The Waste Framework Directive – What is it, why should we care and why am I blagging on about Green, Black and Brown Wheelie Bins?

Did you know that hazardous waste poses a greater risk to the environment and human health than non-hazardous wastes and thus requires a stricter control regime? This is laid down in particular in Articles 17 to 20 of Directive 2008/98/EC. It provides additional labeling, record keeping, monitoring and control obligations from the “cradle to the grave”, i.e., from the waste producer (in our case laboratory personnel) to the final disposal or recovery (the waste collection company). In addition, mixing of hazardous substances is banned in order to prevent risks for the environment and human health. So, basically what I am saying is that when disposing of chemical waste we need to keep records detailing the who, what, where and when of the disposal process.

Let me use an analogy. In Ireland, there are three bins for domestic waste – Green (Recyclable), Brown (Compostable) and Black (Unrecyclable). How many times have we stood at our bin and wondered can I put this in the green bin? Similarly, how many times have we stood at the black bin and wondered, can I recycle this? Now, throw your mind to a laboratory situation. Imagine having 20 beakers of various chemicals in front of you and three waste containers to put your waste into, and not knowing what goes into what. Scary, right? A big assumption is made in laboratories that personnel know what they are disposing of and what goes with what. Remember what you were told about assumptions? With an assumption, you make an ass out of you and me. I was one of those lab rats and I was confused and still today I stand at the wheelie bin scratching my head…sometimes only (I am getting better). The point is, is that there are hundreds of thousands of laboratory personnel globally standing at their wheelie bin confused. Equally, recording the who, what, where and when sequence of events associated with the disposal process is barely being enforced in laboratories.

The methods being used involve writing in logbooks. Imagine, in 2018, where a small child now has a smartphone, where we can travel on an 18 hour continuous flight from the U.K to Australia, yet we are writing down on paper; a perishable record, where pages can be ripped up and people can sign for others (denouncing their responsibility, creating a maze of who disposed of what). When I’m disposing of waste at home I just want to get rid of it it. I don’t want to write an essay. If I could just dispose of my waste within two or three clicks and know that I’ve put my rubbish in the right bin, along with a record detailing who, what, when and where my waste was disposed of, it would really save me a massive headache. Back to the regulations and laboratories – the Waste Framework Directive dictates how we should dispose of chemical waste. It says we should show ”cradle to grave” traceability. In my next blog post, I will detail why we should be adhering to the Waste Framework Directive. Please feel free to add a comment below and to visit us at www.chemishield.com