EPA finalizes hazardous material recycling rule

December 15, 2014

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) modified a 2008 rule involving the recycling of hazardous materials. The Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) final rule is designed to "protect human health and the environment from the mismanagement of hazardous secondary material, while promoting sustainability through the encouragement of safe and environmentally responsible recycling of such materials," according to the release. 

Among other new requirements, relevant organizations will have to pursue off-site recycling at a facility with a RCRA permit or verified recycler variance for their hazardous materials. The EPA explained that individual states will be allowed to verify that a facility is properly equipped to manage hazardous materials, and that staff has been trained appropriately on best practices.

The main focus of the updated ruling is to address a number of facilities that are functioning as recycling centers, but are in actuality simply disposing of much of the waste. The most recent guidance included a revised definition of legitimate recycling, and excludes the generator of the waste from pursuing recycling on-site to improve oversight. 

The rule also excludes certain higher-value hazardous spent solvents from recycling, meant to encourage re-manufacturing into commercial-grade solvents. This is hoped to reduce the use of "virgin" solvents, which is expected to provide both economic and environmental benefits.

Some elements of the 2008 law will remain in effect. Scrap metal will continue to be excluded, and any material legitimately recycled under 2008 guidelines will be exempt.

Organizations that will have their existing practices affected by this rule are encouraged to seek insight from environmental consultants to help determine the best most cost-effective means of remaining compliant. Violating EPA guidelines can not only result in hefty fines, but can also have significant negative impact on an organization's reputation and trade relationships.