Hotels and hazardous waste

Fairmont Dubai's eco-champion Alka Patel assesses the damage that hotel hazardous waste can cause, and offers hoteliers advice on how to dispose of risky rubbish safely and responsibly.
Hotels and hazardous waste
By Alka Patel
Mon 18 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

A hotel is a microcosm in itself, with the potential to produce all kinds of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste comes in many shapes and forms: it can be liquids, solids, contained gases or sludge, and it is often poured down sinks or added to the regular waste stream - thereby contributing to the pollution of our land and water.

There are four categories of hazardous waste:

1. Ignitable wastes: these can cause fires, for example, waste oils and solvents.

2. Corrosive wastes: these are acids or bases that are capable of corroding metal storage tanks, containers, drums, barrels and the like, for example battery acid.

3. Reactive wastes: these are unstable under normal circumstances and can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases or vapours when mixed with water. Examples include lithium-sulfur batteries and explosives.

4. Toxic wastes: these are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed. When toxic wastes are disposed of on land, contaminated liquid may drain or leach from the waste and pollute groundwater. Examples include many chemicals and certain heavy metals.

In a hotel environment, common potential hazardous wastes include:

• Polishes (used on the floor, metal, shoes and furniture).

• Cleaning and disinfecting products (carpet and oven cleaners, detergent, bleach, spot removers and pool chemicals).

• Office products (white-out fluids, permanent ink markers, photocopying and printing fluids).

• Pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides used around the hotel.

• Solvents and aerosols, including air fresheners.

• Oil based paints and varnishes.

• Cooling tower and chilled water chemicals, and freon products.

• Flammables (Sterno gas, lubricating oil).

• Motor oil.

Other hazardous waste can come in the form of solid items, such as batteries, fluorescent lamps, light bulbs, computers and monitors and asbestos.

Take due care with disposal

All hotels are legally responsible for the safe and correct disposal of hazardous waste. Not following proper procedures and regulations can result in not only damages to the environment but also significant fines.

Work with your engineering department to develop a well formulated hazardous waste programme.

Consider what you buy

One way to reduce the amount of waste generated is to scrutinise each product before you buy it, by asking the following:

• Do we really need this product? How much of this product do we actually need?

• Have we checked the product label to see if the product is hazardous? Is there something similar we can use that is less hazardous?

• Do we know how to properly dispose of product containers or the product itself if there is some left over?

• Is there a local collection facility that will accept the unused portion of the product for proper disposal?

Storing hazardous materials

When you have hazardous waste products around, store them in a safe, secure envionment until they are disposed of properly.

Storing hazardous waste safely requires careful forethought and planning. Make sure that product labels are attached and readable, and containers are in good condition, and ensure that:

• The area that you are to store the products has an impermeable surface and can be monitored for leaks and spills.

• Products are not in areas open to activities that could damage containers or result in chemical spills.

• The area is not accessible to all staff and the public, and is locked to discourage theft and vandalism.

How to reduce hazardous waste

• Arrange to have unwanted paint removed by contractors, waste removal companies and individual suppliers or distributors.

• Examine office supply catalogues and circulate a recommended list of non toxic office supplies available for purchase.

• Replace acidic drain cleaners with an environmentally friendly enzyme or bacteria cleaning system.

• Look for ways to reduce the entry of hazardous waste materials into your property.

Did you know...

That permanent ink markers or pens contain extremely toxics chemicals like toluene, xylene and ethanol? Toluene is a known carcinogen. Buy water based markers and pens instead.

Alka Patel is the public relations manager for The Fairmont Dubai. For more information email: alka.patel@fairmont.com

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