State Differences for Universal Wastes

Posted on 3/24/2015 by Roseanne Bottone

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), each US state may develop and enforce its own hazardous waste management program in lieu of the Federal EPA program. Every state has done so, except for Alaska and Iowa.

States' hazardous waste programs must be equivalent to and consistent with the EPA's RCRA regulations. Before a state's hazardous waste management program supplants the EPA's, the program must be authorized by the US EPA.


Universal Waste: Federal vs. State Standards

The Federal RCRA regulations identify four hazardous wastes that may be managed as universal wastes under 40 CFR Part 273: batteries, certain pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps.

However, many states have added hazardous wastes to the list of items that can be managed as universal waste. For example, California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) allows generators to manage electronic devices such as televisions, computer CPUs, DVD players, cell phones, and cathode ray tubes as universal waste. Non-empty aerosol cans may fall under this category as well. [CA Code Regs, Title 22, div. 4.5, ch. 11 section 66261.9]

Storing universal waste in a drum

Petitioning for Universal Waste Status

When a state adopts the US EPA's universal waste rules, it must adopt an equivalent to 40 CFR 273, Subpart G - Petitions to Include Other Wastes Under 40 CFR Part 273. By authorizing the State program’s procedures for listing new types of universal waste, EPA in essence pre-authorizes any new types of universal waste the state may add.

To add a hazardous waste or a category of hazardous waste as a universal waste, a person may petition the EPA or authorized state using 40 CFR 273, Subpart G or the state's equivalent. The petitioner must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the regulators that management under the more liberal universal waste rules is:
  • Appropriate for the waste or category of waste;
  • An improved management practice for the waste or category of waste; and
  • An approach that will facilitate implementation of the hazardous waste program.
Example: Universal Waste Paint in Texas

In Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) allows generators to manage paint and paint-related wastes as universal wastes. In order to secure this approval, the TCEQ had to address the following factors in their petition. The waste or category of waste is:
  1. A listed hazardous waste or exhibits a characteristic of hazardous waste;
  2. Common to many industries and generated by a wide variety of establishments;
  3. Generated by a large number of generators (e.g., more than 1,000 nationally);
  4. Able to be packaged, marked, and labeled in a way to ensure close stewardship of the waste;
  5. One that poses a relatively low risk during accumulation and transport compared to other hazardous wastes;
  6. More likely to be diverted from non-hazardous waste management systems (e.g., sewer or stormwater systems) and recycled or treated and disposed of in compliance with Subtitle C of RCRA; and
  7. Regulated in a way under 40 CFR 273 (or its State equivalent) that will improve implementation of and compliance with the hazardous waste program in general.
Know Your State’s Universal Waste Rules

Because each state can create unique universal waste rules, knowing what materials can be managed under your state's regulations is critical. Management as universal waste can ease your regulatory burden, and you may have more options than what's found in the Federal RCRA rules.

State and Federal Hazardous Waste Training

In addition to understanding the Federal RCRA regulations, hazardous waste managers must keep up with any unique, stricter mandates imposed in their state. When you attend a Lion Technology hazardous waste workshop, you receive exclusive access to State Summaries, easy-to-read documents that cover each state's unique hazardous waste rules and how they differ from the Federal RCRA program. Lion Members: log in now to check out your state's program!

Lion also offers expert-led public workshops in California, Texas, and New York that cover the unique hazardous waste management standards that professionals in these states must know. For industry personnel in California, the new California Hazardous Waste Management Online Course is a convenient, interactive way to satisfy Cal/EPA's annual training standard and get up to speed on the state's complex web of regulations, laws, and CUPA interpretations.

Tags: California, RCRA, state rules, Texas, universal waste

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