Recently, we visited some New Pig customers to learn about their waste reduction best practices. This research took us to many types of manufacturing facilities in six different states. The type of work they did was different but they all had one thing in common: They were all using drums at some point in their processes to collect and/or transport waste material.
Waste reduction handling can be confusing and it can be a challenge to get the right program in place. But, this group of customers really had it together in this area. Even though they were using drums for different materials, it was clear that each customer knew their waste streams. Whether they were generating hazardous or nonhazardous waste, there were very specific storage locations and proper handling procedures in place.
The most common best practice was using a designated color scheme for waste segregation. One customer told us, “We like the drums themselves to be color-coded because employees don’t like to read labels.” They used black drums for waste oil and green drums for the plastic strapping used in packaging. Another customer was using drums to segregate office and cafeteria waste. They said “New recycling containers tend to be expensive,” so they empty drums around the plant and convert them to recycling containers – painting them in a variety of colors (including orange, purple, green and red).
Another customer showed us their hazardous waste storage locker. They had drums stored inside with drum funnels threaded into several of them. This particular setup caused confusion among some workers who weren’t quite sure which material would get poured into which drum. Color-coding the drum funnels with an additional label on the side was their way of managing this issue. Appropriate signage and color marking to manage waste segregation surfaced as a best practice in other customer visits as well. It’s important to keep wastes segregated, especially to prevent cross-contamination.
Some customers had designated areas where storage drums of material were being pumped into bulk tanks. We learned that waste services prefer to regularly empty larger tanks than individual drums. For other wastes, some customers will fill a drum with their waste material and then have a service take the entire drum away for incineration/disposal. Drum hauling/removal seemed most practical when only a drum or two is filled every month.
If you are using storage drums in your own waste reduction processes, you may choose to follow some of the best practices mentioned above. To have a successful program, please be sure to classify your waste properly, use drums that are chemically resistant and/or durable enough for your wastes and ensure that those handling the drums have a clear understanding of what materials should be placed in them.