In accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, businesses are required to manage hazardous wastes properly. Hazardous wastes may be toxic, corrosive, reactive, flammable or explosive. Businesses that produce hazardous waste include dry cleaners, hospitals, auto repair shops, chemical manufacturers, and refineries. There are some exceptions, and hazardous wastes generated at private homes are not included.
The data graphed in the histogram below are the averages of hazardous waste produced in five consecutive measurements from the Environmental Protection Agency, for each of the 30 most highly populated counties in Illinois. For each county, the “Waste per Person Ratio” is the total hazardous waste produced (in pounds, per year) by all businesses and factory operations in that county divided by the number of residents of that county. For example, in Cook County, there were 442 pounds of hazardous waste produced for each resident of the county. The extreme values were a low of 8 pounds per person in Tazewell County and a high of 2,704 pounds per person in Will County. The mean was 411 pounds per person and the median was 116 pounds per person.