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The Insider’s Guide to a Successful Waste Management Program

Manufacture worker check the number of drums

Managing waste is an important part of an Environmental Manager’s portfolio – one that can be complicated and full of compliance risk. Companies are required to maintain comprehensive records, meet waste reporting deadlines, and responsibly manage their waste or face noncompliance penalties.   Failing to comply with EPA, OSHA, and RCRA regulations can negatively impact the reputation of a company and may result in the company being shut down by regulators and do tremendous damage to your corporate reputation. Spreadsheets for waste management may help environmental managers keep up with the avalanche of data, but spreadsheets have their limitations; when data is incorrect, the consequences can be serious for companies reporting to federal and state regulators. Waste management relies on many processes, waste calculations, container tracking, and record keeping for accurate reporting. In the event of a computer crash, the waste management data should still be accessible – an assurance that spreadsheets cannot promise.

This article will cover the most important tasks involved in waste management for an Environmental Manager coupled with our suggestions for better, more accurate waste management.

Tracking Waste

Mistakes are often made in tracking waste at facilities – it’s one of the easiest places to overlook small details that have a big impact. Common mistakes made by organizations include:

  • tracking waste in data silos
  • tracking waste for only annual reports but not providing waste credits for monthly air emission reporting
  • excluding non-hazardous waste from annual waste reports and TRI (Toxic Release Inventory Reporting).

Often, these common waste management issues are related to how you track your data. Using spreadsheets tends to encourage thinking in data silos and not seeing the connection between data sets for different reports. The consequences of waste tracking mistakes can result in inconsistent reports—catching the attention of regulators, resulting in fines, and the loss of reputation of the company in the public eye. Eliminate the use of spreadsheets and inconsistent waste tracking with environmental management software.

ERA’s Waste Management Software automates waste tracking. Facilities can manage the entire life cycle of waste disposal. Use our software to:

  • Request empty containers.
  • Request approval.
  • Generate and print labels.
  • Deliver containers to site.
  • Request transfer of full containers.
  • Confirm transfers.
  • Weigh containers at accumulation.
  • Ship to treatment site.

You can also make your waste tracking faster and easier with software safeguards against human error to flag mistakes on the fly. Incomplete data or incorrectly reporting can also signal to government regulators that you may be non-compliant. Waste data can be entered just once to create various reports—including TRI, annual/biennial waste (GM), emission inventory, and air emission reports for consistent waste tracking.

Waste Speciation

Accurate waste speciation is another challenge for facilities generating a great deal of chemical waste. Oftentimes drum containers are “black boxes” with unknown chemical quantities and mixtures. Companies can draw a sample for lab analysis to complete a waste profile, but there are drawbacks to frequent sampling: lab sampling can be very expensive, and it may show a false representation of waste and operations due to process changes making the lab results obsolete for reporting. Inaccurate waste profiles can lead to penalties for your facility, so rely on a system with various methods of calculating waste speciation for proper emission crediting and correct speciation. Waste can be measured in various ways using ERA’s methodologies to ensure accurate reporting tracking waste throughout the assembly process. Based on the available information about your waste, there are different options for calculations that could be used by the software to estimate the composition of the waste, depending on the users’ choice and available information about the waste and source(s).

  • Single source waste: In a very simple way, if the waste is added to a single source, the software will look at the products (and their chemical constituents) used in that source as well as their usages and come up with an estimate of the waste constituents and their amounts.
  • Fixed distribution: if the waste is added against a group of sources, the user can define a fixed distribution in the group (set-up in an air module) (in finishing module) and the system will use the same percentage to distribute the waste quantity to each source. In other words, waste records are linked to certain sources (or source groups) and based on user defined distributions, the composition is calculated.

    Example: Your waste group is made up of a Paint Source and Solvent Source and you define 80% to be allocated to the paint source and 20% to the Solvent source. When you add 100 gal. waste to the group, the system will allocate 80 gal to the paint source and 20 gal to the solvent, based on the defined percentages.
  • Distribution by Usage: In this method, the system will take the usage of products in each source, within the time frame the waste is added, as the base for waste distribution calculations.

On-site and Off-site Waste Management

Tracking waste management on-site and off-site manifests can be very tedious for Environmental managers. With time-sensitive container management rules and tons of other responsibilities, tasks and reports can often get lost or stuck waiting for approvals. EHS Waste management software can:

  • Notify responsible parties for container orders via email.
  • Keep track of time waste has been in satellite and accumulation areas.
  • Reminders for reporting deadlines.
  • Cost tracking of treatment and transportation of the waste.

Environmental managers can fulfill their compliance requirements and keep up with tracking containers on and off-site automatically with software built to accommodate facilities. Managers and facilities benefit from using a secure, centralized database with standardized processes for entering and recording data. Having a centralized database equipped with access “tiers” with managers given full access and other employees given access only to their database tasks organizes task assignments and pending deadlines. We encourage EHS professionals to handle their waste management demands with software designed for their waste management needs and work processes for greater efficiency, accuracy, and compliance.

Overview

As manufacturers address pressing environmental issues of waste management, technological strategies for facilities continue to develop to ensure greater accuracy. Federal, state, and tribal regulatory partners rely on accurate waste management data to determine regulations. Software that allows facilities to better track, calculate waste speciation, and manage waste help regulatory agencies and facilities. Compliant companies demonstrate the highest values of the regulatory agencies and federal law by preventing future environmental violations to human health and the environment through accurate, responsible reporting.

How ERA Improves Waste Management

ERA offers a Waste Management platform delivering full reporting and waste tracking for all your facilities needs. Benchmark all your facility’s waste generation, waste treatment, storage, testing, and disposal for hazardous and non-hazardous waste.  Supervise communications, assign tasks to workers, and monitor the progress of your projects across facilities on a secure, centralized database.

Stay up-to-date and automate your compliance.

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This post was written by Carla Samuel

Carla Samuel is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.