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Waste can be solid, liquid, or contain gaseous material that is discarded by disposal, recycling, burning or incineration. It can be a by-product of a manufacturing process or an obsolete commercial product that can no longer be used for its intended purpose and requires disposal. Inappropriate waste disposal practices can lead to contamination of ground water or potential fines and/or penalties as stipulated in national regulations.

Solid (non-hazardous) waste generally includes domestic trash, inert construction/demolition materials, metal scrap and empty containers (except those previously used to contain hazardous materials, which should be managed as a hazardous waste), and residual waste from industrial operations.

Hazardous waste shares the properties of a hazardous material (such as ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity), or other physical, chemical, or biological characteristics that may pose a potential risk to human health or the environment if improperly managed. When a hazardous material is no longer usable for its original purpose and is intended for disposal, but still has hazardous properties, it is considered a hazardous waste. Typically, hazardous wastes include solvents, fuels, asbestos in building materials, PCB oils in electrical equipment, most pesticides, and ozone depleting substances in refrigeration systems. Wastes may also be defined as “hazardous” by local regulations or international conventions, based on the origin of the waste and its inclusion on hazardous waste lists or based on its characteristics. Hazardous wastes should always be segregated from nonhazardous wastes.

Facilities that generate and store wastes need to consider issues linked to waste minimization, generation, transport, and disposal. Typically, approaches to waste management include:

  • Waste management planning. Facilities that generate waste should characterize their waste according to composition, source, types of wastes produced, generation rates, or according to local regulatory requirements. This information can be used to identify opportunities for pollution prevention, such as source reduction, reuse, and recycling.
  • Waste prevention. Processes can be designed and operated to prevent, or minimize, the quantities of wastes generated and hazards associated with the wastes generated. This can be accomplished by substituting raw materials or inputs with less hazardous or toxic materials, or with those where processing generates lower waste volumes, and improving manufacturing processes to convert materials more efficiently.
  • Recycling and reuse. The total amount of waste can be significantly reduced through the implementation of recycling and reuse plans. This entails identifying and recycling products that can be reintroduced into the manufacturing process or industry activity at a site or in industrial processing operations located at other facilities. It also includes identifying materials that can be reused, saving both costs and disposal needs.
  • Treatment and disposal. If waste materials are still generated after the implementation of feasible waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recovery and recycling measures, waste materials should be treated and disposed of while considering all measures to avoid potential impacts to human health and the environment. Typical treatment and disposal methods include on-site or off-site biological, chemical, or physical treatment of the waste material to render it non-hazardous prior to final disposal; and treatment or disposal at permitted facilities specially designed to receive the waste.
  • Hazardous waste storage. Hazardous waste should be stored so as to prevent or control accidental releases to air, soil, and water resources. This requires the need for storage in closed containers away from direct sunlight, wind and rain; secondary containments; and the provision of adequate ventilation where volatile wastes are stored.
  • Hazardous waste transportation. On-site and off-site transportation of waste should be conducted using appropriate protocols to prevent or minimize spills, releases, and exposures to employees and the public. All waste containers designated for off-site shipment should be secured and labeled with the contents and associated hazards, and be properly loaded on the transport vehicles before leaving the site.
  • Hazardous treatment and disposal. In the absence of qualified commercial or government-owned waste vendors, facilities generating waste should have the technical capability to manage the hazardous waste or install on-site waste treatment or recycling processes in a manner that reduces immediate and future impacts to the environment. This may also require the need for applicable permits, certifications, and approvals.
  • Small quantities of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste materials are frequently generated in small quantities by many projects through a variety of activities such as equipment and building maintenance activities. Waste storage collection and storage areas should be visually inspected on a regular basis for evidence of accidental releases and to verify that wastes are properly labeled and stored. These types of wastes include spent solvents and oily rags, empty paint cans, chemical containers; used lubricating oil; used batteries (such as nickel-cadmium or lead acid); and lighting equipment, such as lamps or lamp ballasts.

Where possible, a client’s/investee’s operations should implement sound waste management practices at the facility. A financial institution can help a client/investee to identify environmental business opportunities

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