Recycling hazardous waste is a great way to save the planet and your bottom line. The RCRA regulations include many provisions under which hazardous wastes can be legitimately recycled scattered throughout 40 CFR Part 261, Subpart A. When you recycle hazardous waste, you are exempt from the following regulations that apply to hazardous waste:
Accumulation time limits,
Detailed containment standards,
Treatment standards, and
Because of the great advantages associated with recycling, some generators of hazardous waste attempt to avoid the expense and difficulty of complying with RCRA by falsely claiming that their wastes are being or will be recycled, when in fact no feasible means of recycling exist or when no recycling is actually occurring. One of the tools the Agency uses to combat these illegitimate claims of recycling is a concept called “speculative accumulation.”
Defining Speculative Accumulation
Speculative accumulation refers to false claims that wastes will be recycled and/or the indefinite storage of hazardous waste before recycling.
For a generator to prove that hazardous secondary materials are being legitimately recycled, and not being accumulated speculatively, the generator must establish that:
The material is potentially recyclable and has a feasible means of being recycled; and
During the calendar year, a certain weight or volume has been recycled or sent off site to be recycled.
For the accumulation of recyclable materials to be legitimate, both of these conditions must be met. If either of these conditions is not met, then the generator is accumulating hazardous waste speculatively and may be charged with numerous violations of RCRA.
Proof of Recycling Hazardous Materials
No matter what kind of recycling you were intending or the type of waste, if you accumulate it speculatively, the material loses its excluded status and turns back into hazardous waste.
Even if you’re not trying to evade RCRA, you might accidentally end up accumulating your recyclables speculatively.
The EPA created these rules to “mitigate the risk posed by facilities that over-accumulate hazardous secondary materials prior to recycling. The provision serves as a safety net, preventing recyclable materials that are not otherwise regulated under RCRA from being stored indefinitely and potentially causing environmental damage.” It is entirely the responsibility of the generator to establish that he is NOT accumulating waste speculatively, not for the EPA to prove the case. [40 CFR 261.2(f)]
So how does a generator prove that a material is potentially recyclable and has a feasible means of being recycled? The generator may show the EPA/State Inspector a contract with a recycler, letter of understanding, or a more formal tolling agreement. In addition, if the material is going to be recycled in an unusual manner, the generator may want to obtain technical specifications from the recycler or other documents to prove the recycling is legitimate.
How much, and in what timeframe, must the generator recycle in order to avoid speculative accumulation? The generator must know the volume or weight of the material to be recycled that is held in storage on January 1st of each year. The generator should document this inventory. By the end of the same year (December 31st), the generator must have recycled—or shipped off site for recycling—at least 75% of the material. A final inventory record, shipping papers, or an invoice can serve as proof of meeting this requirement.
What do you find to be the best practices to avoid speculative accumulation? Share here.
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