What is "Waste" and Why You Should Care

What is “Waste?”

When most people hear the word “waste” they automatically think of chemicals or construction materials. And, they almost always think of waste as industrial and hazardous. Yet, the word waste is a very broad term that encompasses many different categories.

From your home to your bowling center, it is important to understand what waste is and how to dispose of it. With changing regulations, businesses that have been unaffected in the past, may soon learn the costs associated with improper disposal.

Residential Waste

First of all, everything that you put in your home trash can or recycle bin is considered a type of waste. Residential wastes can fall into a few different categories. Much of the waste we generate at home is recyclable. Think about the number of newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes (or other food boxes), soda cans, water bottles, and milk jugs that you use. Nearly all of those items can be recycled in some way. Recyclable wastes can be thought of as “good” waste. They cause little environmental impact and they don’t have any negative effects on humans.

But that isn’t the only kind of waste you generate in your home. Have you ever decided to paint a room? What happens to the extra paint when you’re finished with the job? You may keep it for some time but eventually it has to be discarded. Where does it go? Paints, bug sprays (pesticides), cleaning chemicals, and fertilizers are also examples of residential wastes. And, these wastes shouldn’t be thrown in your trash can. Many of these types of wastes must be disposed of more carefully as they can be hazardous to humans and the environment. In fact, many of these items are considered “household hazardous wastes”. Hazardous waste isn’t exclusive to industry; you probably have some of these types of items in your home right now.

These hazardous household wastes must be disposed of periodically and they can’t be just thrown in the trash. To assist residents in disposing of these materials, many local collection agencies arrange certain days of the week or month for residents to either put these types of items by the curb (similar to “everyday” trash) or to bring them to a designated drop off location for appropriate disposal. Items like used cooking oil and even electronics can be hazardous and should always be disposed of in a proper manner. Even light bulbs and batteries have special disposal requirements.

Commercial Waste

Businesses also generate waste. Some of the waste generated by businesses is just like the waste you generate in your home. Paper, soda cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard are all examples of wastes generated by businesses. These wastes, just like yours at home, can often be recycled and they would certainly be considered nonhazardous. But, businesses can also generate more dangerous or hazardous wastes. Hospitals and doctor’s offices have medical waste that must be disposed of properly to keep infectious diseases and germs from spreading. Industrial operations like chemical manufacturers, factories, and even construction sites all generate wastes that can be hazardous.

But, these businesses aren’t the only types that can generate such wastes. Businesses like the local bakery, the shoe store, and even the bowling center also generate waste. While these businesses may not generally create hazardous waste, they still generate waste that can’t always just go in the trash can or recycle bin.

Waste from Bowling Centers

A bowling center with a snack bar/restaurant can generate many different types of waste in each of its various operations. The snack bar/restaurant will generate food wastes, paper products and general trash, as well as wastewater from cleaning and used cooking oil from deep fryers. All of these wastes have different disposal requirements. The food waste and common trash items can generally be disposed of in a dumpster while the wastewater from cleaning; i.e. mop water, dishwashing liquids, etc.; can generally be flushed down the drain. Used cooking oil from deep fryers however, must be collected and disposed of according to specific regulations. In many cases, this material can be collected and recycled. And, in a lot of cases, the waste generator (the bowling center) may actually collect a fee from the recycler (the person who collects the waste for disposal and/or recycling). Many people would see this as a winning situation since they have to discard the cooking oil but they can make a little bit of money from the “waste” rather than having to pay someone to dispose of the oil.

The bowling center itself also has waste. Every time a lane machine moves down the lane to clean the lane and apply new lane conditioner, waste is created. The lane machine picks up a waste that is a blend of diluted lane cleaner, lane oil, and dust. Depending on the lane cleaner and lane conditioner used by the center, this waste is typically a large percentage of water. In fact, depending on the dilution ratio of the cleaner, the waste could be 90% or more water. Of the remaining percentage, a very small percentage; approximately 1%-2%; would be the lane conditioner while the rest would be lane cleaner.

The creation of this recovery tank waste is one of the most common waste questions I receive. When it comes to this waste material, everyone wants to know what to do with it and no one really wants to spend a lot of money to get rid of something that is mostly water. Unfortunately, as environmental regulations and waste disposal laws get tougher and tougher; many bowling centers are finding out the hard way that you can’t just dump this waste down the drain.

