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For sites that generate potentially hazardous wastes it is imperative that they make a hazardous waste determination for each and every waste generated. The determination process, also called the hazardous waste identification (HWID) process, is one of the first and perhaps the most important step for properly managing waste materials. To make a proper waste identification a generator must ask four questions:

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

After answering each of these questions a generator will be prepared to facilitate compliant storage and disposal of any wastes generated.

Is the material a solid waste?

In order to answer the first question, 40 CFR Part 261.2 defines materials that are solid wastes and those that are not solid wastes. RCRA §1004(27) defines a solid waste as, “any garbage, refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility, and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid, or contained gaseous material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations and from community activities.”

Additionally, the EPA provides several tools, including a Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) decision tool that can help walk you through this first step.

Is the waste specifically excluded from RCRA?

There are some types of solid wastes that the EPA excludes from the definition of hazardous waste. These materials, regardless of meeting a listing or exhibiting a characteristic of hazardous waste, cannot be considered a hazardous waste. According to §261.4(b), excluded wastes include:

  • Household Hazardous Waste
  • Agricultural Waste
  • Mining Overburden
  • Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste (Bevill)
  • Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Wastes (Bentsen Amendment)
  • Trivalent Chromium Wastes
  • Mining and Mineral Processing Wastes (Bevill)
  • Cement Kiln Dust (Bevill)
  • Arsenically Treated Wood
  • Petroleum Contaminated Media & Debris from Underground Storage Tanks
  • Injected Groundwater
  • Spent Chloroflurocarbon Refrigerants
  • Used Oil Filters
  • Used Oil Distillation Bottoms
  • Landfill Leachate or Gas Condensate Derived from Certain Listed Wastes
  • Project XL Pilot Project Exclusions

Many of these exclusions are conditional and often specific to an industry or type of waste. Careful reading of the conditional exclusions is necessary when making these determinations.

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.

Does the waste exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste?    

There are four characteristics of hazardous waste. These characteristics help us understand what the waste is capable of/how it poses a danger. The four characteristics are ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity. Full definitions of these characteristics can be found here.

The P and U listed wastes are quite a bit different from the K and F lists. These wastes are composed of hazardous pure or commercial grade formulations of certain unused chemicals. To qualify as a P or U listed waste the wastestream must meet these three criteria:

  • The waste must contain one of the chemicals listed on the P or U list.
  • The chemical in the waste must be unused.
  • The chemical in the waste must be in the form of a “commercial chemical product,” as defined by the EPA.

In previous blog posts we have learned that hazardous waste listings are narrative descriptions of specific wastestreams and that the actual chemical composition of the waste is usually irrelevant to whether a listing applies to it. Since the P and U lists only contain the chemical name of a compound known to be dangerous or toxic (and no description) they can seem inconsistent with the aforementioned system. EPA decided on this format because the descriptions of the P and U wastes would all be the same. Because of this the description can be found in the regulatory text that introduces the two lists.

According to the EPA, “The generic P and U list waste description involves two key factors. First, a P or U listing applies only if one of the listed chemicals is discarded unused. In other words, the P and U lists do not apply to manufacturing process wastes, as do the F and K lists. The P and U listings apply to unused chemicals that become wastes. Unused chemicals become wastes for a number of reasons. For example, some unused chemicals are spilled by accident. Others are intentionally discarded because they are off-specification and cannot serve the purpose for which they were originally produced.”

The second key factor goes back to the EPA definition of “commercial chemical product.” In order to qualify as a P or U listed waste the chemical must be discarded in the form of a commercial chemical product. The EPA uses this term to describe a chemical that is in pure form, that is in commercial grade form, or that is the sole active ingredient in a chemical formulation.

The EPA defines a pure chemical form as one consisting of 100 percent of that chemical. The commercial grade form of a chemical is a formulation in which the chemical is almost 100 percent pure, but contains minor impurities. If a chemical in a formulation is the only ingredient serving the purpose of the product it is considered the “sole active ingredient.”

The EPA describes this circumstance with the following example, “a pesticide made for killing insects may contain a poison such as heptachlor as well as various solvent ingredients which act as carriers or lend other desirable properties to the poison. Although all of these chemicals may be capable of killing insects, only the heptachlor serves the primary purpose of the insecticide product. The other chemicals involved are present for other reasons, not because they are poisonous. Therefore, heptachlor is the sole active ingredient in such a formulation even though it may be present in low concentrations.”

The P and U listed wasted round out the 4 different waste listings but it is important to remember that even those wastes which remain unregulated by listings may still be applicable to protective hazardous waste regulation because it meets one of the four characteristics of hazardous waste.

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.

K listed wastes differ from P listed wastes in that K list wastes come from specific sources. They are similar because they both are manufacturing process wastes. So, K listed wastes come from specific sectors of industry and manufacturing. K listed wastes contain chemicals which have been used for their intended purpose.

