EPA to Toughen Definition of Solid Waste Rule

Date: July 8, 2011

Source: News Room

EPA says it plans to toughen its definition of solid waste (DSW) rule by removing certain regulatory exemptions while adding requirements of facilities that recycle wastes. EPA’s July 6 proposal would amend a 2008 rule which broadened the definition of “solid waste” while narrowing which materials are considered “hazardous” and subject to strict waste handling and disposal requirements. The original measure was meant to promote recycling of materials otherwise considered hazardous. But environmentalists sued the agency, saying that it was too lenient and would lead to dangerous “sham” recycling. On a July 6 conference call, EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus said that the agency had identified regulatory “gaps” and that a new environmental justice review revealed that low-income and minority populations could be disproportionately affected by the regulation. EPA now plans a series of public meetings on the rule, accepting public comment for 60 days.

Among the changes EPA is proposing is a requirement for industry to meet all four of the criteria for determining whether recycling is legitimate — rather than just two of the four criteria that the Bush-era version had required.

Another change prompting concern from the industry is EPA’s first-time definition of what circumstances it would consider materials destined for recycling to be “contained” in a satisfactory manner. In their lawsuit, environmentalists had complained that the term was undefined in the 2008 rule and would thus be difficult to enforce. Under the new proposal, EPA would consider a hazardous secondary material to be contained if it is managed in a storage unit that “is in good condition, with no leaks or other continuing or intermittent releases of hazardous secondary materials to the environment, and is designed, as appropriate, to prevent releases of hazardous secondary materials to the environment.”

Another change would be to eliminate the so-called “transfer-based exclusion,” under which recycling conducted by a third party, as opposed to the generator of the hazardous substance, would be exempt from strict regulation. EPA is now proposing “alternative requirements” for transfer-based recycling, under which “the hazardous recyclable materials must be managed according to the RCRA Subtitle C requirements, including manifesting and hazardous recyclable materials for up to a year without a RCRA permit if the generator makes advance arrangements for legitimate reclamation and documents those arrangements in a reclamation plan.”

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