But, why can’t I just dump it down the drain? First, grease and oils are not soluble in water and tend to separate from the liquid solution. This means that when the solution travels through the pipes, the oil can settle and cause trouble; i.e. buildup which will ultimately lead to slow flow and clogging; in the piping. Secondly, oils also hamper the effective treatments that are performed at the wastewater treatment plants. In fact, it is because of this that grease traps and other type devices are required at some places.

Improper Waste Disposal

While the waste from the recovery tank of a lane machine would, in most cases, be considered nonhazardous, there are still appropriate disposal considerations that must be followed. And, to make matters even more difficult, the regulations vary by state, county, and city. Just knowing the federal regulations isn’t enough. Your state, county or city may have varying regulations so it is always important to check with the appropriate regulating authorities to determine your safest course of action. Improper waste disposal can carry hefty penalties as well as civil and criminal consequences. In fact, fines for improper disposal can be less expensive than the civil and criminal penalties imposed for the actions. And, the civil and/or criminal penalties could even include jail time!

As I mentioned previously, dumping your waste down the drain can cause problems with the sewage lines and at the wastewater treatment facility. But, it can also be traced back to the establishment as well. When sewage lines get plugged or have slow flow, maintenance workers have to clean the lines or even replace them. When this happens, the managing authorities can determine what caused the blockage. They can then pull samples from surrounding establishments to determine if the blockage was caused by one of them. By pulling samples from lines coming directly off of each of the surrounding establishments, typically, the managing authority can get at least trace amounts of the blocking materials allowing them to determine the offending establishment. They can then charge the establishment with a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. If this happens, the establishment may be required to pay for sewer line maintenance costs as well as additional water treatment costs.

Improper waste disposal can vary depending on the category of waste and the severity of the action. Improper disposal of hazardous waste would certainly be more severe and carry a harsher penalty than improper disposal of nonhazardous waste. That said imposed fines can be more than $30,000 per day! And that doesn’t even include civil or criminal penalties that could be imposed by a court. It also doesn’t include any additional treatment costs that may be imposed by the treatment facility or maintenance costs that may be required to replace or maintain sewage lines.

As I mentioned, the recovery tank waste will generally be considered nonhazardous. This is favorable as it is much less expensive to get rid of nonhazardous wastes than it is to dispose of hazardous wastes. Additionally, there are generally more options available for getting rid of nonhazardous wastes. This means you can shop around and find more cost effective alternatives which will save you some money on the bottom line. Generally speaking, depending on the number of lanes you have and the number of times you clean and condition your lanes per day, and depending on the regulations in your area, you could dispose of this waste for a few thousand dollars (or less) a year. When you start adding up the numbers for fines/penalties, it’s easy to see that the cost of appropriate disposal in one year would be far less than even one day of fines and penalties.

How to Properly Dispose of Waste

So now you’re probably wondering what you should be doing or even who to call that could help you get rid of this waste. As I mentioned before, regulations vary greatly by location so it’s extremely important that you find out what is appropriate for your area. You can always start with a call to your local waste management authority. They should be able to direct you to businesses in your area that can help you with your waste needs. You can also do an internet search for industrial waste or nonhazardous waste handlers. There are many companies around the world that can pick up and transport the waste to an appropriate facility for treatment or disposal. You can also call your local water treatment facility. They may be able to direct you to a company that can work with you. Lastly, if you use a service for a parts washer or even for oil disposal for your restaurant/snack bar, speak with your rep from those companies. They may be able to help you with this kind of waste or direct you to another company that can help you.

Waste disposal is becoming a part of operating a business and it is important, for humans and for the environment, that we dispose of all waste in the proper way. Businesses like bowling centers have generally flown under the radar. But, as regulations are becoming increasingly strict, there are increasing demands of wastewater treatment facilities, and the costs associated with treating wastewater and maintaining equipment increases, law makers and regulating authorities are taking a hard look at problems and where they are occurring. This means it is only a matter of time until your actions could come around to cost you. Taking the extra steps now to insure that you’re properly disposing of your waste may cost you a little bit of money now but it’s far less expensive than the fines and penalties you could be forced to pay, or the jail time you could serve, for improper disposal.