This page contains frequently asked questions concerning the Solid and Hazardous Waste program. The questions are listed below and are linked to the expanded answers further on in this document.
- What is RCRA?
- What is regulated under RCRA?
- What is a RCRA hazardous waste?
- What is a RCRA solid waste?
- Who is regulated by the RCRA hazardous waste program? and... Who is regulated by the RCRA municipal solid waste program?
- Can anyone handle RCRA hazardous waste?
- What government agencies administer the RCRA program?
- Do citizens have any control over the construction of a waste facility in their community?
- How can I report environmental problems with waste management?
- How much hazardous waste is generated each year in the United States?
- How much municipal solid waste is generated each year in the United States?
- What types of businesses generate hazardous waste?
- How should household hazardous waste (e.g.,paint, paint thinner, batteries, used oil) be disposed?
- Who regulates landfills that accept municipal garbage? Can these municipal landfills accept hazardous waste?
- What is the RCRA Orientation Manual?
- Overview of RCRA: RCRA: Reducing Risk from Waste
- Where can I get answers to more questions about RCRA?
- Where can I get data on hazardous waste management facilities?
RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1976. RCRA's primary goals are to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, to conserve energy and natural resources, to reduce the amount of waste generated, and to ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.
Wastes that exhibit certain characteristics may be regulated by RCRA. A waste may be considered hazardous if it is ignitable (i.e., burns readily), corrosive, or reactive (e.g., explosive). Waste may also be considered hazardous if it contains certain amounts of toxic chemicals. In addition to these characteristic wastes, EPA has also developed a list of over 500 specific hazardous wastes. Hazardous waste takes many physical forms and may be solid, semi-solid, or even liquid.
According to the EPA regulations, solid waste means any garbage, or refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semi- solid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities.
Who is regulated by the RCRA hazardous waste program? and... Who is regulated by the RCRA municipal solid waste program?
The RCRA hazardous waste program regulates commercial businesses as well as federal, state and local government facilities that generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste. Each of these entities is regulated to ensure proper management of hazardous waste from the moment it is generated until its ultimate disposal or destruction. The RCRA municipal solid waste program regulates owners and operators of municipal solid waste landfills. The regulations stipulate minimum criteria that each landfill must meet in order to continue operating.
No. Handlers of hazardous waste must meet certain regulatory requirements. Generators and transporters must have government issued identification numbers, and comply with other regulations regarding the handling of hazardous waste. Treatment, storage and disposal facilities must meet even more stringent requirements, and must have a permit to operate.
Authorized states are the primary implementors of the RCRA program. In Region 8, the states of Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota are authorized to administer the RCRA solid and hazardous waste programs.
The RCRA regulations require public participation, such as public meetings, throughout the permitting process for new hazardous and solid waste treatment, storage, or disposal facilities. Public participation provides citizens with a forum to express their concerns over the construction of a new facility.
The public may discuss environmental problems and concerns over waste management with their local or state government waste management division. Another resource for solid and hazardous waste issues is your EPA Regional office.
In 1995, nearly 20,000 hazardous waste generators produced 279 million tons of hazardous waste regulated by RCRA.
In 1995, approximately 208 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated in the United States. This means each person generated an average of 4.3 pounds of solid waste per day.
Many types of businesses generate hazardous waste. Some are small companies that may be located in your community. For example, the following types of businesses typically generate hazardous waste: dry cleaners, auto repair shops, hospitals, exterminators, and photo processing centers. Some hazardous waste generators are larger companies like chemical manufacturers, electroplating companies, and petroleum refineries.
Hazardous wastes that are generated in the home, like mineral spirits and old paint, are not regulated by the federal RCRA program. Many communities provide collection centers or pick-up services for the management of household hazardous waste.
Who regulates landfills that accept municipal garbage? and... Can these municipal landfills accept hazardous waste?
Landfills that collect household garbage are predominately regulated by State and local governments. EPA has, however, established minimum criteria that these landfills must meet in order to stay open. The only hazardous waste that municipal landfills can accept is household hazardous waste and waste that is exempt from hazardous waste regulation.
Call the RCRA Hotline at (800) 424-9346 or (703) 412-9810 (from the Washington, DC area). The Hotline is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. eastern time. Additional information can be found at the EPA Office of Solid Waste site or at the Region 8 RCRA Program office.
Information on hazardous waste managment facilities can be obtained from the EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Information System (RCRIS) database.