Back to All

A Comprehensive Update on the e-Manifest

March 11, 2021

With a change in the push from paper to electronic, here is a comprehensive update on the e-Manifest

A Comprehensive Update on the e-Manifest


The EPA’s hazardous waste-manifest requirement is nothing new. [See sidebar]. It’s been stipulated within the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) since 1976, back in the day of Chrysler Cordobas, leisure suits…and who can forget The Bee Gees?



Introducing the e-manifest

Thirty-six years later, in October 2012, Congress passed PUBLIC LAW 112–195, the wildly popular Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act, which breathlessly promised to “…modernize the nation’s cradle-to-grave hazardous waste tracking process while saving valuable time, resources, and dollars for industry and states.” 

The centerpiece of this legislation is and was the so-called e-manifest, a national system for tracking hazardous waste shipments electronically.

Demonstrative of government speed & agility, it was only six years later that the e-manifest program was launched, in 2018. 

To date, the adoption of the e-manifest system has proceeded glacially. But that’s going to change, as mailed paper-n-pencil manifests will no longer be accepted by the EPA after June 30, 2021; and they have ways of making you file electronically. Just read on.


Benefits of the e-manifest

The EPA claimed in 2018 that widespread adoption of the e-manifest would reduce the nationally-aggregated time for preparing shipping manifests by between 300,000 and 700,000 hours, saving some 75-to-90 million dollars annually.  


So how’s the adoption of the e-manifest going?

Not all that well. Consider: Barnes Johnson—who directed something called the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery and is nowadays pursuing other interests—posted a memorandum that you can read here if you don’t have a life. 

Therein, he projected that the EPA would likely realize 88 thousand fewer e-manifests than the roughly three million it projected for 2019. The number would be closer to 2.12 million, of which only ten thousand would be completely electronic: less than one-half of one percent (or .0047169 decimally-speaking). 


Why should you care? 

Individual instances of e-filings are supposed to pay for the e-manifest program, spreading the cost among X number. So the smaller the big X, the more expensive the constituent little x’s must be in order to cover costs. And since the EPA aims to outlaw snail-mailed paper-n-pencil manifests this June 30th, you have a peculiar & pecuniary interest in the matter.

But don’t just take our word for it. The website Waste Dive is dedicated to waste & recycling journalism. It reported last September:

“The EPA’s e-Manifest system, intended to digitize the tracking of hazardous waste shipments, has struggled to gain traction in its first year. Now, user fees are set to spike next month, and service providers are raising concerns about the initiative’s progress.”

“While the industry still supports moving toward fully electronic submissions by June 30, 2021, and backed the law that created this system in 2012, some of its largest users and their trade associations are increasingly frustrated with how the e-Manifest system has developed.”


Why have hazmat generators been slow to adopt the e-manifest?

According to some interested parties, because the EPA designed the e-manifest system with its own needs in mind, not those of its “customers.” Consequently, the system doesn’t play nice with hazmat generators’ internal software vis-à-vis billing, transport, and handling. Instead, it’s largely a parallel intrusion that merely verifies the location of a hazardous waste once it reaches the final treatment, storage, and/or disposal facility.

According to one industry executive, Wade Scheel, also quoted in a Waste Dive article:

“We and other industry representatives are very challenged in getting to the fully electronic version because that would take technology that interacts and engages with the EPA’s system.” 

“Instead of finding a way to get our system to interact with that database, where all of the data lives (sic), they built their own system that we are not going to use because that would take us doing double the work.”

In response, an unnamed EPA spokesman countered that “nearly 80 percent” of all manifest data currently being submitted “comes directly from integrated system-to-system data exchanges,” (implying there’s no issue), while simultaneously assuring the readership that the agency is “continuing to work on this issue” (allowing that one exists).


So what are the new fees?

New rates took effect last October. Overall increases of 56 percent are generally meant to cover overestimates about how many generators would eagerly sign on to the system by now, and specifically to discourage snail-mailed submissions before June 30th.

Mailed paper-n-pencil submissions went from $15 to  $25 (+60%). Electronic submissions went from $5.00 to $8.00 (+62%). And the cost for image + data submissions, which is about 75 percent of the total, goes from $6.50 to $14.00 (46%).  


How to submit an e-manifest

You can check this webpage for the latest about how to file an e-manifest. The EPA accepts four types of manifest submissions, which fall into two categories: electronic and paper. 

  1. Fully-electronic manifests are created within the e-manifest system and electronically signed by all handlers, at which point it’s considered complete.
  2. Hybrid manifests are also created within the e-manifest system, but generators and transporters access them from the system to print & sign them. Initial transporter, any subsequent transporter, and the receiving facility can sign electronically. The hybrid manifest is considered complete when the receiving facility electronically signs it.
  3. Data + Image manifests begin with a paper-n-pencil form, which gets signed by all handlers. The receiving facility uploads a data file along with a scanned image of the printed manifest’s top copy and electronically signs it.
  4. Scanned Image manifests likewise begin with a paper-n-pencil form, which gets signed by all handlers. The receiving facility uploads a scanned image of the manifest electronically sign it and then uploads it to the EPA.

Bear in mind you need to register with the EPA for the privilege of filing any kind of these, which you can do on a different webpage, here.


Sound complicated?

It is. And as in all things regarding the EPA, expert advice is crucial. You can get some here

And thank you for reading our blog!

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.