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Hazardous waste listings are used to describe wastes that the EPA has deemed dangerous enough to necessitate regulation. Hazardous waste listings describe wastes from various industrial processes, wastes from specific sectors of industry, or wastes in the form of specific chemical formulations.

In order to determine if a hazardous waste listing needs to be created the EPA must thoroughly study a waste stream and the threat it potentially poses to human health and the environment. If the threat is significant enough the EPA will include a specific description of the waste on one of the hazardous waste lists in the regulations. After the initial inclusion, any waste that fits the original listing description is considered hazardous regardless of its chemical composition or any other potential variable.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using listings when defining hazardous wastes. For example, listing makes the hazardous waste identification process easy for industrial waste handlers since only knowledge of the wastes origin is needed to determine whether or not it is listed. This means there is no need for laboratory analysis. All one must do to determine if a waste is hazardous is to compare it to the narrative listing descriptions.

All that said, there are still some disadvantages. For instance, when initially determining whether or not a waste should be listed extensive study and resources are demanded of the EPA. Since resources are limited the listings can’t adequately address every dangerous waste. Additionally, hazardous waste listings are very firm. Each listing designates a waste as hazardous if it falls within a particular category or class meaning that the actual composition of the material need not be considered as long as the criteria for listing are met. Because of these weaknesses, hazardous waste characteristics are utilized to help address the shortcomings.

The EPA has studied and listed hundreds of different waste streams. These are all broken down into one of 4 different list types.

  • The F list – According to the EPA, “the F list designates particular solid wastes, from certain common industrial or manufacturing processes, as hazardous. Because the processes producing these wastes can occur in different sectors of industry, the F list wastes are known as wastes from nonspecific sources.”
  • The K list – EPA defines K listed wastes as solid wastes from certain specific industries. K listed wastes are known as waste streams from specific sources.
  • The P and U lists – The last two categories are generally lumped together due to their similarities. Both of these list pure or commercial grade formulations of certain specific unused chemicals as hazardous.

These individual lists may contain designations of anywhere from 30 to a few hundred different types of hazardous waste. Each different waste is assigned a waste code which consists of the list letter and a three digit number. So numbers may appear as, F001, K004, P007, etc. These codes play an important role in the managing of hazardous waste and as such it is vital to assign the correct code to your waste stream.

All information for this blog post was gathered from the EPA document, “Introduction to Hazardous Waste Identification.” As always, this blog post is not intended to be comprehensive and it is always best to check with the EPA and local government for full, up-to-date, rules and regulations. 

The cornerstone of a successful hazardous waste management system is the proper identification of hazardous wastes. RCRA regulations at 40 CFR 262.11 require that any person who produces or generates a waste must determine if that waste is hazardous. 262.11 also provides four steps for generators to utilize in the process of hazardous waste identification. These are:

  • Is the waste a “solid waste”?
  • Is the waste specifically excluded from the RCRA regulations?
  • Is the waste a “listed” hazardous waste?
  • Does the waste exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste?

So, in order to properly identify hazardous waste, it stands to reason that we should work our way through those four points.

Is the waste a “solid waste”?

As with many things, the first step in hazardous waste identification is pretty intuitive. We must first determine if the material is a waste. After all, if it is not a waste it can’t be a hazardous waste. That said, determining whether or not something is a waste can get tricky. Take glass bottles for example, one person could see them as something to discard while another may see them as valuable due to their ability to be recycled.

Because of this ambiguity, the EPA developed a set of regulations to assist in determining whether or not a material is a waste. RCRA uses the term “solid waste” in place of “waste. Under RCRA, the term “solid waste” means any waste, whether it is a solid, semisolid, or liquid. The first section of the RCRA hazardous waste identification regulations focuses on the definition of solid waste and is a good place to look if you are confused about this step.

Is the waste excluded?

While solid wastes are rather abundant, just a small percentage of them qualify as hazardous wastes. You might think that distinguishing between hazardous and nonhazardous wastes is a simple matter of chemical and toxicological analysis. This, however, is not the case. We must first consider other factors before evaluating the hazard posed by the chemical composition of a waste.

