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7 steps in handling waste according to ISO 14001

What is waste management? There is more to waste management than collecting rubbish and dumping it at a landfill. Businesses routinely use hazardous materials that, when improperly handled, pose a threat to human health and the environment. These materials are found in everyday items such as fluorescent lamps, electronic devices, and certain batteries, as well as in substances like oil and solvents.

ISO 14001 provides a framework and a structured approach to handling waste. During identification and evaluation of environmental aspects, you will determine what wastes are emerging in your processes, and with operational controls you will define how the waste will be treated.

How to handle waste

Waste management is the process of treating wastes, and it offers a variety of solutions for recycling items that don’t belong in the trash. This is a process that each and every household and business owner in the world needs. Waste management disposes of the products and substances that you have used in a safe and efficient manner. ISO 14001 doesn’t prescribe the steps in waste handling, and every company can approach it according to its needs, but there are some common steps in the process:

Steps in handling waste according to ISO 14001

1. Evaluate your waste – to be able to handle the waste properly, the company first needs to determine whether the waste is hazardous or not, and whether handling of that particular waste is regulated by legislation. For more information, see: Demystification of legal requirements in ISO 14001. This step is often called classification or categorization of the waste.

2. Store your waste – depending on the type of waste, there will be different requirements in terms of storage facilities. Waste can be in solid or liquid form, so it is important to store it according to its characteristics. Hazardous waste must be stored in a sturdy, leak-proof container that is kept closed when not adding or removing waste. Different kinds of waste may require different types of storage containers. The container must be labeled with the words “Hazardous Waste“, a clear description of the contents, and the date when the waste is first placed in the container. Containers must be stored on an impermeable surface with enough aisle space to allow for weekly container inspections.

Additional requirements for outdoor storage include:

  • Controlling access to the containers
  • Protecting the containers from the elements
  • Storing containers of liquid waste on a curbed and impermeable surface to contain accidental leaks

3. Label the waste – nonhazardous waste doesn’t have to be labeled in any special way. On the other hand, hazardous waste labeling is often prescribed by law and in most countries, the company must obtain a license for even generating some kinds of hazardous waste. The label for marking packed hazardous waste usually contains the following information:

  • Information about the waste owner who packed the waste: name, address, telephone, date of packaging, name and surname of the person qualified to be responsible for that job
  • Physical characteristics of the waste: powder, solid, viscous substances, pastes, sludge, liquid substance, gaseous substances

4. Transport and dispose your waste properly – the company is responsible for its hazardous waste forever. To help ensure that hazardous waste is transported and disposed of properly, and to reduce your liability, choose a transporter that fulfills the following requirements:

  • Has a hazardous waste identification number
  • Is currently licensed or permitted as a hazardous waste transporter
  • Has fulfilled specific training requirements
  • Maintains adequate liability insurance
  • Carries credentials in the vehicle
  • Transports the waste to a permitted hazardous waste facility

5. Plan for emergencies – handling hazardous waste leaves room for emergency situations caused by mistreatment of the waste or any other cause. Plan for emergencies in the following ways:

  • Maintain spill and appropriate emergency response equipment in an accessible area.
  • Train employees in the emergency response procedures that are appropriate for your site.

To manage your environmental incidents, use this free online tool for ISO 14001 compliance.

6. Train personneltraining all employees who have any role in handling, storing, or otherwise managing hazardous waste is a necessary step for ensuring compliance with hazardous waste rules. Personnel must be familiar with each waste’s hazards, appropriate safety procedures, and all aspects of compliance.

For each of the employees who will be engaged in any segment of the waste management system, it is necessary to provide adequate training and working conditions. The training should include an introduction to:

  • basic procedures for waste management;
  • human and environmental risks;
  • measures of precaution in waste management; and
  • Responsibilities and authorities.

In the process of implementing a waste management system, the training should be conducted by professionals who have worked on the creation of the waste management plan.

For more information, see: ISO 14001 Competence, Training & Awareness: Why are they important for your EMS?

7. Keep records – the purpose of keeping records is to provide evidence that the waste is stored according to the procedures. The usual records to be kept are the ones of generated waste by type and amount, and records of waste deployed to an authorized organization.

Create the strategy to enhance performance

With the right support, and from financial, operational, and environmental perspectives, an effective waste management strategy will more than repay the investment of time and effort you put into it. An appropriate strategy will incorporate the flexibility to accommodate changes in legislation, raw materials, price differentials, and customer expectations.

You’ll be able to demonstrate to the stakeholders that your waste management strategy will:

  • save money by reducing material use and waste generation
  • meet compliance requirements with all relevant legislation
  • improve your management of materials and waste, and take in duty of care requirements

When the strategy is enforced and operational controls regarding the waste are in place, the company will be able to yield the benefits.

Click here and visit our ISO 14001 Foundations online course to learn more about waste management and environmental aspects.

Advisera Strahinja Stojanovic
Strahinja Stojanovic

Strahinja Stojanovic is certified as a lead auditor for the ISO 13485, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 standards by RABQSA. He participated in the implementation of these standards in more than 100 SMEs, through the creation of documentation and performing in-house training for maintaining management systems, internal audits, and management reviews.