Open Access Review

The role of waste management in the control of hazardous substances: lessons learned

Henning Friege

Author Affiliations

AWISTA Gesellschaft für Abfallwirtschbvaft und Stadtreinigung mbH, Höherweg 100, D-40233, Düsseldorf, Germany

Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:35  doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-35

Published: 21 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Sorting and disposal of waste are the last steps in the “lifetime” of a product. If products are contaminated with chemicals assessed to be hazardous for man or environment, waste management has the role of a vacuum cleaner in substance chain management working in two different ways: The hazardous compounds have to be properly separated from potential secondary resources in sorting processes. If this is not possible, those products have to be disposed safely. Starting from the experiences collected with some chemicals banned, the tools used for phasing out these chemicals from the technosphere are studied with respect to their influence on the contamination of the environment.

Results

Even if a dangerous substance has been banned, it is further used in a number of products. In the cases presented here, the substances were banned for further use. In the case of CFCs, the substitutes used have partially also been substituted because of adverse effects. Besides the prohibition of use of hazardous substances, numerous other regulations were issued to reduce unsafe handling and minimize emissions into the environment. It turned out that waste management cannot correct mistakes which already happened “upstream” in the product chain. The control of point sources works quite successfully, whereas today the overwhelming emissions stem from diffuse sources, partially caused by unsafe waste management procedures.

Conclusions

Though there are no complete balances for both groups of compounds serving as examples, some conclusions can be drawn based on the experiences collected. Hazardous compounds may be separated successfully from used products or waste,

▪ If they are mostly used in industry and not in households,

▪ if they can be identified as part of certain products,

▪ if their concentration in these products is rather high,

▪ if technical problems come up when they contaminate secondary raw materials,

▪ if there is international support for proper waste management.

Keywords:
Chemical policy; Waste management; Substance chain management; PCBs; CFCs; H-CFCs; Dissipative use; Globalization; Contamination of secondary resources