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Retail Hazardous Waste Management Doesn’t Have to Hurt Your Wallet—or Your Brain

Ineffective management of toxic materials may be costing your retail organization big bucks—and fixing the issue requires expertise and knowledge your organization probably doesn’t possess. Fortunately, there is a viable solution for your retail hazardous waste challenges.

Classifying consumer products and retail hazardous waste in compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a relatively straightforward process. Classifying these materials for the 24 states with environmental regulations that supersede RCRA is a much more challenging proposition.

Unfortunately, the erroneous classification of federal non-toxics as state toxics is a common occurrence. Such overclassification can cost big retailers millions of dollars per year while significantly increasing their regulatory liability.

Why are products misclassified?

An excellent place to begin includes asking the following questions of stakeholders who manage the regulatory classifications for products that may become retail hazardous waste, including:

(1) How many of these individuals possess in-depth regulatory knowledge?

(2) How many of these individuals are chemical engineers or chemists?

(3) How many of these individuals are well-versed in the creation and use of complex formulaic equations?

Unless the 3rd party managing your classifications hires exclusively from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it’s safe to say the answer to each of these inquiries is “very few,” or possibly “none.”

This unique thought exercise is necessary because the accurate classification of consumer products for retail hazardous waste across these 24 states requires a combination of all three of these skill sets. Just examine the charts below, which showcase examples of typical toxic materials chemical information and formulas used in the classification process.


Not exactly light reading material, right?

It’s easy to see why as many as 60 percent of the products classified as state toxics are overclassified in many states—unnecessarily increasing regulatory expenses and liability.

So, how to improve your retail hazardous waste classifications?

I would argue the answer is obvious: this isn’t a job for error-prone humans. Instead, machines should undertake this task. 

How does this brave new world function? Imagine an environment where computers were responsible for understanding chemistry, navigating regulations, and applying complicated mathematical formulas. 

As a non-math and science major who has the privilege of working with a world-class team of chemical engineers and data scientists, I have to say that I like the sound of this.

In this optimized world, inconsistent (and often incorrect state classifications) are now consistently correct. The effects of these improvements are immediate:

-Your regulated retail hazardous waste disposal costs fall by 25 percent to 50 percent.

-Generator status reduction for stores in states that count state toxics.

-Haulers reduce stops needed for retail hazardous waste pickup, saving your operation time and money.

-The number of “toxic” items in your inventory substantially decreases, dramatically lessening regulatory liability in states such as California, Washington, and Massachusetts.

And you don’t have to break the bank hiring a team of NASA engineers.

Let computers do the jobs we built them to do, helping you to lower costs and reduce liability by ensuring cost-effective and compliant decisions are made about your regulated items.

It just makes good sense.

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