This article explains the importance of waste treatment and management in businesses which is promoted by ISO 14001.

Wastes generated from manufacturing industries and services firms are global issues. The world took a lot of time to realize that the amount of wastes generated everyday points to a crisis. If it is not regulated, the quality of major natural resources, starting from soil to water bodies is going to be depleted. While businesses of all sizes and types now need to be environmentally conscious and manage their wastes regularly, the ISO 14001 environmental management standard can help them.

The standard calls for the implementation of best practices in organizations that help in treating wastes, reducing the amount of wastes produced, and minimizing impacts on the environment. The standard declares waste management as one of the requirements of an Environmental Management System (EMS) and provides a structured framework for tackling wastes. The framework determines the types of wastes generated in various processes of a business and what methods or administrative controls are appropriate to treat those wastes.

Here are further details explaining how the ISO 14001 standard helps businesses in managing their wastes and minimizing their impacts on the environment. The standard does not exactly specify the steps for waste management but defines some common practices that every organization can include in their approach.
Evaluation of Wastes

To determine appropriate ways to treat wastes, you need to first know what kind of wastes are being generated. You should determine whether they are hazardous and need to be handled by particular legislation. With proper classification or categorization of wastes, it becomes easier to decide the actions or practices required to handle them or transfer them to municipality/state authorities for methodical treatment.

Storing the Wastes

No form of wastes can be treated in real-time i.e., exactly at the process/place where they are generated and at the time when they are produced. They must be stored somewhere before being taken to the treatment or disposal plant. An ISO 14001 based EMS also requires an organization to define processes for storing their wastes, depending on their types and amount. Whether they are solid or liquid or gaseous, whether they are hazardous or not, and whether they are produced in large volumes or small, all these considerations should help them in building their storage facilities.

Labeling the Waste

While there is no need to label or mark the nonhazardous waste, labeling is a must for toxic or hazardous wastes. Besides, an organization should acquire the license to generate and handle some kind of hazardous wastes. They should be labeled with crucial information such as warnings, owner of processes responsible for the wastes, and physical characteristics of the waste. Labeling ensures that the wastes are transferred to or disposed off properly at the right place without confusions or mix-ups with other wastes.

Planning Emergency Actions

Emergencies imply that incidents related to handling of wastes that can be dangerous such as spillage of the waste treatment plant, leakage of gas outlets, and so on. A certified EMS never leaves the scope for any such emergency situations due to mistreatment of wastes or negligence. It requires organizations to have emergency plans backed up to deal with any such cases if they occur.

Providing Staff Training

Training of staff is also a necessary major requirement for waste management procedures and EMS processes. Your organization’s management team should provide adequate training sessions to recognize hazards from wastes, implement safety procedures, and comply with regulatory requirements of their industry or state. Training should be equally provided to each member who deals with waste management and their training or induction must include:

• Identifying risks (human and environmental)
• Practices or procedures to handle the wastes, dispose them off, treat them or transport them
• Effective measures to reduce wastes or prevent their impacts on the environment

Keeping Records

The key purpose of maintaining records of your waste management practices is to provide evidence that you are handling the wastes according to the regulations and defined procedures of the EMS. Usually, the records should mention the type of wastes, processes that released them, and methods deployed in treating them. Keeping appropriate records is useful for audits that are to be conducted by the certification body before granting the ISO 14001 certification. When the auditors get proper proof that you have implemented the regulatory waste management practices, they will be ready to give the certificate.

Waste management is a vital and perhaps the most important part of an ISO 14001 environmental management system. It promotes the above practices that help organizations to create an appropriate strategy to tackle their wastes and enhance their environmental performance while potentially reducing costs and increasing profits.

Author's Bio: 

Damon Anderson is the owner of an ISO certification agency that guides organizations to pass various certifications including ISO 9001 quality management, ISO 14001 environmental management certification and many more. He is an ISO 14001 specialist and provides businesses with tips and advice on environmental management systems and maintaining certification compliance through his blogs.

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