In order to determine whether or not a waste qualifies as a K listed waste you must answer two questions. The first is whether the facility that created the waste is within one of the industrial or manufacturing categories on the K list? The second, does the waste match one of the specific K list waste descriptions? There are 13 industries that can generate K listed wastes but it is important to remember that not all wastes produced by these industries are hazardous. It is only those which meet the described details in the K list descriptions that qualify. The 13 industries are:

  • Wood preservation
  • Inorganic pigment manufacturing
  • Organic chemicals manufacturing
  • Inorganic chemicals manufacturing
  • Pesticides manufacturing
  • Explosives manufacturing
  • Petroleum refining
  • Iron and steel production
  • Primary aluminum production
  • Secondary lead processing
  • Veterinary pharmaceuticals manufacturing
  • Ink formulation
  • Coking (processing of coal to produce coke, a material used in iron and steel production)

According to the EPA, “in general, the K listings target much more specific wastestreams than the F listings. For example, EPA added a number of listings to the petroleum refining category of the K list. EPA estimates that one hundred facilities nationwide produce wastestreams covered by these new K listings. In contrast, F-listed spent solvent wastes are commonly generated in thousands of different plants and facilities. You may also notice that industries generating K-listed wastes, such as the wood preserving and petroleum refining industries can also generate F-listed wastes.

Typically, K listings describe more specific wastestreams than F listings applicable to the same industry. For example, K051 and K048 designate as hazardous two very specific types of petroleum refinery wastewater treatment residues: wastewater treatment sludges created in API separators and wastewater treatment float created using dissolved air flotation (DAF) pollution control devices. The F037 and F038 listings complement these two K listings by designating as hazardous all other types of petroleum refinery wastewater treatment sludges and floats. These petroleum refinery listings illustrate that the K listings are typically more specific than the F listings. They also illustrate that the two lists are in many ways very similar.”

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.

We’ve talked in previous posts about what hazardous waste listing is and how it came to be. We know that there are four different lists; F, K, P, and U. Today, we are going to take a closer look at what the F listed wastes are, why they are designated as F listed wastes, and what sets them apart from the other three listings.

F listed wastes are those particular wastestreams which come from certain common industrial or manufacturing processes. Generally, these are chemicals which have been used for their intended purpose in an industrial process. Because of this, F list wastes are commonly known as “manufacturing process wastes.” It is important to note that the manner in which a waste is generated often plays a key role in how it is identified.

F listed wastes, depending on what type of manufacturing or industrial process creates them, can be broken down into one of seven different categories. These seven categories are detailed below.

1. Spent Solvent Wastes – These wastes are coded as F001-F005 and apply to wastestreams from the use of certain common organic solvents. Solvents are chemicals which may be used for a number of things. Primarily, however, they are used for cleaning and/or degreasing. Solvents which are covered by the F listings are commonly used in industries ranging from mechanical repair to dry cleaning to electronics manufacturing.

2. Wastes from Electroplating and Other Metal-Finishing Operations – According to the EPA, “The listed hazardous wastes F006 – F012 and F019 are wastes commonly produced during electroplating and other metal finishing operations. Diverse industries use electroplating and other methods to change the surface of metal objects in order to enhance the appearance of the objects, make them more resistant to corrosion, or impart some other desirable property to them. Industries involved in plating and metal finishing range from jewelry manufacture to automobile production.”

3. Dioxin-Bearing Wastes – Dioxins are considered by the EPA to be among the most dangerous known chemical compounds. The dioxin listings (F020-F023 and F026-F028) primarily stem from the manufacturing process wastes generated from the production of specific pesticides or chemicals used in pesticides. That said, the F0027 waste stands out from the rest due to its being the only F or K list waste that has not been used for its intended purpose. F027 actually describes and unused chemical rather than an industrial wastes tream. These dioxin-bearing wastes, with the exception of F028, are all considered acutely hazardous and as such are subject to stricter management standards.

4. Wastes from the Production of Certain Chlorinated Aliphatic Hydrocarbons – The F024 and F025 wastes stand out on the F list (wastes from nonspecific sources) because they come from a very narrow industrial sector. These wastes are produced during the manufacturing of chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons. Many other waste streams derived from manufacturing organic chemicals are listed on the K list.

5. Wood Preserving Wastes – “The F032, F034, and F035 listings apply to certain wastes from wood preserving operations. Many types of wood used for construction or other non-fuel applications are chemically treated to slow the deterioration caused by decay and insects. Such chemical treatment is commonly used in telephone poles, railroad ties, and other wood products prepared to withstand the rigors of outdoor use.”

6. Petroleum Refinery Wastewater Treatment Sludges – Petroliam refining tends to produce large amounts of contaminated wastewater. This wastewater must be treated to remove oil, solid materials, and chemical pollutants before it can be discharged into a river or sewer. The excluded pollutants are the F037 and F038 wastes. Time and gravity help to separate the pollutants from the water. Solids and heavier pollutants will sink to the bottom and form a material called “sludge” while the less dense pollutants will rise to the surface of the water and make a material known as “float.” If time is a factor, the gravitational separation process can be quickened via mechanical or chemical means. If left to separate only by gravity, the wastes will be F037, if treated via chemical or physical means they will be F038.

7. Multisource Leachate – The last category of F list wastes applies to multisource leachate.  This is the liquid material that collects at the bottom of a hazardous waste landfill. According to the EPA, “Leaching occurs when liquids such as rainwater filter through soil or buried materials, such as wastes placed in a landfill. When this liquid comes in contact with buried wastes, it leaches or draws chemicals out of those wastes. This liquid (called leachate) can then carry the leached chemical contaminants further into the ground, eventually depositing them elsewhere in the subsurface or in groundwater. The leachate that percolates through landfills, particularly hazardous waste landfills, usually contains high concentrations of chemicals, and is often collected to minimize the potential that it may enter the subsurface environment and contaminate soil or groundwater.” This leachate is designated as F039.

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.