Dawn DeVroom, IDR Environmental Services

As a business owner, you’re used to navigating challenges. But one potential problem may be outliving its shelf life.

Hand sanitizer became a legal liability for one Oklahoma company – something that could easily have been prevented.

As businesses continue to dispose of expired, excess hand sanitizer leftover from the COVID-19 pandemic, some are finding themselves in legal hot water when this hazardous waste isn’t stored or disposed of properly.

That’s what happened to businessman Brannan Bordwine and the Bordwine Development company, which found itself on the wrong side of the law after the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received citizen complaints alleging the improper storage and disposal of hand sanitizer. The result? A record-setting $6.6 million penalty against the Chickasha company.

If your business has a large amount of hand sanitizer still onsite, partnering with a hazardous waste disposal company can help you avoid the same fate. With hazardous waste disposal, proactive compliance is key to remaining on the right side of the law.

Is Hand Sanitizer Hazardous?

Yes! Hand sanitizer contains high concentrations of alcohol, typically ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, which arehand sanitizer disposal flammable and volatile substances. Improper storage or disposal of hand sanitizer can lead to fire hazards, especially in environments with heat sources or open flames.

Additionally, the high alcohol content makes hand sanitizer potentially harmful if ingested or inhaled, posing health risks such as alcohol poisoning or respiratory irritation. Furthermore, hand sanitizer often contains other chemicals, such as fragrances or preservatives, which can also be harmful to the environment if not disposed of correctly. Overall, the combination of flammability, toxicity, and environmental impact categorizes hand sanitizer as hazardous waste.

In the case against the Bordwine Development company, complaints argued that the business kept semi-truck loads of hand sanitizer that were improperly dumped or buried in the ground, leading to potential soil contamination.

Three fires also erupted at the company’s sites – one at a manufacturing location in August 2022 in which the fire was so volatile that cast-iron lids on two manholes were blown off. Flames consumed all of the hand sanitizer on site. Four days later, at another site in Chickasha, hand sanitizer dumped on the property incinerated, according to the DEQ.

Then in October of the same year, a fire destroyed a warehouse Bordwine had leased. Consumed by the flames were an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 pallets of ethanol-laced hand sanitizer.

How Hand Sanitizer Disposal Could Impact You

COURT DOCUMENTS showed that Brannan Bordwine had an oral lease with Blessed Chickasha Collective for one of the properties. In 2023, that site owner filed a lawsuit against Bordwine’s firm for breach of contract for the improper storage, transporting and handling of the hand sanitizer.

This shows why it’s critical that you stay informed about all activities occurring on your properties if you manage a property and have several business tenants. Having a proactive approach to monitoring and addressing potential hazards, such as improper hazardous waste disposal, can prevent legal disputes and financial liabilities down the line for both you and your tenants.

You may also have several products in one of your own warehouses. During the pandemic, many different industries were authorized to manufacture hand sanitizer, from alcohol distilleries to cosmetic companies. Pretty much any company that had access to ethanol could jump in and manufacture hand sanitizer. You may have been one of them, or your business or healthcare facility may have been the recipient of this quickly-developed product.

The FDA has since withdrawn any temporary hand sanitizer guidelines, yet storage facilities or warehouses may still have unused containers of hand sanitizer onsite, and now they must be disposed of according to federal and state environmental regulations.

By establishing a partnership with a hazardous waste disposal company, you can ensure that proper protocols are in place for the safe and compliant handling of substances like hand sanitizer. What could surely become a headache could instead be a smoothly managed process, safeguarding against legal liabilities and environmental hazards.

What To Look For In A Disposal Company

When selecting a hazardous waste disposal company, there are key characteristics to look for in a quality partner who can help ensure the proper disposal of any bulk hand sanitizer you have onsite.

Licensed And Compliant

First, always verify that the disposal company is fully licensed and compliant with all relevant environmentalhand sanitizer disposal regulations. Hazardous waste is regulated heavily in California. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) maintains an updated Registered Hazardous Waste Transporter Database.

Even after you confirm that a partner you are considering is on this list, it’s a good idea to routinely conduct annual audits of vendors handling your hazardous waste to ensure their registration hasn’t lapsed since a hazardous waste transporter registration is valid for only one year.

Experienced In Managing Your Waste

It’s also critical to consider the company’s experience and track record in handling hazardous materials, including its expertise in managing hand sanitizer disposal. Each type of hazardous waste has its own set of regulations that must be followed. Disposal facilities also must have the necessary permits and adhere to strict environmental standards.

Comprehensive Services

A reliable disposal company should also offer comprehensive services, including proper storage, transportation and disposal methods tailored to your property’s needs.

The disposal company should also provide expert guidance on transportation logistics, ensuring that hazardous waste is securely packaged and transported properly.

Tailored disposal methods are important to address the unique characteristics of your property and its waste stream. Whether it’s coordinating regular pickups or providing emergency response services, a disposal company should adapt its offerings to meet the specific needs of your property and its occupants.

Commitment To Sustainability

Finally, assess the company’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices since responsible waste management is crucial for minimizing environmental impact.

By carefully evaluating these criteria, you can confidently choose a disposal company that provides peace of mind and ensures regulatory compliance.