EPA Issues Final Ruling on Hazardous Waste Classifications

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is publishing a final rule that revises the definition of solid waste to exclude certain hazardous secondary materials from regulation under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The purpose of this final rule is to encourage safe, environmentally sound recycling and resource conservation and to respond to several court decisions concerning the definition of solid waste.

Entities potentially affected by the EPA’s latest action include approximately 5,600 facilities in 280 industries in 21 economic sectors that generate or recycle hazardous secondary materials that are currently regulated as RCRA Subtitle C hazardous wastes (e.g., secondary materials, such as industrial co-products, by-products, residues, and unreacted feedstocks). Approximately 60% of these affected facilities are classified in NAICS code economic sectors 31, 32, and 33 (manufacturing). The remaining economic sectors, which have more than 10 affected industries each, are in NAICS codes 48 (transportation), 42 (wholesale trade), and 56 (administrative support, waste management, and remediation). About 1.5 million tons per year of hazardous secondary materials generated and handled by these entities may be affected, of which the most common types are metal-bearing hazardous secondary materials (e.g., sludges and spent catalysts) for commodity metals recovery and organic chemical liquid hazardous secondary materials for recovery as solvents.

The EPA’s latest action is expected to result in regulatory and materials recovery cost savings to these industries of approximately $95 million per year. Taking into account impact estimation uncertainty factors, the action could result in cost savings ranging from $19 million to $333 million per year to these industries in any future year.
There are two primary purposes of this action, according to the EPA. One purpose is to respond to a series of seven decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1987 to 2000), which, taken together, have provided the EPA with additional direction regarding the proper formulation of the RCRA regulatory definition of solid wastes for purposes of Subtitle C. A second purpose is to clarify the RCRA concept of "legitimate recycling," which is a key component of the EPA’s approach to recycling hazardous secondary materials. This action is not intended to bring new wastes into the RCRA hazardous waste regulatory system and it does not do so. By removing unnecessary controls over certain hazardous secondary materials, and by providing more explicit and consistent factors for determining the legitimacy of recycling practices, the EPA expects that this action will encourage and expand the safe, beneficial recycling of additional hazardous secondary materials.
For more information on the rule, please visit the "Definition of Solid Waste" rulemaking section on the EPA website. For more detailed information on specific aspects of this rulemaking, contact Marilyn Goode, Office of Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste Identification Division, MC 5304P, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington DC 20460, (703) 308-8800, ( or Tracy Atagi, Office of Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste Identification Division, MC 5304P, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington DC 20460, (703) 308-8672.

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