Hazardous solid waste that is corrosive, flammable, and poisonous poses a serious threat to the health and safety of humans, animals, and the environment. But not all waste is created equal, so how can you tell when your waste needs to be regulated? Under the RCRA, solid waste materials that qualify as hazardous must be regulated. Solid waste is a broad category that includes everything from discarded used tires and military munitions to sewage and antifreeze. Basically, any refuse resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, or agriculture activities meets the criteria, as do any materials generated from community activities that have been abandoned or are unable to be recycled.

When Waste Becomes Hazardous

While solid waste encompasses almost any refuse or debris, hazardous solid waste is much more clearly defined. Waste is considered hazardous if it meets one of the following characteristics:
  • ignitability, or something flammable
  • corrosivity, or something that can rust or decompose
  • reactivity, or something explosive
  • toxicity, or something poisonous
Each of the categories includes additional refinements intended to more accurately classify the type of hazardous materials being disposed of and the possible risk associated with those materials.  Liquids with a low flash point temperature, like alcohol, gasoline, and acetone, and solids that spontaneously combust are two types of flammable hazardous waste. Oxidizers and compressed gases are also considered ignitable and thus hazardous. Acids, rust removers, and liquids capable of corroding steel are some of the types of corrosive materials that must be regulated as hazardous waste.  Unstable, toxic materials that could provoke a violent reaction when mixed with water or other chemicals, are considered very dangerous and are included in hazardous solid waste relations. Finally, any poisonous material that could adversely affect humans or the environment are considered hazardous waste, including contaminants included in the EPA’s toxicity characteristics list.

Waste Excluded from Regulation

Any waste that does not meet the definition of solid waste is not subject to regulation under the RCRA. There are many reasons why these waste materials are excluded from RCRA regulation, including public policy, management by other laws, the impracticability of regulation, and public policy. Both the EPA and Congress are empowered to eliminate specific materials from the solid waste definition. Some materials which are not considered solid wastes for the purposes of RCRA enforcement include sewage, radioactive waste, scrap metal, and certain condensates and point source discharges associated with certain industrial, agricultural, and mining activities. EPA also exempts certain solid wastes from the definition of hazardous waste even when the materials may meet the list characteristics used to define hazardous waste. Some household waste and automotive byproducts are omitted from RCRA regulation, as are CFC refrigerants, landfill leachate, and agricultural waste. You can find out more about these exclusions in 40 CFR section 261.4(b).

Regulating Non-hazardous Waste

Many by-products of industrial, commercial, or agricultural activities may not meet the hazardous waste criteria but must nevertheless be regulated. Some examples of non-hazardous waste subject to additional regulation include sugars, lactic acid, bromides, and carbonates. While these types of materials do not pose the same risks to the environment or human health and safety, they must still be collected and disposed of in compliance with RCRA regulations.

Handling Your Hazardous Waste

When you partner with MCF’s experienced waste management solutions team, you can rely on the skills and knowledge built over decades in the industry. We understand the paperwork, keep track of current rules and regulations, and employ a team of expert problem solvers able to stop problems before they start. We offer customized, comprehensive hazardous waste management disposal at an affordable cost. There are no middlemen or subcontractors, we manage and monitor the entire waste disposal stream from cradle-to-grave. Contact us today to learn more about how our organization can help streamline your waste management processes and enhance your business operations.