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EPA Contemplating Revisions to Definition of Solid Waste Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to review its revised Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule, which went into effect Dec. 29, 2008. The EPA will take comments on the rule at the request of a Sierra Club petition seeking an immediate stay and repeal of the 2008 regulation. The agency will hold a public meeting on June 30, 2009, at the EPA Potomac Yards Conference Center in Arlington, Va., to consider potential revisions to the DSW rule.

The 2008 DSW rule aimed to promote materials recycling rather than hazardous waste landfill disposal and was a response to several U.S. Court of Appeals decisions that grappled over defining the term “discard,” which forms the basis of the definition of solid waste. The 2008 revision modified the DSW rule allowing for certain secondary hazardous materials (e.g., metals recovered from electroplating sludge) to be recycled off-site through approved reclamation methods, in an effort to save on disposal costs for affected industries and conserve resources. Original EPA estimates included cost savings of around $95 million per year for 5,600 facilities handling nearly 1.5 million tons of hazardous secondary materials per year.

The Sierra Club is seeking an immediate repeal or revision of the rule that would prohibit off-site recycling of secondary hazardous materials. Furthermore, the organization’s petition cites several concerns over the 2008 DSW rule. Among them: hazardous waste recycling causes harm to health and the environment; the rule does not account for the instability of recycling markets, increasing the risk for materials abandonment; and lack of a significant increase in hazardous waste recycling as a result of the rule, according to EPA’s own data.
 
Several industry groups have already taken issue with the Sierra Club’s objections to the DSW rule and have submitted responses to the petition. “The definition of solid waste rule removes regulatory barriers that inhibit recycling of manufacturing waste, thereby promoting recycling,” asserted Fern Abrams, director of Environmental Policy for IPC, the Association Connecting Electronics Industries. “In addition to the environmental benefit, the revised DSW rule can provide a facility with cost savings that are critical in today’s economy.”
 
Further details about the June public meeting will be published in a May edition of the Federal Register, including questions for consideration that will be raised at the meeting. More information on the meeting and DSW rules can be found at the “Definition of Solid Waste” section of the EPA’s website.
 
Source: EPA

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