Since silver is a precious metal, recovering silver from used x-ray fixer can make economic and environmental sense, and disposal of a hazardous waste can be very expensive.
Used fixer typically contains 3,000 to 8,000 mg/l of silver. The regulatory level that would make a waste hazardous for silver is 5mg/l. Due to its high silver content, used x-ray fixer must be managed as a hazardous waste. Because of these high levels, used fixer cannot be poured down the drain or disposed of as common solid waste. It is illegal to put used fixer in septic tanks, stormwater drains or dry wells, or pour on the ground.
Until it is properly disposed of or managed, used fixer must be stored in sturdy containers with lids that are securely closed. The container should be labeled as Hazardous Waste - Used FixerOnly. The containers should be kept in a secure area away from the public and inspected weekly for leakage or deterioration. Recyclers and hazardous waste haulers will often provide the necessary containers for their customers.
Recovery Options: On- or Off-Site
If the recovery option is chosen, it can be sent off-site for silver recovery, or it can be done on site. There are several types of on-site silver recovery units on the market. Typically a dental office can treat up to 10 gallons per month of spent fixer with an on-site silver recovery unit. If you decide to purchase a unit, make sure you choose one that is appropriately sized for the amount of used fixer your dental office generates.
Some recovery unit manufacturers claim that liquid fixer waste remaining after the silver is recovered can be discharged down the drain. This can vary from place to place. It is important that you check with your local wastewater treatment agency before discharging this waste down the drain to avoid violating local regulations.
Sending used fixer off-site for recovery is the second option for managing used fixer. If you send your fixer for off-site disposal or recovery, you must contract with a licensed hazardous waste transporter to take the waste to a facility that is permitted to accept hazardous waste.
Following EPA Requirements
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has considered the economic value of certain hazardous wastes that contain precious metals such as silver in its regulations for recyclable materials that are reclaimed to recover economically significant amounts of precious metals. In Illinois, these regulations are found at 35 Ill. Adm. Code 726.170. A person who generates, transports, or stores recyclable materials utilized for precious metals recovery can comply with these less stringent regulations instead of the regulations governing all hazardous waste generators, transporters, etc.
Dental offices recovering silver from used x-ray fixer either on-site or off-site must do the following to comply with the requirements at 35 IAC 726.170:
Obtain identification numbers from both the Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA;
Maintain records showing:
The volume of these materials stored at the beginning of the calendar year;
The amount of these materials generated or received during the calendar year; and
The amount of materials remaining at the end of the calendar year.
Use a manifest when shipping materials off site; and
Recycle on-site or transfer for off-site recycling at least 75% of the used fixer accumulated during a calendar year.
Used developer is not a hazardous waste, so do not mix it or other wastes with used fixer. The mixture would be hazardous waste, and your disposal or recovery costs would increase.
A dental office that generates other types of hazardous wastes needs to determine whether they are a conditionally exempt small quantity generator (CESQG), small quantity generator (SQG) or large quantity generator (LQG), and which regulations apply to them.
The ADA has information about companies that offer waste disposal and recovery services for dental office waste. Visit http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/topics_amalrecyclers.pdf for information on companies providing those services.
For more information on storage and disposal of hazardous materials in your office, contact the Illinois EPA Bureau of Land, Permit Section at 217/524-3300, or visit www.epa.state.il.us/small-business/special-waste/index.html.
Facilities to Handle Precious Metals Recovery, Hazardous Waste
Here are Illinois companies that handle precious metals recovery and hazardous waste facilities (if a dentist does not want to do precious metal recovery).
Recovery of Precious Metals – http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/waste-mgmt/facility-tables/precious-metals.html
Handy & Harman, Villa Park (630/530-7950, Donald Walsh)
Behr Precious Metals, Rockford (815/968-2750, Ronald Coupar)
Mar-Cor Industries, Franklin Park (708/288-0800, Sheldon Goldner)
Sipi Metals Corp., Chicago (312/276-0070, Sales Dept.)
United Refining and Smelting, Franklin Park (708/455-8800, Robert Glavin)
Storage/Transfer Facilities (Hazardous & Non-Hazardous Special Wastes) – http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/waste-mgmt/facility-tables/storage-transfer-facilities.html
Safety Kleen Corp., Urbana (217/328-2000, Sales Dept.)
American Waste Processing, Ltd., Maywood (708/681-3999, Joe Strosnik)
Heritage Environmental, Serv., Inc., Lemont (630/739-1151, Bob Garcia)
Clean Harbors of Chicago, Inc., Chicago (773/646-6202, Sales Dept.)
Chemical Waste Management, Inc., Calumet City (773/646-3099, Thomas Kowalski)
Safety Kleen Corp., Elgin (847/468-6510, Sales Dept.)
Advanced Environmental Technical Services, Alsip (219/836-9733, Arthur Becka)
EMCO Special Waste Transfer Station, North Chicago (815/239-2377, David Ward)
St. Clair County
Safety Kleen Corp., Caseyville (618/398-6880, Sales Dept.)
Safety Kleen Corp., Pekin (309/346-1818, Sales Dept.)
Clean Harbors Pecatonica LLC, Pecatonica (815/239-2377, David Ward)
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