Blog 10 "Environment"
HBY: We've already spoken on several occasions about hazardous goods, how to handle them, how to protect yourself, and so on. I’d now like to know how the environment specifically fits into all this, because we haven’t discussed that much.
EH: You’re right. Pictograms and classifications often only indicate hazards for humans and animals, but these products can also be harmful to the environment. Look, for example, at the dead fish and dead tree pictogram. Hardly an eco-friendly image, but a very clear sign indicating an environmental hazard.
HBY: I agree. In this case, it therefore concerns a product that could really damage the environment. But isn’t it true that products with different hazard classifications can also harm the environment? I’ve seen this in various sections of the SDS (safety data sheets). What should I make of all this?
EH: It’s quite complex. When you talk about the environment you have to think of things such as permits, storage conditions, storage quantities, spillage/disposal and, above all, packaging.
HBY: That’s a long list, can you be more specific? I’m not that concerned with the permits, more with the peripheral matters you just mentioned, such as spillage, disposal and packaging.
EH: If we use products for their intended purpose, there’s usually not much to worry about. We use the product in the desired concentration, with the desired frequency, and according to the permitted recommendations. In these cases, the environment can handle the use and disposal of the product, and you can assume that the product may be disposed of according to the known standards.
HBY: So in these cases, I can dispose of them in accordance with the permits and descriptions?
EH: That’s right. It’s only an issue if usage or spillage becomes unusually high.
HBY: Spilling a product means we expose a large amount to the environment at once. This might be caused by package getting damaging and emptying in one go, for example.
EH: That’s a good example of a problem which the SDS don’t always address, so you do have to take extra precautions. There’s a good reason why we place packaging on drip trays; we can keep these kinds of incidents under control. Exposing a large amount of a hazardous product to the environment at once can affect aspects such as the microbiological balance in the manure pit or a manure digester. That can be quite a problem, and even lead to a manure digester having to shut down.
HBY: What do you do in these circumstances?
EH: Simply get in touch with the specialists. The suppliers almost certainly have people who can provide answers if a spillage occurs. Remember: better to call too many times than not at all. In any case, don't try and sort it out yourself.
HBY: And what about packaging?
EH: Packaging can be even more damaging to the environment than their contents. They have to be treated as hazardous goods, even if they’re empty. If you rinse them, the product will disappear, but it’s still plastic, and can have a severe environmental impact. Packaging has to be treated with care. Recycling services where empty packaging can always be taken are available in lots of countries.
HBY: I see. It’s all about organisation. Don’t wait until it’s too late, but take precautions beforehand and be prepared for spillages.