01   /  How do state hazardous waste management laws differ from federal ones?

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which established the EPA more than 50 years ago, is unusual for delegating the primary responsibility for implementing federal hazardous waste regulations to individual states.

For this reason, individual states can differ from federal guidelines about what is a hazardous waste and how it should be handled. More importantly, state regulations for hazardous waste management are often stricter than their federal counterparts.

So, while it’s necessary to know what the EPA requires for successful hazardous waste management, it’s not wholly adequate. States can impose more-restrictive regulations—and they commonly do.

For this reason, as a service to our customers nationwide, we occasionally zero-in on a particular state to review its regulations for hazardous waste disposal; and the present blog focuses on Pennsylvania hazardous waste regulations.

02   /   How does Pennsylvania classify hazardous waste?

Pennsylvania divides hazardous waste into two categories:
  1. Listed wastes. Pennsylvania uses the federal lists of specific materials deemed to be hazardous by the EPA. There are more than 500 such substances published in the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR Part 261) across four separate lists. Thus, “listed waste.”
  2. Characteristic wastes. If a waste isn’t “listed” (see A), it might otherwise be considered hazardous in Pennsylvania for one or more of its characteristics. Thus, “characteristic waste.” These characteristics are:
Ignitability—it’s flammable under certain conditions. E.g., some paints, degreasers, or solvents
Corrosiveness—it’s a substantial acid or base. E.g., battery acid, certain cleaning fluids, or rust removers
Reactivity—it’s susceptible to exploding or releasing toxic fumes if heated, mixed with water, or pressurized. E.g., certain cyanides or sulfide-bearing wastes
Toxicity—it’s harmful or fatal if ingested or absorbed, or it can leach toxic chemicals into the soil or ground water if disposed of on land. E.g., wastes containing mercury, lead, or cadmium
In Pennsylvania, mixing a listed or characteristic waste with a non-hazardous one will likely render a mixture that must be treated as hazardous and therefore require hazardous waste disposal. Also, mixing hazardous and non-hazardous wastes might be considered a treatment requiring a permit (see source).

03   /   Who generates hazardous waste in Pennsylvania?

Not counting wastewater, industries in Pennsylvania produce about 300,000 tons of hazardous waste per year, which is only about one percent of all solid waste generated in the state.

The steel industry accounts for over one third of the hazardous waste generated in Pennsylvania. Other major sources are companies involved in:

Chemical manufacturing
Automotive repair
Ceramics, construction, and printing
Paper and leather production
Dry cleaning and cosmetics

04   /   How are different-size hazardous waste generators regulated in Pennsylvania?

Industries in Pennsylvania are regulated according to the amounts of hazardous waste they generate. They are categorized as follows:
Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG). A company is considered a VSQG if it generates 220 lbs. or less of hazardous waste per month. As such, it can store up to 13,227 lbs. of hazardous waste onsite for up to 180 days without a storage facility permit; or up to 270 days if the waste must be transported more than 200 miles for storage, treatment, disposal, or recycling. A VSQG cannot store more than 13,227 lbs. of hazardous waste onsite at any time.
Small Quantity Generator (SQG). A company is considered an SQG if it generates between 2,200 and 22,000 lbs. of hazardous waste per month; or maximally 2 lbs. of acutely hazardous waste per month. No more than 13,200 lbs. of hazardous waste can be held onsite at any one time. An SQG must have an EPA Identification Number.
Large Quantity Generator (LQG). A company is considered an LQG if it generates more than 2200 lbs. of hazardous waste per month, or more than 2 lbs. of acutely hazardous waste per month. An LGQ must have an EPA Identification Number.

05   /   How is hazardous waste managed in Pennsylvania?

Hazardous waste is managed in Pennsylvania five different ways.

  1. Source reduction. Hazardous waste generators are encouraged to minimize the amount of hazardous waste they produce by eliminating production steps, introducing new technologies, etc.
  2. Reuse/recycling/recovery. Many hazardous wastes can be recycled, reused, or recovered. E.g., solvents can be refined and recycled, thereby reducing the need for hazardous waste disposal.
  3. Treatment. Waste that cannot be reduced or recycled is treated to change its chemical composition, thereby reducing its volume, rendering it non-hazardous, or both.
  4. Storage. Hazardous waste may be stored until it can be recycled or treated. The amount of waste and the length of time it can be stored depends on the size of the hazardous waste generator.
  5. Disposal. Hazardous waste transported for offsite treatment, storage, or disposal must be accompanied by an EPA Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest that accompanies the waste from the point of generation to its ultimate disposal site

06   /   How is hazardous waste transported in Pennsylvania?

Conveying hazardous waste in Pennsylvania requires a Hazardous Waste Transporter license, which must be obtained from the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). An application for this transporter license can be found here. A hazardous waste transporter license isn’t required for simply passing through Pennsylvania.

07   /   How is hazardous waste ultimately disposed of in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, hazardous waste is disposed of by landfilling or incineration. Landfilling is used only after the waste has been treated and stabilized.  

08   /   How are hazardous waste generators in Pennsylvania kept current about hazmat rules?

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Hazardous Waste Management maintains an email distribution list for sending news and announcements to hazardous waste generators and other interested parties. Content includes info about upcoming regulations, regulatory deadlines, events, and other information pertaining to the generation, treatment, storage, disposal, or transportation of hazardous waste under the regulations incorporated by DEP and the US EPA. Click here to subscribe to the list.

09   /   Where can I get help understanding Pennsylvania hazardous waste management rules?

You need a hazmat solution that will maximize efficiency, lower the cost, and minimize the compliance risks of doing business in your state. And with over 30 years of nationwide experience specializing in hazardous waste management, you can trust MCF specialists to know what might make Pennsylvania—or any other state—unique in matters of hazardous waste disposal.

Don’t go it alone.

We can help you develop a hazardous waste management protocol that takes into careful account the regulatory complexities of your particular state or region to achieve the highest standards of sustainability.

For more information, contact us today. Or phone 866.315.8116

Robert Losurdo

President, COO