Questions About the Disposal of Lead-Contaminated Items
- What is the appropriate disposal method that household consumers should use for their lead-contaminated children’s products?
- If consumers have numerous lead-contaminated toys for disposal, would this be treated differently than a household that had only one or two?
- What is the appropriate disposal method for apartment complexes, hotels, military bases and hospital facilities?
- How should retailers manage the items they have in inventory if they decide on disposal? Retailers may have tens of thousands of items in inventory.
- Should retailers (or manufacturers) treat consumer-returned merchandise differently than inventoried products?
- Does EPA require testing to determine whether a waste is hazardous?
- What test method does the EPA recommend to retailers to determine whether their inventory is hazardous? Are there certified laboratories that can conduct these tests?
- Where can retailers get a copy of the test method?
- What concentration of lead in an item makes it a “hazardous waste”?
- Is there a contact person at EPA that can offer retailers guidance on disposal if their inventory is determined to be hazardous?
1. What is the appropriate disposal method that household consumers should use for their lead-contaminated children’s products?
EPA's regulations state that wastes from households (i.e., garbage and trash) are not regulated as hazardous waste under RCRA. Household waste includes waste derived from single and multiple residences, hotels and motels, bunkhouses, ranger stations, crew quarters, campgrounds, picnic grounds, and day-use recreational areas (see 40 CFR 261.4(b)(1)). Therefore, consumers that qualify as a household may dispose of their lead-contaminated toys in the same manner that they discard ordinary household trash. Some states, however, may have more restrictive requirements, and localities may encourage consumers to dispose of such items in household hazardous waste collection events (typically sponsored by the local government); consumers should consult their state and local government for more information.
2. If consumers have numerous lead-contaminated toys for disposal, would this be treated differently than a household that had only one or two?
No, EPA's regulations provide that wastes from households are not regulated as hazardous, and there are no limitations on the quantity of the wastes. However, consumers should consult their state or local government as some states or localities have more restrictive requirements.
3. What is the appropriate disposal method for apartment complexes, hotels, military bases and hospital facilities
EPA's regulations provide that wastes from single and multiple residences, hotels, motels, bunkhouses, crew quarters, ranger stations, campgrounds, picnic grounds, and day-use recreational areas are considered household wastes and are not regulated as hazardous under the federal RCRA hazardous waste regulations (see 40 CFR 261.4(b)(1)). Waste items generated from military base housing units would also be exempt, provided it was not mixed with other wastes generated on base. These facilities may therefore dispose of the waste lead-contaminated toys in the same manner that they discard other trash or garbage.
Hospitals and other non-residential buildings are not considered generators of household wastes. They are subject to the same disposal requirements that apply to retailers, which are described in the answer to question #4 below. Lead-contaminated items generated from offices, day care centers, and other buildings also would not be considered as coming from a household and thus would not be an exempted household waste.
4. How should retailers manage the items they have in inventory if they decide on disposal? Retailers may have tens of thousands of items in inventory.
Once a retailer decides to discard the items, they must: 1) determine whether the items are hazardous waste (see 40 CFR 262.10 and question #6 below); and, if they are hazardous; 2) the retailer must determine its status as a generator because the generator requirements vary depending on the total quantity of hazardous waste generated.
The retailer determines its generator status by calculating how much total hazardous waste he or she generates in a calendar month (40 CFR 262.10(b) and 261.5). If the retailer generates less than 100 kg of hazardous waste (these products plus any other hazardous waste generated on site) then the retailer would be classified as a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG). A retailer who generates between a 100 kg and 1000 kg of hazardous waste in a calendar month would be classified as a Small Quantity Generator (SQG), while a retailer who generates more than 1000 kg of hazardous waste in a single calendar month is classified as a Large Quantity Generator (LQG). CESQGs have minimal requirements under EPA’s hazardous waste regulations (40 CFR 261.5) and may dispose of these items in non-hazardous waste facilities, although disposal must be in State approved facilities. Some states have additional requirements for CESQGs beyond the federal minimum, so retailers should always consult their state hazardous waste agency for complete information on applicable requirements.
