Safe Waste Disposal & Treatment Methods

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will give you an insight into some of the ways in which waste can be safely disposed of and treated. You'll learn the concepts of segregation, drainage, and the basics of how sewage treatment plants work.

Dangerous Wastes

When you think of dangerous waste, what comes to your mind? You may have thought of radioactive waste. But there's a lot more. There's also medical waste, like needles. Then there's chemical waste, like household and industrial cleaners. There's even mundane waste that comes from your home. Yes, we mean solid human waste (poop). This is also a dangerous waste as it may carry toxic bacteria and other organisms that can make people sick.

Thus, safe waste disposal and treatment of wastewater are needed across a whole range of materials. This lesson goes over some of the methods used to safely dispose of and treat dangerous waste.


One method of waste disposal is called segregation. Just as the name states you separate out the entire mass of waste into individual groups or containers which are then disposed of in different ways depending on the waste in question.

Let's look at an example of waste segregation from the medical field. General wastes, like paper towels used to dry your hands, can be placed in general garbage containers that are then disposed of as the paper towels you use at home would be.

But, medical facilities can't place everything into general trash bins. That would be too dangerous. Things like medical sharps have to be separated into specialized sharps containers. Sharps are things like needles or scalpel blades. If you were to place these sharp objects into a general trash bin, someone may get cut or punctured and possibly become infected with a disease. Thus, sharp objects are placed into specialized containers, often plastic containers that are red or yellow in color.


Not all wastes are packed into containers or bags. Some of them are drained into the sewage system. At home, this includes things that are drained via a sink or toilet. Hopefully, you know that you shouldn't put anything into a sink or toilet that will cause a clog. But, did you know that there are other things you shouldn't dump in there either? That's because all that waste drains into a common water system.

Things you shouldn't dump into any drain include radioactive or chemical waste. Chemical waste also includes any medications you may be taking. Why do you think this is? Well, if you and others dump medication into the sewage system, that medication will eventually make it back into the water you drink. Not good, right?

Other things that shouldn't be disposed of in drains include biohazardous waste, sludges or viscous (syrupy) substances, corrosive substances (which may damage the sewage system), greases and oils. Local regulations may prohibit the dumping of other substances into drains as well.

Sewage Treatment Plants

Again, the reason you shouldn't dump some things into the drain has to do with keeping yourself and others from eventually drinking that stuff as it goes back into the water system! Certain things put in the sewer system may also interfere with or damage sewage treatment plants.

Sewage treatment plants are facilities that remove debris and contaminants from sewage and wastewater. Here are the basics of how they work.

The sewage treatment plants collect sewage water from the community. The first part of a treatment plant screens out very large objects that may be in the sewage, such as rags, bricks or even logs. This is important because if this first step is ignored, the equipment the plant uses may be seriously damaged. Next, the sewage treatment plant collects the sewage in tanks called grit chambers. Here mud, small stones, and sand settle out of the sewage and are later disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

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