Due to the fact that regulating some wastes may be impractical, unfair, or otherwise undesirable, the EPA has created exclusions. Household waste, for example, can contain dangerous chemicals, like solvents and pesticides, but making households subject to the strict RCRA waste management regulations would create a number of practical problems. Congress and EPA exempted or excluded certain wastes, like household wastes, from the hazardous waste definition and regulations.

Determining whether or not a waste is excluded or exempted from hazardous waste regulation is the second step in the RCRA hazardous waste identification process. Only after determining that a solid waste is not somehow excluded from hazardous waste regulation should the analysis proceed to evaluate the actual chemical hazard that a waste poses. Check 40 CFR to see if the waste you generate is excluded for any reason.

Is the waste a “listed” hazardous waste?

The EPA has studied hundreds of different waste streams and listed the wastes accordingly. Listed wastes are described or listed on four different lists that can be found at 40 CFR 261, Subpart D. These four lists are:

  • The F list — The F list designates particular solid wastes from certain common industrial or manufacturing processes as hazardous. Because the processes producing these wastes can occur in different sectors of industry, the F list wastes are known as wastes from nonspecific sources. The F list is codified in the regulations at §261.31.
  • The K list — The K list designates particular solid wastes from certain specific industries as hazardous. K list wastes are known as wastes from specific sources. The K list is found at §261.32.
  • The P list and the U list — These two lists are similar in that both list pure or commercial grade formulations of certain specific unused chemicals as hazardous. Both the P list and U list are codified in §261.33.

The third step in hazardous waste identification is determining which (if any) of these lists your waste belongs on.

Does the waste exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste?

We’ve talked about the characteristics of hazardous waste before. There are four different characteristics; ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity. If you need a refresher on the definitions of these characteristics check out our “Characteristics of Hazardous Waste,” post or our infographic depicting them.

The final step in the hazardous waste identification process is determining if your waste displays any of the four hazardous waste characteristics.

A while back we wrote a post about the Characteristics of Hazardous Waste. There are four that you need to look for in order to classify which type of waste you are dealing with. They are as follows:

  • Ignitability,
  • Corrosivity,
  • Reactivity, and
  • Toxicity.

In the previous post we gave detailed information about these four categories, below, we have outlined them again with illustrated examples.

Hazardous Waste Infographic

In the past we’ve discussed what hazardous waste is defined as. Today, I’d like to focus on the different characteristics hazardous waste may possess. These characteristics help us understand what the waste is capable of/how it poses a danger. We discussed some aspects of these characteristics in our Household Hazardous Wastes eBook but today I hope to delve further into them.

There are four basic characteristics to look at; ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.

Ignitability – According to the EPA, “Ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, are spontaneously combustible, or have a flash point less than 60 °C (140 °F). Examples include waste oils and used solvents.” A flash point is the lowest temperature at which a substance can evaporate enough to produce sufficient vapor to form an ignitable mixture with the air.

Ignitable wastes can be broken down into two categories, solids, and liquids. As stated above, flash point is the most important things to remember when it comes to ignitable liquids. You have to consider other things with solids though. Non liquid ignitables are capable under standard temperature and pressure of causing fire through friction, absorption of moisture, or spontaneous chemical changes. If ignited, these wastes will burn so vigorously and persistently that they create a hazardous situation.

Corrosivity – According to the EPA, “Corrosive wastes are acids or bases (pH less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5) that are capable of corroding metal containers, such as storage tanks, drums, and barrels. Battery acid is an example.” A corrosive can cause skin damage to people and significantly corrode metal. A corrosive hazardous material can be either liquid or solid.

Reactivity – The EPA defines reactive wastes as, “wastes [which] are unstable under “normal” conditions. They can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases, or vapors when heated, compressed, or mixed with water. Examples include lithium-sulfur batteries and explosives.”

Reactive wastes are, in themselves, unstable. They have the potential to form toxic gases, vapors, or fumes which can endanger human health. Some (D003) form potentially explosive mixtures with water. Reactive wastes are capable of detonation or explosive reactions.