Both SQGs and LQGs are subject to more comprehensive hazardous waste requirements under EPA's hazardous waste regulations (40 CFR 262 - 270), and ultimately its disposal in regulated hazardous waste disposal facilities. The requirements for SQGs are similar, but less stringent than those for LQGs. Both SQGs and LQGs may be required to:
- Obtain an EPA identification number (40 CFR 262.12);
- Prepare the hazardous waste for shipment (package, label, mark, placard) (40 CFR 262.30 - 262.33);
- Manifest the hazardous waste for shipment to a hazardous waste treatment, storage, disposal, or recycling facility (40 CFR 262.20 - 262.23, 262.42);
- Manage the hazardous waste on site in an environmentally sound manner (40 CFR 262.34);
- Keep records and/or submit reports (40 CFR 262.40 - 262-41);
- Ensure the hazardous waste meets treatment standards before land disposal (40 CFR 268); and
- Comply with the hazardous waste export and import requirements, when necessary (40 CFR 262 Subpart E and Subpart F).
The retailer should also contact its state hazardous waste agency for more information on management and compliance in its state, because some states may have their own more stringent or different regulations governing hazardous waste.
5. Should retailers (or manufacturers) treat consumer-returned merchandise differently than inventoried products?
Generally, retailers may dispose of items returned from consumers and those from inventoried stock either separately or together. A retailer who chooses to handle them separately may take advantage of the household hazardous waste exclusion for the items returned from households. The inventoried stock must be managed as described in the response to question #4. Because only items generated in a household (as defined in 40 CFR 261.4 (b)(l)) are eligible for the household hazardous waste exclusion, the retailer must be certain that items returned from other regulated sources, such as businesses and commercial facilities are not mixed with those from households. The items returned from sources other than households should be handled with the inventoried stock in accordance with the hazardous waste regulations.
If a retailer does not wish to segregate these items, then all items must be handled as described in question #4.
No, EPA regulations require that a generator of waste determine if that waste is hazardous. The generator may test the waste or use its knowledge of the composition or properties of an item to make that determination (40 CFR 261.11).
For wastes that may be RCRA hazardous (such as items removed from inventory due to high lead content), the generator may also assume that the waste is hazardous and comply with the hazardous waste regulations.
Although testing is not required, if subsequent testing by EPA or others demonstrates that the waste was hazardous, an incorrect determination would leave a waste generator (the retailer or manufacturer) vulnerable to possible enforcement action.
7. What test method does the EPA recommend to retailers to determine whether their inventory is hazardous? Are there certified laboratories that can conduct these tests?
The toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP: Method-1311 (PDF) (35 pp, 288K)) would be used to determine whether lead-contaminated toys are a hazardous waste when disposed (40 CFR 261.24). EPA does not certify laboratories that perform the TCLP test; however, many reputable commercial laboratories are capable of performing the test. Testing labs can be identified by contacting the American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL) , at 202-887-5872.
Retailers will generally want to rely on a testing lab to understand the test method details. Copies of the TCLP test method are available as a part of the EPA analytic methods manual, SW-846 (through NTIS, 703-487-4650), or from the analytical methods information communication exchange (MICE) hotline, at 703-676-4690. Information and method descriptions can also be obtained on the SW-846 test methods Web site.
The TCLP test uses a sample of the waste and a leaching solution (in a ratio of 1:20). After mixing the waste with the leaching solution, the leaching solution is tested for hazardous constituent concentration. If lead in the leaching solution is present at a concentration greater than or equal to 5 mg/l (or parts-per-million - ppm), the waste would be considered to be hazardous, and would be required to be managed as a hazardous waste.
If the overall concentration of lead in the entire object is less than 100 ppm on a mass basis, then the object, when it has become a waste, would not fail the TC/TCLP. However, if the overall concentration of lead is greater than 100 ppm, the waste may or may not be RCRA hazardous since it is rare that all of the lead present in a waste will leach in the TCLP test. Please note that for the purposes of the TCLP test, the lead concentration of the entire object being discarded is measured, whereas for the CPSIA, total lead content by weight for any part of the product in measured. So, it is possible that an item may be "hazardous" under the CPSIA and not under the RCRA hazardous waste regulations. It may also be possible to estimate a weighted average concentration of lead in the entire object if the weights of the lead-contaminated portions are known, along with the lead concentration in those portions.