Hazardous waste technicians are responsible for handling, processing, packaging, and tracking hazardous waste for shipment, treatment, and disposal. They can also be involved in coordinating hazardous waste programs for both private industry and the public sector. They can be employed by waste recycling and treatment facilities or with large companies, packaging and shipping their hazardous waste. Hazardous waste technicians have specialized training on how to safely handle and dispose of chemical, biohazard, and radioactive wastes.
Imagine you are dressed in a white protective suit complete with gloves and slippers for your shoes. You are a hazardous waste technician and you are unloading a minivan full of household hazardous waste containers. This is the City's annual household hazardous waste roundup, where for ten days, the City campaigns to have residents bring their old paint cans, solvents, motor oil, and batteries to your waste handling facility for proper disposal.
The roundup is part of a public campaign to educate residents on the proper disposal of household hazardous wastes so they don't end up in landfills or down the drain. Instead, they are brought to you and you ensure that these common household chemicals are properly collected and disposed of without harm to the environment. As a hazardous waste technician, you have years of experience handling and disposing of hazardous substances and you know how important it is to follow proper procedures. When residents or industrial traffic arrives at your facility, you carefully remove the hazardous waste containers from the vehicle and check the inventory list that should accompany the containers.
When receiving hazardous waste, it is important that you can accurately identify what kind of waste has come in, where it has come from, and in what quantity. Once you have confirmed everything is clearly marked and the necessary paperwork has been filled out, you sort the containers. First, you identify which wastes can be recycled, for example, used motor oil or antifreeze. Those that cannot be recycled are inventoried according to their active ingredient and packed in plastic-lined drums to be shipped to specialized treatment and disposal facilities. When the drums are ready for shipping, you must complete a shipping manifest indicating the volume of waste being transported and the name of the company hauling it. Copies of the shipping manifest are sent with the transport company with the drums. When the drums reach their destination, a delivery confirmation notice will be sent to you. Once you have the delivery confirmation, you can be confident the hazardous waste is being treated and disposed of properly and not ending up in landfills or draining into watersheds.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a hazardous waste technician:
Hazardous waste technicians work in a variety of locations, including:
In the field:
In the office:
If you are a high school student considering a career as a hazardous waste technician, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a hazardous waste technician is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a hazardous waste technician, the following programs are most applicable:
It is not mandatory to be certified in order to work as a hazardous waste technician, though many practitioners choose to become certified through their provincial association. Requirements for certification vary among provinces.
“I knew that it was going to be an up-and-coming field,” recalls hazardous waste technician Dave Howes about his decision to major in environmental science. At the time, Dave was taking general science courses at university when he discovered the new faculty of Environmental Science. “Instead of getting a general science degree, I wanted to major in something that was interesting to me and had good job potential when I was done.” Almost a decade later, Dave is pursuing two careers within the same hazardous waste management company. Officially known as a technical services coordinator, Dave not only works as a hazardous waste technician but as a computer IT technician. “I wear two hats here.
I wear an environmental hat and a computer hat. I love the mix of responsibilities!” When he’s wearing his environmental hat, Dave’s responsibilities are varied. He can be found training staff or clients on the handling or transportation of hazardous goods. He is also responsible for researching project-specific federal and provincial hazardous waste regulations and writing proposals to update the company’s hazardous waste licences. Dave spends much of his time at his desk, but once a week he heads out into the field to visit the company’s hazardous waste treatment facility south of town.
There he assists others with a variety of duties, including conducting environmental audits of the facility, “just to make sure we’re in compliance with federal and provincial regulations.” One of Dave’s responsibilities is coordinating his company’s emergency spill response unit. He administers a crew of eight, who are on call 24 hours year-round. “When you get the call, you drop everything you’re doing and you’re off and running.” The responsibility is not only stressful but time-consuming. Cleaning up a spill can take as long as two weeks to complete. “There’s a lot more to handling hazardous waste than most people realize.”
This includes determining how to clean-up a spill without harming the environment, transporting the hazardous waste to a treatment facility, and processing the waste. It also includes ensuring the waste is transported and processed according to strict federal and provincial hazardous waste regulations. One mistake and Dave’s company could face thousands of dollars in fines, or the environment or people could be harmed in the process. “This job really keeps me on my toes.”