Just what is special waste? And why does it matter?

Jul 8, 2021

Waste Connections LRI 2021 WEB 0297

There seem to be several misconceptions surrounding special waste.

For instance, hazardous waste is often mistaken for special waste. But special waste is not always hazardous waste.

Confused yet?

It’s actually much simpler than it’s sometimes portrayed – basically, special waste is waste that must be uniquely disposed of, but that poses less of a direct threat to human health than does hazardous waste.

For all of you history buffs out there (including myself), all of this started back in 1976 with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This act gave the Environmental Protection Agency authority to research and properly dispose of waste that was deemed to be a hazard to public health and safety.

In response, the EPA proposed that six sub-categories of waste be termed “special waste.”

These categories include:

1.    Cement kiln and dust

cement kiln

2.    Mining waste



3.    Oil and gas, drilling muds, and oil production brines

oil production


4.    Phosphate rock mining, beneficiation, and processing waste

phosphate rock mining


5.    Uranium waste

Uranium 2


6.    Utility waste

Fossil fuel combustion

In contrast, hazardous waste includes items like used medical needles, mercury-containing batteries, and pesticides.

So why does special waste matter if it’s not considered super hazardous?

It matters because disposing of it incorrectly could lead to some pretty severe environmental and safety consequences, like health-related epidemics.

To eliminate these consequences, the EPA has developed comprehensive regulations that waste disposal companies – like Waste Connections – must follow. In fact, each category of special waste comes with its own specific disposal regulations.

As a waste disposal company that’s been consistently ranked as one of the safest in the world, Waste Connections is no stranger to proper disposal procedures when it comes to special waste.

If you’re a manufacturing plant or any other business that deals in large amounts of special waste, we want to help you. Contact your local Waste Connections hauler to request a quote today.

Location: TACOMA, WA, USA

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