The disposal of hazardous waste must be carried out in accordance with applicable regulations. They pose a significant burden on the natural environment and a threat to human health. Some of them require neutralization, while others - due to their toxic nature - safe storage. Some waste can be reused. Both households and businesses must adhere to the prevailing rules. What should you know? We present the most important information that will help you contribute to environmental protection. From our article, you will learn where to find the appropriate containers for hazardous waste and what should be in them.

What is hazardous waste?

The basic question is: what is hazardous waste? According to the definition, these are materials or substances that, due to their properties, can pose a threat to human health, the environment or property if they are not properly disposed of, stored or processed. They often contain toxic substances, chemical or biological pollutants that can be harmful to humans and the environment. Hazardous waste must be properly collected, transported, processed and disposed of in accordance with regulations and safety standards. Everyone is obliged to handle it properly - both private individuals and entrepreneurs.

Examples of hazardous waste

  1. Industrial hazardous waste - e.g. ash, chemicals, heavy metals, aerosols, plant protection products, contaminated packaging.
  2. Electronics - e.g. old TVs, computer TVs, mobile phones and batteries, small and large household appliances.
  3. Chemical substances - including solvents, paints, varnishes, pesticides, industrial chemicals, batteries.
  4. Medical waste - e.g. infectious biological materials (from hospitals, clinics etc.), drugs withdrawn from use, sharp needles and syringes.
  5. Radioactive waste - e.g. spent nuclear fuel or waste from nuclear medicine.

Proper disposal of hazardous waste for environmental protection

The disposal of hazardous waste in Poland is mainly regulated by the Act of 14 December 2012 on waste (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 2288, as amended). It provides the legal basis for managing all types of waste, including hazardous waste. It defines, among others, the rules for collecting, transporting, processing, storing and disposing of hazardous waste. It imposes obligations on producers, carriers, municipalities and other entities involved in the process of managing hazardous waste.

In addition, there are also implementing regulations and technical standards in Poland that specify detailed requirements for the collection, segregation, transport and disposal of hazardous waste. The body responsible for supervising compliance with regulations in Poland is the Environmental Protection Inspectorate and other bodies at the regional and local level.

As a business owner, you need to know exactly what to do with the waste generated by your company. As a private user, you can trust the Selective Waste Collection Points (PSZOKs). They have universal containers for hazardous waste and have the necessary competencies for their storage.

Where to dispose of ash?

Disposing of ash depends on its type - it can be a product of burning different materials. So-called wood ash is safe and can end up in a compost bin or a bio-waste container. It is worth realizing that it contains valuable mineral ingredients and can be used to fertilize the soil.

And where to dispose of ash from a stove, fireplace or so-called coal ash (derived from coal or hydrocarbons, such as firewood)? First of all, it should be neutralized, i.e. cooled down, so as not to cause a fire. Then you can put it in a garbage bag and throw it into a mixed waste container. In some municipalities, local regulations apply to ash disposal - there may be special rules or waste services.

In the case of activities that generate large amounts of ash, it is worth investing in a 1100l metal container with a semi-circular flap or a metal 1100l container with a three-part flap. It is best to choose a solution with additional reinforcement of the bottom using an additional bracket. The load capacity of the container can be increased to as much as 1.2 tons using polyamide wheels.

Disposal of batteries and fluorescent lamps

There are over 26.5 million passenger cars in Poland, and about 60-70 thousand vans are registered each year. More than one of us has already faced the question of what to do with an old battery. So we answer that the disposal of batteries also takes place in PSZOKs. Some automotive stores or petrol stations that have containers for batteries also collect electronic waste, which contains harmful chemical substances. Selected car workshops also provide battery recycling.

Another topic also raises doubts - where do we throw away bulbs and fluorescent lamps and where do we throw away LED bulbs? These products contain small amounts of mercury and phosphorus, which can contribute to environmental degradation. They must therefore be properly separated and transported under safe conditions - they cannot be thrown into municipal waste containers. So if you don't know where to throw away fluorescent lamps, check the collection points for electronic waste in your municipality. Containers for used fluorescent lamps also appear in some stores selling lighting and electrotechnics.

Industrial waste - where to dispose of paints, toners, chemicals?

Entrepreneurs who work with hazardous substances on a daily basis need to find out exactly where to dispose of chemicals. Workshops, warehouses, production halls, etc. should be equipped with containers for chemical waste and from time to time order the collection and disposal of hazardous waste. This is done by specialized companies or organizations dealing with waste management.

For many people, it is a big surprise that cans of paint or used toners are also waste potentially containing hazardous substances. This means that they should not be thrown into containers with municipal waste, even after thorough emptying. So where to throw away cans of paint and where to throw away printer inks? According to the applicable regulations, our obligation is to place them in red bins intended for hazardous waste. We will find them mainly in PSZOKs and in selected building stores and paint stores.

Collection of large-size hazardous waste - where to dispose of household appliances?

Modern household appliances bring a lot of convenience and facilitation in everyday life. However, when the time comes to get rid of a used or faulty device, the question often arises where to dispose of household appliances. Almost all available solutions contain hazardous substances and cannot simply be thrown into standard garbage containers. Contrary to many opinions, they are also not subject to the collection of bulky waste conducted in municipalities. The most correct way to dispose of household appliances is to give such waste to an electronic waste collection. The specialists employed there know how to neutralize the collected waste and how to properly recover materials that can be reused.

If you are wondering where to throw away small household appliances or larger devices when you plan to buy new ones, ask about the collection service. Some stores offer to pick up old equipment without adding additional costs. In the end, you can also use PSZOKs - this applies mainly to incomplete devices.

Where to dispose of medical waste?

The question of where to dispose of medical waste also proves to be problematic. This is one of the most important aspects of health care management and environmental protection. This type of waste includes materials and items that are produced in medical facilities, laboratories or health care facilities and can potentially be infectious, toxic or dangerous - both for humans and the environment. Proper disposal of medical waste is therefore not only a matter of complying with regulations, but also an ethical and social obligation.

First of all, medical waste should be properly categorized - depending on the degree of risk and potential harm:

  • waste with a lower potential for infection or toxicity includes e.g. dressings, disposable gloves, syringes;
  • waste with a higher potential includes e.g. used needles, scalpels and other surgical instruments.

Special containers for medical waste are intended for both categories, but the second group requires more rigorous procedures and safe disposal techniques. It is important that they are handled by properly trained personnel and delivered to approved and certified waste processing facilities. When working with them, appropriate personal protective equipment should be used.

A separate topic is medicines. We have already written more about their disposal in the article "Where do we throw away medicines?", which every household owner should read.