Back when horses and carriages were used to collect refuse from the streets, no one would have ever guessed that expenditures on managing a niche market such as hazardous waste would exceed $28 billion in the United States.
Well, believe it. Hazwaste management expenses are predicted to reach that number by 2004, based on an annual increase of 1.9 percent, according to a recent study, "Hazardous Waste Generation & Management."
Published by Cleveland-based Freedonia Group Inc., this study gives a comprehensive look at hazwaste generation trends. Along with a breakdown of growth projections for different types of hazwaste, the report also profiles approximately 40 companies operating in this part of the industry, enumerating the services each company offers, as well as how they manage the waste.
The amount of managed hazwastes increased between 1994 to 1998 after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., expanded its list of hazardous chemicals and metals. However, hazwaste generation has been on the decline since 1994 and is expected to decline 1.8 percent per year until 2004, when it will reach about 200 million tons, according to the Freedonia Group's report.
A primary reason cited for this decline is the continuing implementation of source reduction technologies. Many industrial manufacturing companies have reduced the amount of hazwaste they generate because it decreases their potential environmental liabilities.
Increasingly efficient manufacturing also accounts for less hazwaste generation. Companies learned that making processing improvements helped achieve environmental compliance, boosted productivity, reduced unit production costs, shrunk waste disposal costs and allowed a higher level of resource recovery, according to the report.
However, higher management prices per ton will offset the expected decline in volume, the study predicts. In addition, it will become increasing difficult to manage certain type of hazwastes, which also will drive the costs up.
Despite an overall decline in hazwaste generation, chemicals and metals will account for the majority of hazwaste handling, with a projected management cost of $16.8 billion by 2004. Factors affecting the overall costs of managing these wastes include the construction of special containment facilities, meeting stricter environmental standards and using specialized safety and handling equipment and supplies. Source reduction, however, will help keep these management and volume costs down.
With the most rapid rise in management costs, the medical waste sector is expected to see its charges increase 7.3 percent per year until 2004. An upsurge in the volume of medical waste is expected because of an increasingly aging population. Also, stricter disposal regulations will increase the amount of medical waste that needs to be managed. Although controversial, incineration and landfilling will remain the primary method of disposal. However, technologies such as autoclaving and chemical sterilization also will see broader use.
The study projects increases in other areas including petroleum, nuclear, asbestos and ordnance (ammunition), although they represent a small percentage of overall generation.
Petroleum waste generation is expected to grow with the gradual increase in the use of motor vehicles and other transportation equipment and expanding industrial production.
Recycling industrial lubricants, motor oil and other petroleum products will affect petroleum wastes. Typically, petroleum either is reprocessed as lubricant or as fuel for industrial kilns, furnaces, heaters and ovens.
Remaining a high-profile niche, nuclear waste constitutes a small percentage of the total hazwastes managed, however, it's a visible component of the hazwaste stream. Nuclear waste is the most expensive waste to manage because of special requirements such as storage, transportation and remediation equipment and facilities.
Although asbestos wastes is declining, it remains a problem due to public concern. The historic use of asbestos insulation has translated into time and money being spent on remediation projects, in which asbestos was removed and landfilled.
With many U.S. military bases closing, ordinance waste will increase slightly. This will result in the continuing remediation of former base sites, especially artillery and small arms firing ranges, and now defunct munitions production and storage sites.
Lastly, other hazwastes that still will need increased management include smaller volume materials such as household hazwastes, spent batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, paints and paint thinners, outdated pesticides, etc.
New additions of the study are released approximately every two years. For more information or to purchase the study, contact The Freedonia Group Inc. at 767 Beta Drive, Cleveland, Ohio, 44143, or visit their website at www. freedoniagroup.com, call (440) 684-9600.