August 28 , 2002
Cradle to Grave -The Life and Times of Hazardous
By Sean M. Alvarez, CSP
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) enacted in 1976
yielded a complex assortment of regulations governing the
management of hazardous waste from "cradle to grave".
Under RCRA, states were given the option to develop their
own hazardous waste management programs which, upon approval
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), operate
in lieu of the federal program in that state.
This article is intended to provide a general overview of RCRA
and state hazardous waste management programs and is not intended
to be all-inclusive. It is wise to consult both federal and
state hazardous waste laws and a hazardous waste expert before
generating or disposing of hazardous waste.
Most companies, both big and small, generate some form of waste
as a by-product of their business efforts. From office
trash to wastewater to process waste, virtually no business
is waste-free. Even the average household generates waste.
Think about your home sewage and trash pickup. Think about
the empty bottle of bleach, fluorescent light bulbs or used
oil. Waste is generated by nearly everyone, everyday.
However, not all waste is the same. Some waste may be considered "hazardous".
Such waste must be managed differently in order to protect
life and the environment both today and for decades to come.
If your business generates hazardous waste, it is important for
you to understand and follow the waste management rules affecting
you and/or your business in order to properly manage that
There are three fundamental components to the proper management
of hazardous waste:
- Accurate Waste Determination (reference
40 CFR 261 and state equivalent)
- Proper Handling (reference 40 CFR 262 and state equivalent)
- Safe Transportation and Disposal (reference 40 CFR 263/264 and state equivalent)
Accurate Waste Determination
waste determination is the cornerstone of proper waste management.
You must first determine how both RCRA and your state classify
the material in question so that you may properly manage it.
You will need to determine if the material in question is
a solid waste or a hazardous waste.
Is the material a solid waste?
The first thing you need to do is to determine is if the material
is a solid waste. In order for something to be considered
a hazardous waste and be subject to regulation, it must typically
first be considered a solid waste.
The term "solid waste" has nothing to due with the physical
state of the material. The term does have to do with
whether the material is abandoned, discarded, accumulated,
used or reused, reclaimed or recycled, etc.
put, if your material has served its primary purpose and is
ready to be disposed of, it may be considered a solid waste.
Both RCRA and many states have definitions and exceptions
to the definition of solid waste. Be sure to consult the
regulations specifically when determining whether your material
is a solid waste.
Is the material a hazardous waste?
Once you know if your material is a solid waste, you must determine
whether it is a hazardous waste. You do this by evaluating
the answers to the following questions:
1. Does the waste meet any RCRA exclusions?
Your material may be considered a hazardous waste if it is not
2. Is the waste a RCRA listed waste?
RCRA has specifically listed certain solid wastes as hazardous
wastes. These "listed" wastes are either from non-specific
sources (F-wastes), specific sources (K-wastes) and commercial
spec/off-spec chemical products (P and U-wastes).
A review of the F,K,P,U lists found in the regulation will help
you in making your determination.
3. Is the waste a RCRA characteristic waste?
In determining if a material is a characteristic waste, it is
wise to have a lab analysis performed on the material itself.
Characteristics of hazardous waste include flammability, corrosivity,
reactivity and toxicity.
Many of the tests for toxicity simulate what substances might come
off the material if it were placed into a landfill and exposed
to landfill-like conditions. The toxicity of the "leachate"
could cause your material to be considered hazardous.
4. Does the waste meet any state exclusions?
A solid waste may be considered a hazardous waste if your state
does not specifically excluded it. Be sure to check you state
statutes and regulations.
5. Is the waste a state listed waste?
Many states have their own list of "listed" wastes.
Be sure to consult your state regulations.
6. Is the waste a state characteristic waste?
Many states use the same flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic
criteria for determining if a waste is characteristic. However,
many states also require testing that is much stricter than that of RCRA.
One such example is in toxicity tests. Passing the RCRA required
tests do not necessarily mean that your material will pass
the state test. In many cases, both tests may be required.
There are other regulations pertaining to the determination of a
hazardous waste that you'll need to familiarize yourself with.
These include such items as Universal Waste (batteries, pesticides,
thermostats, etc), Extremely Hazardous Waste, Special Waste
or other type of specially classified wastes.
Accurate waste determination is the foundation of your waste management
program. Familiarizing yourself with applicable waste determination
laws and regulations will help to ensure a solid start to
proper waste management.
More information on waste
determination may be obtained from the Environmental
Protection Agency waste website.
Copyright © 2002
by WorkCare™ All Rights Reserved
Next Month’s article: Cradle to Grave Part 2 - Proper
Handling/Safe Transportation and Disposal
See you next month, firstname.lastname@example.org