Are Aerosols Universal Waste in My State?

Posted on 1/11/2021 by Joel Gregier, CDGP

[Update 01/21/21]
Delaware added aerosols to its state universal waste program, effective January 21, 2021.

For those who manage hazardous waste on their sites, there is a special category of wastes known as “universal wastes.”  If you generate universal wastes, there is a benefit in that they are subject to less stringent rules compared to your typical hazardous wastes. 

Instead, universal wastes have their own set of rules, found at 40 CFR 273, that are easier to follow.

For a long time, there were four types of wastes in the EPA’s RCRA rules that could be universal wastes: batteries, certain pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps (e.g., light bulbs). 

On December 9, 2019, the EPA added a fifth universal waste: aerosols! These rules took effect on February 7, 2020.

This is a big deal because aerosols have been a tricky waste stream to manage in the past. Now that EPA considers them universal waste, they will be much easier to handle.

So I Can Manage Aerosols as Universal Waste Now, Right?

Unfortunately, not all hazardous waste generators can benefit from the rule change just yet. That is because most states have their own hazardous waste programs. So before you get too excited or change the way you manage aerosol cans, make sure your state has adopted the rulemaking to add aerosol cans as universal waste. Until your state adopts the new relief, you cannot reap the benefits.

Because adding aerosols to the universal waste program makes the RCRA regulations less stringent than they were previously, states are not required to adopt the new rule. If your state does not want to add aerosols to their universal waste program,they don't have to, and you will have to manage aerosols as hazardous waste.

With that said, based on how states handled previous changes to the Federal universal waste rules, Lion believes that most (if not all) states will eventually adopt aerosols as universal waste.

Which States Allow Aerosols as Universal Waste?

Two states automatically adopted aerosols as universal waste, Alaska and Iowa. These two states do not have their own state hazardous waste programs, and instead allow US EPA to administer RCRA. Puerto Rico also follows the Federal RCRA rules directly, meaning aerosol cans are universal waste there as well. 

According to the webpage maintained by US EPA to track state adoption of universal waste rules, five states included aerosols as universal waste before the Federal rulemaking came to pass. Generators in these states can continue to manage aerosol cans under the less-stringent universal waste rules: 
  • California
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Utah
A handful of states have already adopted EPA's rule to add aerosols as universal waste. As of today, this includes:
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Delaware (Added 01/21/21)
Keep in mind that this EPA universal waste webpage is not updated every day. There may be states that have adopted aerosols as universal waste, or allow them to be managed that way, that are not listed on EPA's site yet. 

For example: 
  • New Jersey has stated they will allow aerosols to be managed as universal waste following the Federal guidelines,but they are not checked off on the EPA website.
  • Arizona adopted the aerosol universal waste rule, among other RCRA updates, on November 3, 2020 (Arizona DEQ website). 
  • Indiana appears to have adopted the aerosol universal waste rule during a virtual Board meeting on November 18, 2020 (Transcript). 
If you do not see your state above, you may have to wait to take advantage of the new reliefs. Or, you may want to check your state regulations; it's possible that EPA has not yet caught up and updated their list to reflect the rule change in your state.

In all likelihood, you will eventually be allowed to manage aerosols under the easier universal waste rules. You will just need to be patient as your state gets around the adopting them.
Lion continues to track states' progress on adopting aerosols as universal waste, and will report back again soon. 

Live RCRA Refresher Training

Get annual RCRA training to simplify hazardous waste compliance and help meet EPA's refresher training requirements at 40 CFR 262.17. 

Refresh your expertise when Lion presents live, instructor-led RCRA Refresher training that covers recent changes to RCRA–including the latest universal waste rules, the Generator Improvements Rule, and much more.

Join us live on January 20, February 9, and February 17.

Need initial RCRA training for new employees?
The RCRA Hazardous Waste Management webinar guides hazardous waste personnel through the RCRA hazardous waste management requirements to properly manage hazardous waste from cradle-to-grave. 

Tags: aerosols, new rules, RCRA, universal waste

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