Toxicity – Toxic wastes are defined by the EPA as wastes that are “harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed (e.g., containing mercury, lead, etc.). When toxic wastes are land disposed, contaminated liquid may leach from the waste and pollute ground water.”

More information regarding these waste characteristics can be found in the 40 CFR §261.

Hazardous wastes will fall into one or more of these categories and it is important to know which ones you and/or your company’s wastes fall into so you can safely handle them. Additionally, it is vital to remember that “non-hazardous” does not mean non-dangerous or unregulated, always check with EPA guidelines and individual state laws to ensure compliance and safety.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it has really been a while since I last blogged. I hope everyone had a good holiday/new year and that we all can be ready to jump into 2013. In an attempt to start things strong, I want to write another post about something I learned at the RCRA training seminar in December.

I have written in the past about different things that are often viewed as “common hazardous waste violations.” You may remember the post about Hazardous Waste Reduction Plans or the one about Avoiding Weekly Hazardous Waste Inspection Violations. Today, however, I want to discuss the US EPA’s list of the top 10 violations. In particular, I will write about whether the issues are substantive or procedural and what those classifications mean.

To begin, we need to identify the difference between these types of requirements:

  • Substantive Requirements – Either provide material reduction in risk or materially increase environmental protection.
  • Procedural Requirements – Have an indirect impact on risk reduction but are significant in terms of regulatory agency assessment of compliance.

Both types are important and neither can be ignored if you and your company want to ensure EPA and RCRA compliance.

So now we can look at how the top ten violations can be seperated into these two categories.

Substantive Violations from the EPA Top 10 Waste Violations

  • Lack of proper waste determination
  • Container violations
  • Inadequate aisel space
  • Incompatible wastes in close proximity
  • Inadequate inspections*
  • Inadequate training*

Procedural Violations from the EPA Top 10 Waste Violations

  • Inadequate inspections*
  • Inadequate training*
  • Accumulation time exceedances
  • Satellite container issues
    • location, volume, marking
  • Inadequate contingency plan
  • LDR notice issues

As you can see, inadequate inspections and inadequate training can fall under both categories. This means they can both provide material reduction in risk or materially increase environmental protection and be significant in terms of regulatory agency assessment of compliance. Perhaps the most important take-away from this post is that while common violations can fall into two categories, both must be considered and followed in order to ensure RCRA complience.

For more information about common violations, look for our Top 10 Hazardous Waste Violations eBook coming soon.

Information recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirms that three metal finishing companies in Southern California are paying the (hefty) price for improperly disposing of hazardous waste. Collectively, the three companies will be paying fines of more than $196,650.

Some of these charges include:

  • $74,000 in fines for failure to treat their industrial wastewater to federal standards before discharge.
  • $19,500 in fines for the improper management and treatment of hazardous waste.
  • $3,150 for failure to properly label hazardous waste containers.
  • An additional $100,000 will be spent by one of the companies in order to purchase a sludge dryer, which will reduce hazardous waste generated at the facility by 336 pounds a day.

“’The violation of federal regulations at metal finishing companies poses a risk to workers, as well as surrounding residents,’ said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.”

Unfortunately, these are not the first violations for these three companies. In March of 2010, an EPA investigation discovered that the first facility had discharged industrial wastewater into the Los Angeles County sewer system. The wastewater tested above federal limits for several toxins such as chromium, cadmium, nickel, and cyanide; which was a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The second of the three was found violating EPA regulations in October of 2010, with violations such as failure to properly label and cover hazardous waste and conducting treatment of hazardous waste without a permit.

In 2011, the last of them was found to be improperly closing and labeling hazardous waste containers as well as failing to properly label, contain, and date used fluorescent lamps; which violates the federal regulations for universal waste.

That’s at least five previous individual violations! The story raises an important question, is your company doing everything it can to remain EPA compliant? It’s best to be vigilant now then to have to pay the price later.

This week we finish our things you think you know series contributed by Heritage Compliance Manager Mike Karpinski. The topic of this weeks post; as long as a business complies with EPA waste regulations they don’t have to worry about anything else.

