Since some sealers and varnishes contain harmful substances that are dangerous to our health and the environment, leftover coatings need to be handled as special waste.
Depending on the type of coating, there is a possibility the ingredients can leach heavy metals and toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater if it accidentally ends up in a landfill. To protect the environment, and public health, floor coating chemicals need to be disposed of responsibly.
The safe handling and disposal of leftover sealers, finishes, or solvents that are no longer needed ensures a safer tomorrow for everyone. The first step is to determine if the coating is hazardous or non-hazardous before disposing of the material. Read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or contact the supplier to give you information on the product.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (epa.gov) indicates two ways in which waste materials can be categorized as hazardous:
- Listed waste, published on EPA’s website
- Waste that possesses certain characteristics, such as corrosiveness, ignitability, toxicity, and reactivity
When working on a project, you can minimize the amount of leftover coating by following these principles:
- Reduce: only buy the material you need
- Re-use: keep it for future projects, be sure to check the shelf life of the product
- Recycle: Give it to someone else who can use it
If the coating can’t be used or recycled, it needs to be properly disposed of according to local, state, and federal waste regulations. This involves sending the material to a permitted hazardous waste facility for disposal by a business (regulated entity), or household hazardous waste collections for homeowners (set up in your local area for household waste).
Under no circumstances should you throw a partially full container into the dumpster or pour material down the drain. If this occurs, the chemicals and heavy metals from the material could be discharged into soil and groundwater, and cause contamination. Even if material is disposed of in closed containers, it may be released when the trash is compacted. For this reason, trash collectors don’t accept containers, unless they are empty and dry (no free liquids in the landfill).
Disposing of these materials can be difficult, especially if you have a small quantity of unused product. For this, you have to find a local government with a household hazardous waste collection.
To help small businesses and homeowners classify waste correctly, each state provides guidance on how to dispose of waste. Some communities even have individual requirements, so check in the small business help section on your state government environmental website or call your local Department of Sanitation or Department of Public Works for instructions on proper disposal.
Kathryn Straccia is the Regulatory Affairs Manager at Betco. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.