Is Your Waste Liquid or Solid?

Date Posted: June 28, 2017

Take a quick guess. Would you say your waste is liquid or solid? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Not all waste that looks solid to us is actually solid. Believe it or not, waste’s classification as solid or liquid has nothing to do with its physical solidity—or lack thereof.  Oil and antifreeze, for example, are considered solid waste.

Surprised? Governmental regulations like those under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) define both non-hazardous and hazardous wastes to help develop proper waste management procedures. RCRA defines solid waste as materials that are abandoned, recycled, inherently wastelike, and waste military munitions. That definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation, so let’s explore it a bit further.

It turns out that pretty much anything that is discarded by being abandoned is treated as solid waste. This includes any material that is thrown away, burned, or “sham recycled”–a process in which recycling is incomplete, poorly documented, and/or does not produce a commercially valuable product.  When solid waste is properly handled and recycled, it is often exempted from laws governing the treatment of solid waste.

Treatment options for waste depend on your answer to the liquid or solid question. Liquid waste treatment options include dilution, mechanical treatment, biological treatment (such as adding certain bacteria to change the waste’s composition), or chemical treatment. Solid waste treatments comprise incineration, pyrolysis, chemical oxidation, and other treatments.

And then there’s sludge. What sludge is, exactly, depends on who you ask!  You may think of sludge as a thick, soft, wet mud or a similar viscous mixture of liquid and solid components.  In the wastewater industry, sludge is a solid and liquid hybrid. It can be a semi-solid slurry, a solid from a wastewater treatment plant, or a settled slurry from drinking water treatment.  Semi-solids such as sludge are generally treated as solid waste at treatment facilities.

So how did you do? Is your waste solid or liquid?  If you guessed right, congratulations!  Either way, you can check the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for help defining and classifying your waste. Once you have a pretty good handle on the type of waste you need to dispose of, inventory your organization’s waste products.  The more information you have, the easier it will be to determine which waste management services will address your particular needs.

Environmental Remedies provides efficient and expert non-hazardous waste management services. Our state-of-the-art laboratory tracks each waste stream we receive in order to determine compatibility with our treatment systems. And our complete range of treatment options include advanced chemical and biological treatment. To learn about specific options for your waste, call us at 800-399-2783. With Environmental Remedies on your side, all solutions lead to clean.