Hazardous Waste Labels: Industry Standards vs. Regulations
Posted on 2/28/2012 by James Griffin
The Hazardous Waste Label: It’s an industry standard, but not actually a Federal rule.
There is no official “EPA Hazardous Waste Label.” Instead, there are a handful of requirements from both the EPA and the DOT for marking and labeling hazardous waste containers before and during shipment. There are also many non-standardized commercial labels that meet some or all of the regulatory requirements.
Here’s what US EPA says must be on hazardous waste containers:
Generators of hazardous waste may accumulate hazardous waste on site, without a permit, as long as they follow the rules in 40 CFR Part 262, Subpart C. Depending on your generator status, a hazardous waste container may need to be marked with the words “Hazardous Waste,” the accumulation start date, or other information. But the U.S. EPA does not specify any particular format (i.e., no standardized label).
Before shipping the waste off site for treatment, storage, or disposal, the generator must prepare the waste in accordance with the applicable requirements of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR). This includes:
Packaging the waste in accordance with 49 CFR Parts 173, 178, or 179 [40 CFR 262.30];
Labeling or placarding the container per 49 CFR Part 172, Subparts E and F respectively [40 CFR 262.31, 261.33]; and
Marking the container as a hazmat package, per 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart D [40 CFR 262.32(a)].
In addition to these DOT requirements, before shipping the waste off site, at 40 CFR 262.32(b), the EPA requires the generator to “mark each hazardous waste container with a capacity of 119 gallons or less with the following words and information”:
HAZARDOUS WASTE-Federal Law Prohibits Improper Disposal. If found, contact the nearest police or public safety authority or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Generator’s Name and Address _____________.
Generator’s EPA Identification Number __________________.
Manifest Tracking Number ___________________.
Here’s what US DOT says must be on hazardous material packages (including hazardous waste containers) during shipment:
For shipments of hazardous material, including hazardous wastes, the DOT requires each non-bulk package (maximum capacity no more than 119 gallons) to display, at a minimum:
The Proper Shipping Name and identification number of the hazardous material [49 CFR 172.301(a)];
The name and address of the shipper and/or the designated recipient [49 CFR 173.301(d)];
The diamond hazard labels for the primary (and most subsidiary) hazard classes of the hazardous material [49 CFR 173.400, 173.402].
While the DOT does have very detailed specifications for hazard labels (49 CFR 172 Subpart D), the Department does not specify formats for package markings, saying only that all package markings must be durable, visible, in English, and not obscured or confused by other markings. [49 CFR 172.304] In general, it is the shipper’s responsibility to ensure that these marks and labels are applied to the package before it can be shipped. There is no requirement to mark this information before offering the shipment for transportation, nor is there a prohibition against pre-marking. [49 CFR 173.22]
The label shown above, or one like it, is commonly used by hazardous waste generators in order to comply with the EPA and DOT requirements we have discussed so far. However, there is no provision anywhere in 40 or 49 CFR that requires anyone to use this exact label.
You can see that this label already includes the language required by 40 CFR 262.32(b) and has pre-printed fields to enter the name and address of the waste generator/shipper, as well as the manifest number and the DOT shipping description. When properly filled out, this label covers everything except up-arrows and hazard labels.
While the EPA and DOT have specific requirements for the content of marks and labels on hazardous waste containers, there is no standardized format or layout for this information. A generator can use a commercially available pre-printed label or use any other means, as long as the container markings ultimately conform to official EPA and DOT requirements.