What Are the Different Types of Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous waste can pose a significant threat to public health if not disposed of properly. For that reason, the government not only identifies types of hazardous waste, but mandates how it must be handled and disposed. An entire industry deals specifically with removing and disposing of hazardous waste.

  1. Medical

    • Medical waste includes items like needles and blood products. Both of these can spread disease if disposed of improperly. Hospitals and doctor's offices put medical waste in separate waste containers for collection. States and local governments regulate how medical waste must be disposed. It is not thrown into a landfill with normal waste.

    Universal Waste

    • Universal waste refers to potentially toxic items used both commercially and residentially. Examples of universal waste include batteries and light bulbs. Because these items are so common, regulation is difficult and the items regularly are found in landfills or incinerators. When this is done, the toxins can be released into the environment.


    • Radioactive or nuclear waste is highly regulated. This waste includes leftover materials from nuclear weapons and nuclear plants. Radioactive particles stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years after being released and can be lethal to humans, including long-term affects like cancer and birth defects. This waste must be disposed of in a way that no part is released to the outside.

    Industrial Waste

    • Cleaners and solvents used in industrial and commercial businesses can be hazardous. The cleaners are ranked based on how dangerous they are to public health and disposal is more strict for more toxic substances. Some examples of industrial waste include: wood preservation chemicals, refinery wastewater and chemicals containing dioxin. These chemicals cannot be thrown into normal landfills. Companies that improperly dispose of waste face fines.

    Electronic Waste

    • Electronics found in houses and businesses like televisions and computers can contain trace amounts of hazardous materials. These toxins can be released in landfills after the items are dumped. Because they are so common, regulating disposal is difficult. Electronics should be taken to a recycling program, available in most cities.

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