Working at a national waste management company like Heritage, I often dream this was the case, but unfortunately there are many other federal agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT), Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency and others that all have regulations pertaining to hazardous wastes and that’s not the end of it.

Each state (except for Iowa and Alaska) also has state specific regulations that are, at a minimum, equivalent to the federal regulations and may be stricter than the federal regulations.  Oftentimes, a state will have equivalent regulations, but different administrative requirements that cannot be ignored. For a company like Heritage that does business across all 50 states that means complying with a minimum of 196 different regulations relating to the proper management of hazardous materials (and I haven’t even mentioned all the city or county requirements yet…. I need an aspirin).

This reminds me, many of the statements made in the previous posts are based on general descriptions of federal regulations. Other Federal, State, or Local regulations may apply to your situation which may counteract these statements. This is one of the best reasons for working with a company like Heritage Environmental Services, LLC, we have experience dealing with these regulations and are trained to work closely with our customers to assist them in complying with these requirements.

Continuing our series of things you think you know about hazardous waste, this week Heritage Compliance Manager Mike Karpinski wrote about another common hazardous waste misconception. The idea that all non-hazardous wastes are “safe.”

This is the opposite side of last weeks post about all hazardous wastes being dangerous. As far as safety is concerned, it is even more important that people working with wastes understand that just seeing a “Non-Hazardous” or “Non-Regulated” sticker on a container does not mean it is not a dangerous material or is not subject to other regulatory programs.

These lables are simply regulatory classifications that guide the management of such materials. Often times, a material labeled “non-hazardous” can present an equal health or physical hazard to persons working with it as something marked hazardous (remember the story about the swimming pool from last week). Physical and chemical hazards associated with materials have thresholds established by the regulations for classification of waste.

For example, a liquid is considered hazardous waste when it has a flash point less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit by a specified testing protocol. A flashpoint is the temperature at which a particular organic compound gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in the air. Using the flashpoint criteria, gasoline would be a hazardous waste based on flash point, but used motor oil typically would not. That being said, we must note that both of these materials should be handled with care not only from an environmental perspective but from a fire hazard perspective.

Over the next few weeks we are going to be doing a series about things you think you know about hazardous waste (that are actually wrong). These posts have been contributed by our 10-year Heritage Compliance Manager, Mike Karpinski. So without further ado, our first common misconception:

All hazardous wastes are “hazardous”

One of the key thoughts we try to convey in employee safety training at Heritage Environmental Services, LLC is the fact that the terms “hazardous waste” and “non-hazardous waste” are simply regulatory terms. There are many stipulations in the regulations that can classify a very dangerous chemical as a non-hazardous waste and a relatively benign waste a hazardous waste.

For example, there is a part of the EPA hazardous waste regulation commonly called the “mixture rule” for listed hazardous wastes that essentially states “the mixture of any listed hazardous waste with any other solid waste will result in the entire mixture being a listed hazardous waste.”

Reasoning by analogy, this means that if you take a swimming pool of water and add a thimble full of a listed hazardous waste you have created a swimming pool of listed hazardous waste. The swimming pool is probably still very safe to swim in but the water is a listed hazardous waste nonetheless (The swim suit you used for your dip in the pool and the water you used to shower off with after your dip will also be listed hazardous wastes until properly disposed of at a permitted hazardous waste treatment/disposal facility).

Some other common materials that may qualify as hazardous wastes include:

– Nicotine Patches

– Finger Nail Polish

– Hand Sanitizers

– Mosquito Spray

– Silly String

– Windex/Formula 409

– Teeth Whitening Strips

– Pool chemicals

– Gasoline

– Oil based paint

– Rechargeable Batteries

– Fluorescent Lighting

But don’t worry; men in dark suits are not on their way to take you away if you have thrown any of these things out at your home. Households are excluded from the hazardous waste regulations. If you are a business disposing things like these though you should probably stop and call a company like Heritage to help you manage these materials properly.

Last week, we told you about common household hazardous wastes and how you can identify and dispose of them properly. In order to expand on this topic, this week we created the graphic below to give you information about why and how certain household wastes are dangerous.

To see a larger version, just click the image below.

HHW resized 600