Q. EPA gives several options for managing spent lead-acid batteries. What is the benefit of choosing Universal Waste management rules versus the lead-acid battery rules in 40 CFR 266?
A. Spent lead-acid batteries are exempt from the hazardous waste regulations and do not count towards a generator’s status determination as long as the generator follows either the general Universal Waste management rules in Part 273 and the battery-specific rules in §273.13(a) and 273.33(a), or the spent lead-acid battery rules in Part 266 Subpart G.
In a December 1995 RCRA Online document
, EPA stated that “lead-acid batteries that are managed under Part 266, Subpart G, are not subject to the universal waste management standards.” The rules in Part 266 were aimed primarily at automotive lead-acid batteries and EPA’s expectation, at the time, was that mostly nonautomotive lead-acid batteries would be managed under Part 273 (per 60 FR 25492, 25505; May 11, 1995). So technically, you can follow either set of rules and still be exempt from most of the hazardous waste regulations for your spent lead-acid batteries.
However, it is important to remember that the rules in 40 CFR 266 Subpart G apply only to spent lead-acid batteries that have been generated, collected, transported, stored, or regenerated for reclamation purposes. If your spent lead-acid batteries will be reclaimed through regeneration, you are exempt from all of the hazardous waste regulations except for Part 261 and §262.11 (both of which are waste identification requirements).
If your batteries will be reclaimed by some method other than regeneration, you are exempt from most of the hazardous waste regulations, but you are subject to Part 261, §262.11, and the applicable provisions of Part 268. This means that spent lead-acid batteries being managed under Part 266 that will be reclaimed through some method other than regeneration are still subject to Land Disposal Restriction requirements. If your batteries will be disposed of rather than reclaimed, then you must follow the full hazardous waste regulations.
The Universal Waste rules in Part 273 apply to all types of batteries that would be hazardous waste. Batteries managed under Part 273 are not subject to the LDRs, but are subject to a one-year accumulation time limit per 40 CFR 273.15 and 273.35. After one year from the date of accumulation, the handler must send the batteries to one of three places: another universal waste handler, a destination facility, or a foreign destination.
While Parts 266 and 273 both exempt spent lead-acid batteries from the Manifesting requirements in Part 262, if the batteries are a U.S. Department of Transportation hazardous material all DOT requirements still apply, including the use of some form of shipping paper.