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EPA Signs Revised Rule to Encourage Recycling Hazardous Materials

Date: October 9, 2008

Source: News Room

U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson signed a Final Definition of Solid Waste Rule on October 7 meant to encourage the recycling of hazardous secondary materials rather than their disposal as waste. The new rule streamlines the regulation of these materials, mostly certain manufacturing byproducts and residues, and excludes them from hazardous waste regulations while restricting the list to just those that can legitimately be recycled. Environmentalists however are voicing strong opposition to the rule, claiming it will have broad deregulatory impacts. Earthjustice added that "hazardous waste, called by any other name is still hazardous." While not objecting to the revisions, the Solid Waste Association of North America is warning its members to carefully screen incoming waste lest hazardous materials slip into the waste stream because of the rule change.


October 2008

Modification to the Definition of Solid Waste Aims to Increase Recycling

EPA is streamlining its regulation of hazardous secondary materials to encourage beneficial recycling via reclamation and help conserve resources. By doing so, recycling these materials will not only be safe, but also less costly and more efficient.


In October 2003, EPA proposed a regulatory exclusion from the definition of solid waste which would streamline requirements for the recycling of hazardous secondary materials. After evaluating public comments and conducting independent analyses, the Agency published a supplemental proposal in March 2007.This rule finalizes the March 2007 supplemental proposal by establishing streamlined requirements for the following:

  • Materials that are generated and legitimately reclaimed under the control of the generator (i.e., generated and reclaimed on-site, by the same company, or under "tolling" agreements);

  • Materials that are generated and transferred to another company for legitimate reclamation under specific conditions; and,

  • Materials that EPA or an authorized state determines to be non-wastes through a case-by-case petition process.

The rule also contains a provision to determine which recycling activities are legitimate under the new exclusions and non-waste determinations. This provision ensures that only authentic recycling, and not treatment or disposal under the guise of recycling, receives the benefits of these streamlined regulations. In order to be legitimately recycled under these exclusions, the hazardous secondary material (1) must provide a useful contribution to the recycling process; and (2) the recycling must make a valuable new intermediate or final product. Two additional factors must also be taken into account: (1) whether the recycled material is managed as a valuable product; and (2) whether the recycled product contains toxic constituents at significantly greater levels than a non-recycled product made from virgin materials.

These exclusions are not available for materials that are: (1) considered inherently waste-like; (2) used in a manner constituting disposal; or (3) burned for energy recovery.

The restrictions for the exclusions in this final rule are substantially similar to those contained in the supplemental proposal published on March 26, 2007 (72 FR 14172) with certain modifications regarding:

  • Reporting and recordkeeping;

  • Reasonable efforts required of generators to ensure that their hazardous secondary materials are safely and legitimately recycled;

  • Intermediate facilities storing hazardous secondary materials for more than 10 days are eligible under the transfer-based exclusion; and

  • Tailoring the financial assurance requirements to intermediate facilities and reclaimers of hazardous secondary materials.

The Agency estimates that about 5,600 facilities handling approximately 1.5 million tons of hazardous secondary materials annually may be affected by this proposed rule. The activities most affected are metals and solvent recycling. This action is expected to result in cost savings of approximately $95 million per year for all affected industry sectors.

For More Information

More information about the Definition of Solid Waste: find out more detailed information or to ask a question, please go to and click on Find an Answer or Ask a Question.

Details about the rule change are available online at



With the issuance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's final rule regarding the updated definition of solid waste, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has advised its members of the increased importance of waste screening practices at municipal solid waste facilities. While the goal of the rule is to encourage recycling of hazardous materials, the USEPA estimates that 1.5 million tons of hazardous materials would be excluded from the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act's hazardous waste regulations. This could cause a potential loophole through which hazardous materials may escape regulation finding their way into municipal solid waste facilities, thus placing an increased importance on waste screening practices.

"Municipal solid waste managers need to know where their wastes are coming from and SWANA strongly encourages more vigilant practices to detect and screen out prohibited wastes," said John H. Skinner, SWANA Executive Director and CEO.

After publication of the revised EPA rule, Skinner issued a cautionary notice to the International Board of Directors, the governing body of the Association. He also indicated that SWANA is updating its Waste Screening Training Course to provide improved guidance for SWANA members. This revised course will be finished by the end of this calendar year.

The full version of the notice can be found online at


For over 40 years, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has been the leading professional association in the solid waste management industry. SWANA's mission is "to advance the practice of environmentally and economically sound management of municipal solid waste." SWANA serves over 8,000 members and thousands more industry professionals with technical conferences, certifications, publications and a large offering of technical training courses.

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