EPA Proposes Adding Aerosols to Universal Waste Program
(UPDATE 11/25/2019) A pre-publication version of EPA's Final Rule to add aerosol cans to the universal waste programs is now available.
Read the Final Rule.
(UPDATE 03/19/18) EPA's proposal to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the RCRA universal waste program appeared in the Federal Register on Friday, March 16.
US EPA has signed a proposed rule to expand its RCRA universal waste program to cover hazardous waste aerosol cans.
Adding aerosol cans to the universal waste program may simplify things for generators—who currently manage aerosols under a patchwork of State-level laws, regulations, policies, and guidance documents. However, as with all new Federal environmental reliefs, authorized States may now choose to adopt the new universal waste rules into their State programs (or not).
For individual facilities, managing hazardous waste aerosol cans as universal waste could result in a change in generator status (from large to small or from small to very small).
The proposed rule adds a definition for “aerosol can” at 40 CFR 260.10 to read “an intact container in which gas under pressure is used to aerate and dispense any materials through a valve in the form of a spray or foam. It also adds “(5) Aerosol cans described in 273.6 of this chapter” to the definition of Universal Waste.
Proposed Universal Waste Requirements for Aerosol Cans
The proposed rule would also explicitly allow universal waste handlers to “treat” cans on-site using a commercial puncturing or crushing device specifically designed for that purpose. To take advantage of this relief, handlers must “establish a written procedure detailing how to safely puncture and drain universal waste aerosol cans…” and follow other rules.
Despite the reliefs proposed here—facilities still must meet the universal waste marking and labeling, employee training, release response, and other requirements found in 40 CFR 273. These rules apply to both large quantity and small quantity handlers of universal waste.
Large quantity universal waste handlers—those that handle 5,000 kilograms or more of universal wastes—are also responsible for tracking universal waste shipments per 40 CFR 273.39.
Created in 1995, EPA’s universal waste rules provide a streamlined hazardous waste management system for common industrial wastes like batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps. The universal waste standards allow generators to escape the full burden of RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste requirements that would otherwise apply. EPA estimates in its proposal that 18,000 facilities in 18 industries will benefit from the relaxed standards for managing aerosols.
Background on RCRA Universal Waste Rules
Aerosol cans are common at modern industrial facilities. They contain paint, lubricants, glues, pesticides, and many other chemicals that may be hazardous—not to mention the propellant that makes the can spray, which itself may be hazardous. The wide variety of aerosol cans at a typical facility, the different products they contain, and other unique qualities have made aerosols a challenge to manage under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations.
The Advanced RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Workshop brings together experienced environmental professionals to explore methods to minimize waste, control pollution, and find relief from burdensome RCRA requirements.
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