Tackling solid and hazardous waste concerns during commercial projects

by | Apr 20, 2021 | Environmental And Natural Resources Law

In 2021, businesses are taking more responsibility than ever to be ethical, sustainable, and reliable for consumers and fellow community members. A part of that responsibility is to be aware of how the company’s actions shape its physical environment and its surrounding community.

As a leader, you have to follow strict guidelines to ensure the business disposes of solid and hazardous waste in a responsible manner. In most cases, seeking proper permits and promoting a healthy relationship with local officials can help avoid potential disputes down the line.

The critical nature of regulations and enforcement of solid waste

Solid-waste management means collecting, treating, and disposing of any solid materials that are no longer useful for business purposes.

While some corporations take shortcuts for disposal, those shortcuts end with severe environmental consequences like pollution or even an outbreak. Due to potential safety issues, local governments pay close attention to businesses and how they manage their solid waste.

Many Oregon businesses work some sort of solid waste, including hazardous waste. Some of the most common businesses with waste include:

  • Construction and painting contractors
  • Printers
  • Equipment repair shops
  • Furniture refinishing shops
  • Laboratories
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Mechanics
  • Manufacturing plants/warehouses

All these companies would need to work with a waste management organization or a recycling facility to get rid of specific laboratory chemicals, paints, pesticides, cleaners, batteries, and even aerosol products. In some rare cases, such as with radioactive waste or asbestos, you would have to seek special permits or follow a completely different process to properly dispose of the waste and leave little effect on the surrounding communities. To understand more about materials management, you need to work with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and an attorney to determine the best options for your specific waste needs.

The process of permitting the disposal of hazardous waste

To be in compliance with the Oregon DEQ guidelines and avoid penalties, companies need to:

  • Understand the guidelines
  • Acquire the proper permits for any disposals
  • Defend the disposal of any hazardous waste materials
  • Navigate emergency situations such as spills or failed inspections
  • Share costs between active parties, such as plants or contracted companies

All these apply whether a company is launching a new site or modifying an existing site. However, the permits and application processes depend on if you are working with a conversion technology facility, composting facility, landfill, or other material management business.

Permits vary from certain exemptions to standard citations of disposal methods. It also covers different methods of disposal and the possibility for out-of-state disposal reports. Once a company submits the application according to the specific permit, there is usually a screening period where the DEQ evaluates risks or potential issues for the community’s health. If there are no risks, then the company would follow through on proper disposal fines and inspections throughout the year.

The permit process is a critical aspect of proper disposal, but what happens without the proper permits or procedure?

The circumstances of illegal dumping and how to avoid it

Without the proper permits, your company could suffer extreme consequences where you pay thousands of dollars in fines. You may even inadvertently participate in illegal disposal. Oftentimes, illegal dumping happens due to:

  • Few convenient disposal sites
  • Increasing costs of disposal
  • Lack of public awareness of the issue
  • Poor understanding of environmental laws

Lacking information, many companies are guilty of illegal disposal and releasing pollution into their communities. Another issue with illegal dumping is that it devalues the land as a whole, creating problems for the future.

As a company, there are a few ways to avoid illegal dumping in your practices:

  1. Teach all employees proper disposal practices to ensure hazardous waste is classified correctly.
  2. Use an awareness campaign to share the importance of proper disposal to leaders and managers, and how they can help the process.
  3. Work with local officials and agencies to ensure general support and updated practices for your materials management.
  4. Collaborate with officials and citizens to reduce the fees at waste management sites to ensure easy access to proper solid waste management.
  5. Implement technologies that embrace reducing waste, recycling materials, and reusing products among employees and company leadership.

The most important aspect is education. Without the proper information, it puts business owners, waste managers, and community members at risk for the consequences of illegal dumping. It is critical for company leaders to know that if a dispute does arise due to illegal dumping, you have options to seek legal support before paying or succumbing to any major fines – especially if you were within the local guidelines.

Tackling waste means increasing your knowledge

When it comes to material waste management, information is key. To properly address concerns surrounding waste disposal, you want to have the right representation to lead you through the permit process, the environmental law details, and work with governmental officials to avoid potential disputes.

It is critical to obtain legal support as early as possible. The right attorney can streamline the process and help you understand the complex enforcement and regulations behind disposal practices. A lawyer can also act as your advocate when you are facing large fines that could affect company operations.