Waste Management Tactics 101: Guide to Compliance
Hazardous waste management is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) under the EPA. Below the federal level, each state is authorized to adopt all the federal RCRA requirements or make their own state specific hazardous waste management regulations that are more stringent than the federal regulations. State regulations cannot be less stringent than the federal regulations. It is very important to understand the difference and follow your specific state regulations.
Do You Generate Hazardous Waste?
What is hazardous waste management? What is a hazardous waste? 40 CFR 261.2 says that in order to be a hazardous waste, it must be
- Classified as a solid waste (garbage, refuse, sludge, or other discarded material (including solids, semisolids, liquids, and contained gaseous materials))
- Once the waste is classified as a solid waste, one must now make the determination on whether it hazardous waste as defined in 40 CFR 262.11. W
- Waste is hazardous if it is defined in Subpart D of Part 261 (F, K, P, U) or they exhibit 1 of 4 characteristics (ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic).
Wastes are listed as hazardous because they are known to be harmful to human health and the environment when not managed properly, regardless of their concentrations.
What’s Your Generator Status?
So now you know that you have hazardous waste at your facility what's next? Next, you need to determine the volume of waste that you are generating per month at the facility. This information will be used to determine your Generator Status (Large quantity generator, Small quantity generator, conditionally exempt quantity generator).
- Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) generate 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste, more than 1 kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste, or more than 100 kilograms per month of acute spill residue or soil.
- Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) generate more than 100 kilograms, but less than 1,000 kilograms, of hazardous waste per month.
- Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs) generate 100 kilograms or less per month of hazardous waste, or 1 kilogram or less per month of acutely hazardous waste, or less than 100 kilograms per month of acute spill residue or soil.
As a generator of hazardous waste, your generator status is on file with the State and each type of status comes with its own requirements with regards to hazardous waste storage times, training requirements, reporting requirements, and contingency plans. Again, it is important to check your specific state requirements.
How Do You Manage It?
Once it is determined that the waste is a hazardous waste then it must be managed according to the state specific regulations. At the very least, hazardous waste containers need to be managed at or near the point of generation and under the control of the person generating the waste and labeled as hazardous waste. Though the definition of “near” is left vague within the regulations, we recommend within eyesight of the point of generation.
All additional, more stringent, state regulations will all be designed to protect human health and the environment from the hazardous chemicals.
Do You Need A Partner?
Finally, if your facility is generating hazardous waste at a high frequency you might need to partner with a company for waste transportation and disposal. This will help simplify your processes and assure you’re in compliance.
There are many permitted hazardous waste transporters and there are many different types of disposal options (incineration, recycling, landfill, waste-to-energy, refining, retort, fuel blending). Make sure that you do your homework and choose a hazardous waste transporter that is reputable, safe, and compliant. Hazardous waste is Cradle to Grave (meaning you’re responsible for this material from production to disposal) so choosing a disposal option that is fit for the waste stream and your budget is critical. You can download a checklist to help you make your contractor hiring decision here.
It is important to note here that not all waste can be incinerated (for example, mercury) so it is important to really understand where the waste is going and how it will be disposed of; the waste needs to be tracked from Cradle to Grave.