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In an effort to reach the entire University of Michigan (U-M) research community, as well as others on campus who may be generating hazardous waste, this Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) overview was developed as a guide to facilitate understanding of the regulations dealing with the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and/or disposal of hazardous and mixed waste.

The laws dealing with hazardous waste are complex, and the following is a relatively brief summary of some of the applicable provisions. This document is not intended to describe the entire statute or the application of the statute in a particular circumstance. The U-M campus community is encouraged to call the OSEH Hazardous Materials group at (734) 763-4568 with specific questions or for more complete information regarding hazardous waste, or visit our Web site at www.p2000.umich.edu. Readers outside U-M should contact their own safety and health department with hazardous waste inquiries.

Hazardous Waste Minimization Activities

The U-M has incorporated waste minimization applications in many activities throughout campus. Laboratories and maintenance units have instituted source reduction, reuse/re-distribution, and product substitution practices where feasible in an effort to reduce the generation of regulated hazardous waste. Equipment incorporating cutting-edge technology, and contracts that take advantage of chemical return policies also contribute to waste minimization.

Source reduction is effective when the quantity of a hazardous material being used in a process or experiment can be reduced. An example could include simply limiting the purchase of chemical(s) to that which is necessary to perform the particular experiment or activity. Other examples include the use of micro glassware substituted for standard labware, or procedural revisions such as reducing the number of steps necessary to carry out a particular experiment or activity. All are good examples of source reduction that help reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated and contribute to overall waste minimization.

Reuse/Re-distribution is effective when a chemical or product that has not been opened or has been opened but is in it's pure (original) form can be reused/re-distributed to other users as opposed to sending for disposal as a hazardous waste (Common examples include solvents and paints).

Product substitution is effective when a hazardous chemical or product can be substituted with a less hazardous chemical or product. An example could include the use of ethyl alcohol in place of methyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is not a listed waste and (when used in aqueous form in concentrations of less than 24% by volume) is exempted from hazardous waste regulation. Parts washers utilizing low flashpoint or chlorinated solvents could be substituted with less regulated systems utilizing non-RCRA regulated water based cleaners and degreasers. Aerosol cans using "environmentally friendly" propellants in place of chlorofluorocarbons, or eliminating the cans altogether and using hand pumps, is yet another example. All are good examples of product substitution that, where feasible, can be incorporated without impacting the effectiveness of the process.

Introduction

Hazardous waste generated at U-M is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). RCRA directs an extremely complex program for managing hazardous waste, in which the primary objectives are to protect human health and the environment. Some of the RCRA objectives are accomplished by controlling hazardous waste from the point of generation, through transportation, to the ultimate treatment, storage, and/or disposal.

In addition to protecting human health and the environment, another objective of RCRA is to promote natural resource conservation by reducing the amount of waste generated. Resources can be conserved through source reduction practices and product substitution. Reuse and reclamation can help reduce the quantity of hazardous waste that requires disposal. Hazardous waste minimization is one of the best methods of reducing the burden of managing hazardous waste. Both the U.S. EPA and MDEQ encourage hazardous waste minimization through pollution prevention programs and hazardous waste recycling regulations.

RCRA Statute

RCRA (1976) amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965. In 1984, Congress passed the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments, which greatly expanded the scope of the RCRA program. Statutorily, the RCRA law consists of ten (10) components. Four major subtitles include: The Hazardous Waste Program (Subtitle C), The Solid Waste Program (Subtitle D), The Underground Storage Tank Program (Subtitle I), and The Medical Waste Program (Subtitle J). The Federal program under Subtitle J was for a limited time period and has not been reauthorized; it is currently expired.

Incorporated into the Act are provisions for waste minimization that influence the methods in which waste is managed. A few of the provisions include land disposal restrictions, new management regulations for underground storage tanks, restrictions on liquids in landfills, minimum technological requirements for landfills and surface impoundments, and waste minimization requirements for large quantity generators.

Hazardous Waste Management

Provisions under Subtitle C of RCRA "Hazardous Waste Management" provide the U.S. EPA and MDEQ authority to establish regulations for the identification and listing of hazardous waste and management standards applicable to the generation, transport, and disposal of hazardous waste. The EPA and MDEQ established specific standards for generators and transporters of hazardous waste, and owners/operators of treatment, storage and disposal facilities. The EPA issues or authorizes states to issue permits for treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

Wastes subject to regulation under Subtitle C of RCRA are materials that meet the definition of a hazardous waste. The statutory definition of a hazardous waste under RCRA means a solid, liquid, or gaseous waste that may cause or significantly contribute to serious illness or death, or that poses a substantial threat to human health or the environment when the waste is improperly treated, transported, stored, disposed of, or mismanaged in any way.

