Industrial Waste


Industrial Waste
What is Hazardous Waste?
Industrial and Hazardous Waste: What is it?
Non-Hazardous Industrial Waste
Non-Hazardous Industrial Waste Classification
Page 1
Radioactive Waste
What is Radioactive Waste?
Disposal and Generation of Radioactive Waste
Why Do We Care About Hazardous Waste?
Industrial Solid Waste in Texas Who Produces It?
Page 2
Industrial Solid Waste: Where to Safely Put It?
Exports, Imports, and Commercial Treatment of Hazardous Waste
Across the Border Woes
What are "Toxics" and Where do They Go?
Page 3
Industrial Choices: Hierarchies of Industrial Solid Waste Management
Definitions and Approaches to Waste Reduction
Pollution Control Taxes in Texas
Page 4
Monitoring Injection Wells
Types of Land Disposal
Who Doesn't Need a Hazardous Waste Permit in Texas?
Dumping Near the Border: Mexico's Response
Page 5
Enforcing Proper Management of Industrial Waste
Restricted Areas: Keep Out
Lead Contamination in West Dallas
Page 6
Toxics and Birth Defects
Getting Waste From Point A to Point B
Page 7

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Texas Environmental Almanac, Chapter 9, Industrial Waste, Page 1
Since the industrial revolution, industrial and mining operations have been accompanied by a problem: industrial waste which may be toxic, ignitable, corrosive or reactive. If improperly managed, this waste can pose dangerous health and environmental consequences. In the United States, the amount of hazardous waste generated by manufacturing industries in the country has increased from an estimated 4.5 million tons annually after World War II to some 57 million tons by 1975.(1) By 1990, this total had shot up to approximately 265 million tons.(2) This waste is generated at every stage in the production process, use and disposal of manufactured products. Thus, the introduction of many new products for the home and office - computers, drugs, textiles, paints and dyes, plastics - also introduced hazardous waste, including toxic chemicals, into the environment. These, too, must be managed with extreme care to avoid adverse environmental or human health impacts. The EPA estimated in 1980 that more than 70,000 different chemicals were being manufactured in the U.S., with some 1,000 new chemicals being added each year.(3) The human health and environmental impacts of many of these chemicals are largely unknown.(4)

Before substantial state and federal regulation began in the late 1970s, most industrial waste was disposed of in landfills, stored in surface impoundments such as lagoons or pits, discharged into surface waters with little or no treatment or burned. Mismanagement of industrial as well as "hazardous" waste has resulted in polluted groundwater, streams, lakes and rivers as well as damage to wildlife and vegetation.(5) Meanwhile, high levels of toxic contaminants have been found in animals and humans, particularly those, like farm workers and oil and gas workers, who are continually exposed to such waste streams.(6)

Today, three major federal laws and one state law guide management of hazardous waste and other industrial waste in Texas:


Graphic showing steps in recycling

Source: Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President, Environmental Trends (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, July 1981), 77.

Total Annual Solid Waste Generated8 billion
Total Annual Municipal Solid Waste196 million
Total Annual Hazardous Solid Waste265 million
Source: Council on Environmental Quality, United States of America National Report (prepared for the United Nations Conference on Environment & Development, 1992), Exhibit 6h, 333.




1. EPA has listed it in one of three categories:

  1. Source-Specific Waste. This list includes waste from specific industries such as petroleum refining, wood preserving and secondary lead smelting, as well as sludges and production processes from these industries.

  2. Generic Waste. This list identifies waste from common manufacturing and industrial processes including spent solvents, degreasing operations, leachate from landfills and ink formulation waste.

  3. Commercial Chemical Products. This list includes some pesticides, creosote and other commercial chemicals.

2. It exhibits one or more of the following characteristics, subject to certain tests:

  1. Ignitability;

  2. Corrosivity;

  3. Reactivity;

  4. Toxicity.

Certain waste is exempt from regulation as hazardous waste under RCRA even though it may potentially harm human health or the environment. Exempt waste includes:

  1. Domestic sewage;

  2. Irrigation waters or industrial discharges permitted under Clean Water Act, so long as they are not stored on-site;

  3. Certain nuclear materials as defined by the Atomic Energy Act;

  4. Waste from the exploration and development of petroleum, gas and geothermal energy (waste from the refining process may be classified as hazardous);

  5. Household hazardous waste;

  6. Agricultural waste, except some pesticides.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Solving the Hazardous Waste Problem: EPA's RCRA Program (Washington, DC: EPA, November 1986), 5-7.


