RCRA Recycling for New Nicotine Products
For instance, EPA originally identified cigarette replacements (nicotine patches, gums, lozenges) as acutely hazardous wastes because they were commercial chemical products with sole active ingredients (i.e., nicotine) whose improper disposal was considered a hazard to public health and the environment.
The advent of e-cigarettes, combined with improvements in tobacco technology, has created a niche for the recycling and reclamation of nicotine from cigarette replacements.
RCRA Interpretation of New Nicotine Products
In May, US EPA responded to two requests for interpretation of the Agency's standards for recycling new-generation nicotine products under the recently revised rules for hazardous waste recycling (80 FR 1694; January 13, 2015). Read the EPA's interpretation on e-cigarettes and nicotine liquid:
Letter to Daniel K. Dewitt of Warner, Norcross, & Judd LLP
Letter to Scott DeMuth of g2revolution, LLC
When discarded, unused commercial chemical products with nicotine as the sole active ingredient are assigned hazardous waste code P075. E-cigarettes and other nicotine products are delivery mechanisms for nicotine solutions in which nicotine is the sole active ingredient.
Reclaiming Nicotine Under RCRA
When unused and unsalable nicotine products are collected and the nicotine is extracted and purified for use in producing new nicotine-containing products, the collected products are excluded from the RCRA hazardous waste regulations per 40 CFR 261.2(c)(3) under the concept of reclamation. At 40 CFR 261.1, the EPA states that "a material is 'reclaimed' if it is processed to recover a usable product, or if it is regenerated."
Rules for "Legitimate" RCRA Recycling
To capitalize on this exclusion for any recycling activity (including reclamation), the recycling process must conform to four factors, per 40 CFR 260.43:
- Utility: The hazardous secondary material provides a useful contribution to the process or intermediate or serves as an effective substitute for a commercial product. In this case, it is the recovery of a valuable constituent (i.e., nicotine).
- Value: The recycling process creates a valuable product or intermediate (i.e., nicotine).
- Management: Generators and recyclers must manage the hazardous secondary material as a commodity, not a waste. According to EPA, hazardous secondary materials must be managed in a manner consistent with the management of raw materials (if equivalent forms exist). Also, if someone purchases the material from you, it is product, but if you have to pay someone to take it away, it is waste.
- Comparable: The product of the recycling process must be comparable to a legitimate product or intermediate. If the reclaimed nicotine contains significantly more, or different, kinds of contaminants compared to the raw material, then it is not comparable and the recycling is not legitimate.
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