The regulatory definition of a hazardous waste, issued by EPA and MDEQ, under RCRA is far more complex. For the purpose of this summary, a hazardous waste can be defined as a solid waste (including solid, semisolid, liquid or contained gaseous material) that is not excluded from the regulations and meets any of the following criteria:

Exhibits any of the hazardous waste characteristics (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity);

Is identified on any hazardous waste list:
- F list ­ non-specific source waste;
- K list ­ specific source waste;
- P or U lists ­ commercial chemical products;
- The State of Michigan has additional codes;

Is a mixture of a solid waste and a listed hazardous waste (under review by EPA);

Is derived from the treatment, storage, or disposal of a listed hazardous waste (under review by EPA); and

Halogens in used oil.

Based on the complexity of the hazardous waste identification regulations, a material that is a hazardous waste under the statutory definition may not be defined as a hazardous waste under RCRA regulations. In addition, Michigan has added to EPA's classification of hazardous waste to include additional characteristics and listed wastes. The flowchart in Table 1 illustrates the procedure to identify whether a waste is a solid waste subject to regulation under RCRA Subtitle C.

Hazardous Waste Identification

The following criteria are used to identify whether a solid waste is a hazardous waste (it exhibits at least one of four characteristics, or is a listed waste).

1. Characteristic Waste: Four characteristics can define waste as hazardous.

The characteristics include ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.

a. Ignitability: A solid waste exhibits the characteristic of ignitability if a representative sample of the waste has any of the following properties:

  • A liquid with a flashpoint of less than 60° C (140° F);
  • A liquid, other than an aqueous solution, containing less than 24 percent alcohol by volume and has a flashpoint less than 60° C (140° F) as determined by a Pensky-Martens Closed Cup Tester;
  • Not a liquid and is capable, under standard temperature and pressure, of causing fire through friction, absorption of moisture or spontaneous chemical changes and when ignited, burns so vigorously and persistently that it creates a hazard;
  • An ignitable compressed gas;
  • An oxidizer (such as a chlorate, permanganate, inorganic peroxide, or a nitrate that yields oxygen readily to stimulate the combustion of organic matter).

Solid waste exhibiting the characteristic of ignitability has the EPA hazardous waste number D001.

b. Corrosivity: A solid waste exhibits the characteristic of corrosivity if a representative sample of the waste has either of the following properties:

  • An aqueous material with a pH less than or equal to 2 or greater than or equal to 12.5;
  • A liquid and corrodes steel at a rate greater than 0.250 inches per year at 55° C (130° F).

Solid waste exhibiting the characteristic of corrosivity has the EPA hazardous waste number D002.

Note: A waste that is not aqueous and contains no liquid falls outside the definition of EPA corrosivity and therefore cannot be considered a RCRA corrosive waste. However, Department of Transportation (DOT) may still regulate this material as a hazardous material.

c. Reactivity: A solid waste exhibits the characteristic of reactivity if a representative sample of the waste has any of the following properties:

  • Normally unstable and readily undergoes violent change without detonating;
  • Reacts violently with water;
  • Forms potentially explosive mixtures with water;
  • When mixed with water it generates toxic gases, vapors or fumes in quantity sufficient to present a danger to human health and the environment;
  • A cyanide or sulfide bearing waste which, when exposed to pH conditions between 2 and 12.5, can generate toxic gases, vapors or fumes in a quantity sufficient to present a danger to human health and the environment;
  • Capable of detonation or explosive reaction if it is subject to a strong initiating source or if heated under confinement;
  • Readily capable of detonation, explosive decomposition, or reaction at standard temperature and pressure;
  • A forbidden explosive.

Solid waste exhibiting the characteristic of reactivity has the EPA hazardous waste number D003.

d. Toxicity: A solid waste exhibits the characteristic of toxicity if, using the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP), the extract from a representative sample of the waste contains any of the contaminants, at or above the concentration listed in the "Maximum Concentration of Contaminants for the Toxicity Characteristic" table, presented in RCRA Subtitle C Part 261.24. Solid waste exhibiting the characteristic of toxicity has the EPA hazardous waste number specified in the table that corresponds to the toxic contaminant causing it to be hazardous [eight heavy metals (D004­D011), six pesticides (D012­D017), 25 organics (D018­D043)].

2. Listed Waste: Listed hazardous waste falls into two categories; "Process Wastes" and "Non-Process" Wastes. Within the two categories, hazardous waste must be identified by process description at the time of generation ­ analysis alone will not determine this.

  • Process wastes can be identified as solid waste that are listed hazardous wastes from non-specific sources (F listed waste) and solid waste that are listed hazardous wastes from specific sources (K listed waste);
  • Non­Process wastes can be identified as acutely hazardous commercial chemical products that are discarded or intended to be discarded unused, container residues, spill residues, and formulations where the chemical is the sole active ingredient (P listed waste) and toxic commercial chemical products that are discarded or intended to be discarded unused, container residues, spill residues, and formulations where the chemical is the sole active ingredient (U listed waste).