According to EPA estimates, manufacturing, mining and agricultural industries, along with commercial and domestic sources in the U.S., generate about 8 billion tons of waste each year, about 265 million tons of which were hazardous in 1990 under RCRA.(9) That same year, municipal solid waste - what is picked up at our homes, businesses and institutions - made up only 196 million tons, or around 2.5 percent of all generated waste.

Industrial solid waste - which may be solid, liquid or gases held in containers - is divided into hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Hazardous waste may result from manufacturing or other industrial processes. Certain commercial products such as cleaning fluids, paints or pesticides discarded by commercial establishments or individuals can also be defined as hazardous waste. While RCRA does provide a general definition of hazardous waste, the hazardous waste "definition" has been further refined through regulations (see box).


Non-hazardous industrial waste are those that do not meet the EPA's definition of hazardous waste - and are not municipal waste. Waste determined to be hazardous are regulated by hazardous waste rules established pursuant to RCRA's Subtitle C requirements, while other non-hazardous waste fall under RCRA's Subtitle D solid waste management requirements.

Under Texas regulations, non-hazardous waste generated by industrial facilities are categorized as Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 waste (see box). Class 2 and Class 3 waste are considered less harmful to the environment or human health than Class 1 waste. While industries do have to report the type of waste they produce, they do not have to report how much of Class 2 and 3 waste they generate or how they dispose of them. However, municipal solid waste landfills do have to report the receipt of all industrial waste, including Class 2 and 3 waste.

Chemical ManufacturersAcids and Bases
Spent Solvents
Reactive Waste
Wastewater Containing
Organic Constituents
Printing IndustryHeavy Metal Solutions
Waste Inks
Ink Sludges Containing
Heavy Metals
Petroleum Refining IndustryWastewater Containing
Benzene & other
Sludge from Refining Process
Leather Products ManufacturingToluene and Benzene
Paper IndustryPaint Waste Containing
Heavy Metals
Ignitable Solvents
Construction IndustryIgnitable Paint Waste
Spent Solvents
Strong Acids and Bases
Metal ManufacturingSludges containing
Heavy Metals
Cyanide Waste
Paint Waste
Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Solving the Hazardous Waste Problem: EPA's RCRA Program (Washington, DC: EPA, November 1986), 8.


Class 1 Waste:

  1. Regulated asbestos containing material;

  2. Materials containing specific toxic chemical consituents which exceed regulated concentration levels, although not enough to be consideredhazardous;

  3. Liquids which are ignitable at levels above 150 degrees F, or are solids and semi-solids and contain chemicals considered to be ignitable under certain conditions incidental to storage, disposal or treatment;

  4. Semi-solids and solids which when combined with water exhibit corrosive properties;

  5. Empty containers which held hazardous substances or a Class 1 waste, unless the residue has been completely removed through certain processes;

  6. Waste containing more than 50 parts-per-million of total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs);

  7. Waste associated with exploration, development and production of crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy which contain more than 1,500 parts per million total petroleum hydro-carbon (TPH);

  8. All non-hazardous industrial solid waste generated outside Texas and transported into or through Texas for storage, processing or disposal.

Class 2 Waste:

  1. Containers which held hazardous or Class 1 industrial waste where the residue has been completely removed and the container made unusable;

  2. Containers of less than 5 gallon capacity which held Class 1 waste;

  3. Depleted aerosol cans;

  4. Non-surgical non-radioactive medical waste;

  5. Paper, cardboard, linings, wrappings, paper packaging materials or absorbants which do not meet hazardous, radioactive or industrial Class 1 criteria;

  6. Food waste, glass, aluminum foil, plastics, styrofoam and food packaging that result from plant production, manufacturing or laboratory operations.

Class 3 Waste:

  1. Waste not meeting the conditions of Class 1 or 2, including chemically inert and insoluble substances, samples without detectable levels of PCBs or hydrocarbons, and waste which poses no threat to human health and/or the environment;

  2. Inert, insoluble solid waste materials such as rock, brick, glass, dirt and some rubbers and plastics.

Source: Chapter 30, Texas Administrative Code, Section 335.

Texas Environmental Almanac, Chapter 9, Industrial Waste, Page 1

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