The Summit

Beacon Hill Associates A publication of Beacon Hill Associates

An Overview of Major Waste Disposal Facilities

The waste industry is complicated and the need for specialized coverage for these businesses is crucial. Check out some common disposal facilities and the clients they serve.

There are thousands of disposal facilities across the country designed to handle different types of waste; most people know about traditional landfills and recycling centers, but there are more specialized facilities tasked with giving hazardous materials, chemicals, and other potentially toxic substances a safe place for disposal.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates household, manufacturing, industrial, and hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The RCRA's goals are to protect people and the environment from the hazards of waste disposal and aims to conserve energy and natural resources by recycling, reducing, and cleaning up waste that may have spilled, leaked, or have been improperly disposed.

Virtually every business or organization generates waste, some of it benign in nature; however, others could be potentially harmful if mishandled. This would include construction debris containing asbestos and lead, electronics with batteries, and medical waste. Even organic waste comes with its own set of disposal challenges.

Some general pollution exposures for waste disposal facilities may include:

  • Contaminated runoff from the disposal site which may leach into the soil, a nearby waterway, or migrate onto a neighboring property.
  • If the facility were involved in a fire, dangerous fumes or toxins from waste could be released into the atmosphere.
  • Improper sorting, packaging, or labeling of hazardous and non-hazardous materials.
  • Over the road waste spills.
  • If the site is not properly secured, there is the potential for theft or vandalism, which could lead to a pollution condition.
  • Onsite storage of chemicals, storage tanks, or generators used at the facility.

Below are some examples of these common disposal facilities and the clients they serve; while this is not an exhaustive list, it does outline some of the insureds we have seen who use pollution coverage to offset their risks.

Municipal solid waste landfills

Most trash is typically sent to a municipal solid waste landfill. These landfills must be located a safe distance away from neighborhoods and commercial districts, and they must be equipped with liners and leech collection systems that prevent the surrounding groundwater from becoming contaminated.

Industrial waste landfills

An industrial waste landfill is specifically designated for the safe disposal of solid industrial waste products, including construction debris, plastic, glass, and concrete. Hazardous waste products, such as asbestos or lead, cannot be processed at a standard industrial waste landfill facility.

Hazardous waste landfills
Hazardous waste landfills are the most closely regulated and controlled landfills. They are specifically developed to hold hazardous waste in a way that virtually eliminates the chance of it being released into the environment. Some of the design requirements include runoff and wind dispersal controls, double liners, double leachate collection and removal systems, and leak detection systems. These facilities are often inspected several times each year to make sure that they are up to code.

Non-owned disposal sites
Non-owned disposal sites (NODS) are facilities to which business owners and operators or contractors dispose of waste. Companies utilizing NODS typically have no ownership interest or control over them. The material shipped there may be wastes generated by companies, tenants, clients, or others’ that the generator is responsible for.

Recycling facilities
Recyclers collect and process certain materials and remanufacture them into new products. These materials are collected from consumers and businesses, taken to a facility where they are processed, which includes sorting and cleaning; and are then prepared and made into new materials by manufacturers.

Electronics recycling can incorporate anything from televisions, computers, phones, copiers refrigerators, and other household appliances. These are all made with valuable materials including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy and fuel to mine and manufacture. They may also contain toxic substances like lead and mercury which need to be handled carefully. As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, the e-recycling industry will continue to grow as well.

Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) landfills
PCBs are regulated by the Toxic Substances Control Act(TSCA). While many PCB remediation processes do not require EPA approval, many do. Disposal approvals are issued under the TSCA to accept and/or dispose of PCB waste. Since PCBs are a relatively newer concern compared to other classes of chemicals, whose effects may have more data, standards for PCB disposal are very much a developing body of work.

Organic waste recycling & green waste landfills

Green waste landfills are not officially sanctioned by the EPA, but many municipalities are starting to offer these facilities as a designated place for organic materials to naturally decompose. Common types of green waste include leaves, weeds, mulch, and biodegradable food waste. The purpose of green waste landfills is to save space in other landfills by keeping materials out that are meant to naturally decompose. Organic waste may generate methane, which could then result in greenhouse gases; but, when this waste is allowed to compost in a controlled, accelerated manner, it can turn into nutrient-rich soil.

Waste incineration facilities
The waste management industry typically describes incineration as “waste-to-energy” in order to emphasize the energy recovery process that makes modern incinerators both a waste disposal and  power generating service, as the heat released from burning waste is used to produce electricity.Incinerators built within the last thirty years are cleaner and safer than previous generations of the technology, but many people feel that emitting even trace amounts of toxic substances like heavy metals is harmful to the environment.

 The waste industry is complicated and the need for specialized coverages for these businesses is crucial. Whether handling or transporting waste, the environmental exposures seen by both contractors and facilities can have a huge impact on people and the environment; as well as a financial and reputational impact on the facility. The pollution insurance marketplace has responded to this demand; many options are available and coverage can be tailored to suit the insured’s operations. For information about coverage for waste disposal accounts, contact us.


 Information for this article was obtained from the following sources:

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