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Control Your Chemical Inventory

Posted on 10/27/2015 by Roseanne Bottone

One of the primary objectives of the US EPA's major hazardous waste program, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), is to conserve valuable materials and energy sources by reducing, reusing, and recycling. The "three Rs" are not just a catch phrase; they're an official national policy in the United States enacted by Congress. In the US, whenever feasible, the waste generation is to be reduced or eliminated. [42 USC 6902(b)]

Chemical Inventory Control and Hazardous Waste Source Reduction

What's better: Not making a hazardous waste to begin with or making it and recycling it? The preferential approach to waste minimization is to not create waste to begin with. This is known as "source reduction." One of the most effective options for accomplishing source reduction is effective inventory control.

hazardous waste chemical inventory

Inventory Control Techniques for Industry Sites

According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), approximately 25% of collected "waste" is unused chemicals. ACS urges industries working with chemicals to adopt the motto "Less Is Better." Consider these inventory control techniques for minimizing waste creation.

Communication between the purchasing department and the hazardous waste management team
  • If possible, centralize purchasing for tighter control of site-wide inventory.
  • Before purchasing chemicals, the hazardous waste division should assess the need to do so. Is there a safer or less toxic alternative? Can aqueous cleaners or low-VOC paints and coatings work for your processes?
  • Educate buyers so they understand there is no such thing as a "large economy size" of chemicals. Bulk quantities may seem more economical, but the high cost of disposing of excess inventory will wipe out any initial savings—and even increase the actual total cost.
Institute smart chemical management storage techniques

  • Rotate inventory so the "first in" is also the "first out." This will help eliminate the problem of expired chemicals. Smart inventory control can help you avoid employee exposure to hazards too; some chemicals become dangerously reactive or explosive as they age.
  • Bar-code labeling and scanning systems can provide accurate data in real time.
  • Institute a "just in time" purchasing mentality. Avoid stock-piling or purchasing by speculating what you might use. A computerized system will help you track what chemicals are used when and exactly how much you already have on hand and/or need to order.
  • Avoid end of budget-year buying sprees.
Creative alternatives to disposal

  • Evaluate/test expired materials to determine if they can still be used.
  • Consider creating a "haz-mart" to collect surplus chemicals from around the plant and make them accessible for alternative uses in lieu of bringing new chemicals on site.
  • Find out if the chemical manufacturer has a buy-back or take-back program.
  • Seek out potential users for your expired or unwanted chemical. Example: The local high school theater department could use your left-over paint to build its sets.
Storing excess and duplicate chemicals increases the risk of employee exposure, spills, releases to the environment, and fires and explosions. Proper inventory control can improve worker safety, be more protective of the environment, and ultimately improve your company's bottom line.

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Tags: hazardous, RCRA, recycling, waste, waste minimization

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