Note: The commercial chemical does not have to be in pure form to be an active ingredient; dilution to achieve the desired concentration in a chemical product is still regulated.

If a solid waste contains a listed hazardous waste, the material must meet both the specific listing criteria and the complete listing description in order to be considered a hazardous waste. Solid wastes that are listed hazardous wastes are identified by a letter (F, K, P, U) followed by a three digit number (i.e.; Acrolein has the hazardous waste number P003). The flowchart in Table 2 illustrates the procedure to identify whether a solid waste is a hazardous waste subject to regulation under RCRA Subtitle C.

Important to note: a hazardous waste may be identified by a characteristic without being a listed hazardous waste under RCRA.

Mixture Rule

In addition to characteristic and listed waste criteria that can be used to determine if a solid waste is a hazardous waste, mixtures of solid wastes and hazardous wastes may also be regulated as hazardous waste. There are two definitions to determine if a material is regulated under the mixture rule: 1) if the material is a mixture of a solid waste and a hazardous waste, and the mixture exhibits one or more of the characteristics of hazardous waste (ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic); 2) if the material is a mixture of a solid waste and one or more listed hazardous wastes (F, K, P, U).
For example:

  • A solid waste plus a listed hazardous waste is a hazardous waste;
  • A solid waste plus a listed hazardous waste solely due to its characteristic is a hazardous waste;
  • A solid waste plus a characteristic hazardous waste is a hazardous waste, if the resultant mixture still exhibits the characteristic.

Note: The EPA is currently re-evaluating the mixture and derived-from rules for listed hazardous wastes. Two proposed rules titled "The Hazardous Waste Identification Rule" and "The Hazardous Waste Identification Rule for Media" would automatically exclude from the definition of hazardous waste, residues derived from listed wastes and mixtures containing listed hazardous wastes. The rules would also apply to environmental media generated during government-overseen cleanup projects. If enacted, there would be specific analytical and notification requirements that need to be met in order to achieve the exclusions.

Derived-From Rule

Separate from the mixture rule is the derived-from rule. Although the basis for identifying hazardous constituents is similar, the derived-from rule applies primarily to solid wastes generated or derived-from the treatment, storage, and disposal of a listed hazardous waste. As RCRA permitting is required for the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes, interpretation of the derived-from rule is beyond the scope of this overview.

Halogens in Used Oil

Following the mixture rule, used oil containing more than 1000 parts per million (ppm) total halogens is presumed to be a hazardous waste, because it has been mixed with a listed halogenated hazardous waste.

Recycling/Exclusions

The U.S. EPA grants specific exclusions and relief from specific hazardous waste regulations that allow for reduced regulation if certain conditions are met. There are materials excluded from the definition of solid waste and certain solid wastes excluded from the definition of hazardous waste. This is due to certain materials not meeting the solid waste or hazardous waste definitions based on the way the terms are defined. The exclusions, in most cases, have limited specific applicability but can be used in a variety of situations making the exclusions useful in waste minimization programs.

Certain materials that are reclaimed qualify for exclusions from hazardous waste regulations if specific conditions are met. Examples include:

  • Industrial ethyl alcohol being reclaimed;
  • Used batteries returned to the manufacturer for regeneration;
  • Scrap metal being recycled.

Along with regulatory exclusions, certain hazardous wastes being reclaimed qualify for partial regulatory relief when managed in specified ways. Examples include:

  • Hazardous wastes recycled by being used in a manner constituting disposal, or are used to make products that are applied to the land;
  • Hazardous wastes from which precious metals are reclaimed;
  • Spent lead acid batteries that are reclaimed;
  • Hazardous wastes that are burned in boilers or industrial furnaces as fuel or for material recovery.

Used oil that exhibits a characteristic of hazardous waste being recycled is not subject to federal hazardous waste management regulations, but is regulated under Standards for the Management of Used Oil (40 CFR Part 279).

Universal wastes (including used batteries, certain pesticides, mercury containing thermostats, switches, thermometers, and electric lamps) may also qualify for reduced regulation. However, recycling, treatment, and/or disposal of universal wastes are regulated as with any other hazardous waste.

Recycling/Use/Reuse

In addition to regulatory exclusions and relief for hazardous waste being reclaimed, the U.S. EPA also allows use/reuse exclusions, provided the reuse activity meets one of three explicit types as defined by the regulation:

  • Materials used or reused as ingredients in an industrial process to make a product, provided the materials are not being reclaimed;
  • Materials used or reused as effective substitutes for commercial products;
  • Materials returned to the original process from which they are generated without first being reclaimed, and the material must be returned as a substitute for raw material feedstock, and the process must use raw materials as principal feedstocks.

 

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