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Hazardous waste disposal is a process that can take on a number of different forms. Industries that conduct operations resulting in waste must usually comply with governmental regulations that provide specific procedures and acceptable processes for disposing of the waste. Over time, this has led to a wide range of ways to manage hazardous waste disposal as laws and regulations continue to evolve to deal with current environmental issues.
One time-honored method of hazardous waste disposal is to seal the waste in airtight metal containers and bury the containers in landfills. The original idea behind this approach was that over the years, the material would decompose and whatever chemicals or radiation contained in the waste would dissipate in conjunction with the decomposition. While this approach is still used in some countries, concerns about leakage of waste into groundwater has led to many governments limiting where and how many waste landfills can be established within the borders of a given nation.
A strategy that is somewhat similar to the landfill is the dumping of sealed containers of hazardous waste into the ocean. Concerns about the effect of the waste on marine life as well as local industry sometimes limits the use of this solution, especially in areas where the local economy is dependent on fishing. This solution to hazardous waste disposal is not used as often today as in years past, owing to the development of other disposal methods.
Special facilities designed to hold hazardous waste may provide either a temporary or a permanent solution. Often, this method of hazardous waste disposal requires that the storage warehouses meet specific construction guidelines set in place by a governmental regulatory agency. In addition, the facility is normally located in an area that is far removed from population centers, which further limits the potential for accidental exposure to the toxic waste.
Another approach to hazardous waste disposal is incinerating the waste. This process involves burning the waste product using whatever flammable materials are necessary to accomplish the task. As with the landfill approach, there are usually limitations on what types of waste can be incinerated, owing to the release of toxins into the air in the area near the burn site.
Recycling is a relatively new approach to dealing with hazardous waste disposal. The waste is run through various processes that help to extract useful materials from the waste products, purify them, and provide materials that can be used in the creation of new products. Employing this approach helps to reduce the amount of waste that must be incinerated or disposed of in some other manner.
Research into how all types of hazardous waste can be cleaned and recycled, with no leftover waste material resulting, is always continuing. The ultimate goal of the effort is to protect the environment by recycling all forms of waste, hazardous or not, reducing the need to consume natural resources at the present rates. In time, this approach is anticipated to not only protect the environment from damage by the waste, but also prevent the depletion of those resources due to heavy consumer demands.