environment safe.

Chart notating different types of waste as non-hazardous or hazardous.

Non-Hazardous Waste Regulations

Since many facilities don’t maintain waste management staff on site, it’s important to connect with a certified waste disposal company to coordinate waste classification and safe, compliant disposal of non-hazardous waste in a timely fashion. Disposal companies have the technology and training to identify waste streams and ensure materials go to the right place. Knowing the exact breakdown and characteristics of a waste profile prevents cross-contamination and assures compliance.

Even though it’s not as dangerous as hazardous materials, improper disposal of non-hazardous waste can still contaminate groundwater and ecosystems with materials non-conducive to living organisms. As such, incorrect disposal methods—intentional or unintentional—are fined and flagged appropriately by the EPA and state or local regulatory bodies.

A critical component of your waste management program is understanding how these state and federal rules regarding waste storage, handling and disposal impact your facility. For highly regulated hazardous waste, your generator status, as determined by the EPA, should dictate how your waste program is administered. While non-hazardous waste regulations are not enforced to the same strict standards as hazardous waste, it’s important that non-hazardous waste is documented, stored and handled using industry best practices established by waste experts trained in compliance. In doing so, you avoid citations, prevent fines and ensure your business is viewed as a good steward of the environment for your community.

If keeping up with disposal of non-hazardous waste gets in the way of your other important business procedures, businesses can call on professional waste service providers to provide ongoing planning, analysis, support and/or transportation to disposal facilities.

How to Dispose of Non-Hazardous Waste

Non-hazardous waste regulations have strict classifications for what qualifies as non-hazardous versus hazardous waste, but once you’ve identified waste properties, there are a variety of disposal options available. If you’re confident in navigating how to dispose of non-hazardous waste and keep up with waste flow, you can coordinate disposal efforts or repurpose waste materials as you see fit. However, if it’s difficult for your facility to distinguish hazardous and non-hazardous waste streams or you’re producing an overwhelming volume of waste, relying on the expertise of a trusted waste services provider for disposal of non-hazardous waste ensures you’re able to keep up with compliance and maintain a clean facility.

Check with Local Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facilities

Local treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs) often limit how much waste they accept at one time and require large quantities be delivered by a certified disposal company. If you’re considering handling waste transportation in-house, it’s a good idea to check with your local TSDF first to be sure they’ll accept your waste. Bulk waste shipments are best facilitated by a professional waste disposal service whose business focus is classifying and quantifying waste for safe disposal.

Without professional assistance, the task of keeping up with waste documentation and profiling requirements falls on you or your staff. HK Solutions Group simplifies the waste management process as your waste services partner, helping stay on top of waste profiles and documentation and ensuring your waste safely reaches its disposal destination, where your business’ liability ends.

Reuse & Recycle What You Can

Disposal of non-hazardous waste is only necessary if the waste materials serve no other purpose. Organic waste, especially, has the potential to be recycled rather than disposed of. This includes paper byproducts, fibers from textile production and scraps from food production facilities. Recycling industrial non-hazardous waste reduces your facility’s carbon footprint by lessening greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. Check with local recycling centers to see if they’re able to give new life to your waste materials.

If items aren’t eligible to be recycled, savvy facilities can repurpose waste by converting it into renewable energy to help fuel operations. Some organic waste compounds, such as paper, plastic and wood, are safe to combust, using burning or high heat to convert solid waste into gas that, in turn, can be used to power heat or electricity for a facility. Facilities looking to reclaim energy costs by reusing waste must exercise caution to ensure the safe transformation of these materials. Not all non-hazardous waste should be reused if it isn’t safe or effective to do so. In that same vein, hazardous waste should never be used to convert to energy because there is a high risk for flammability or for toxins to leak into the air.

Coordinate Treatment & Disposal with a Certified Provider

Hazardous and non-hazardous waste regulations leave no room for error. From the moment waste is produced on-site at a facility, the facility is liable for any harm it may cause. From correctly characterizing a waste stream and safely storing it prior to transport to ensuring it is disposed of properly, the burden falls on each individual business. Connecting with a certified treatment, storage and disposal facility allows access to highly trained technicians who are able to adeptly coordinate ongoing or one-time waste disposal plans.

HK Solutions Group’s 31,055 square feet industrial wastewater treatment plant in Des Moines is one of only two licensed disposal facilities in Iowa. Extending our services to a 200-mile radius from our facility, our experienced waste experts are equipped to handle disposal of non-hazardous waste from classification to transportation, treatment and disposal. Our waste management plans can be as involved as you need them to be—whether you need on-site visits to ensure compliance, analysis to identify waste components, transportation to our disposal facility or all of the above, you’re in good hands with HK.

From following a routine schedule to help your facility maintain a compliant cadence of waste disposal to one-time spill clean-ups, we handle every substance we encounter with the utmost care. Our facility treats industrial non-hazardous oil and metal waste with capabilities to manage up to 70,000 gallons of wastewater and 80 cubic yards of solid waste, as well as drum and bulk quantities for disposal. During treatment, waste is removed from wastewater streams so clean water can go back into the sanitary sewer system. Solid waste materials are disposed of or recycled as applicable.

With HK as your full-service industrial partner, we can also assist with the coordination of hazardous waste disposal through our many connections in the industry. You don’t need to waste precious working hours arranging for the upkeep and disposal of ongoing waste accumulation. We are ready to take disposal of non-hazardous waste off your hands—for safe, compliant, timely and cost-effective waste management, trust HK Solutions.

Worker releasing liquid waste from HK truck at treatment facility.

Does Your Facility Have Industrial Non-Hazardous Waste? Call HK to Set Up Waste Removal Services!

With a better understanding of industrial non-hazardous waste regulations and classifications, your facility has completed the first step toward a successful waste management plan. HK is happy to help execute a comprehensive plan all the way through to set your business up for continued compliance in Iowa and beyond. Contact us online to get in touch, or call 515-283-0500 to speak with a waste technician today.