The EPA’s Standards Applicable To Generators Of Hazardous Waste is a 41,000 word online document outlining what the EPA considers important for entities to know regarding hazardous waste. Even if you memorize these standards, however, your organization could still be exposed to considerable risk in how your hazardous waste is transported, recycled, treated and disposed/destroyed.

The EPA’s Cradle-to-Grave waste management policy spells out clearly that all organizations are responsible for the ultimate destination of their hazardous waste. Although the burden of proof rests upon the waste generator, mechanisms exist to help protect companies from liability. A central component of this process is Certified Product Destruction.

Don’t Rely On The Manifest

While the cargo manifest is an important document, it may not carry all the details contained in a Certificate of Destruction.

The EPA website states:

“All generators must determine if their waste is hazardous and must oversee the ultimate fate of the waste. Furthermore, generators must ensure and fully document that the hazardous waste that they produce is properly identified, managed, and treated prior to recycling or disposal.”

If for some reason your company’s hazardous waste ends up in an unauthorized facility, the manifest might not be enough to protect you from hefty fines, negative publicity or other regulatory sanctions.

Certified Product Destruction is an important ancillary document that provides more detail about the transportation, waste facility destination, as well as a legal statement. This gives hazardous waste generators peace of mind knowing that a reliable environmental services company assumes – in writing – responsibility for hauling waste to a certified facility.

Beyond The EPA

While the EPA sets the national standard on environmental concerns, many other agencies also have a say in the transport and disposal of hazardous waste. Each entity carries their own set of regulations. Some of these organizations include:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates potential employee exposure to hazardous substances.
  • National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concerns itself with workplace products that can impact public health.
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulates the disposal of controlled substances.
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is involved with radioactive substances.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has regulations dealing with transport of hazardous material.
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulates issues around infectious or disease causing waste.

State based agencies must comply with all federal standards, however, additional individual state regulations may exist. Therefore, it’s important to check with the state level equivalent of federal agencies. The EPA website offers this convenient state-by-state guide.

Identifying Hazardous Waste

Any waste is hazardous if it is listed by the EPA as a known hazardous waste or if it meets the criteria defining a hazardous waste. It’s critical for companies to categorize their waste accurately.

On one end of the spectrum, your business may generate waste that is not considered hazardous. However, if you handle this waste as if it were hazardous, you accrue unnecessary costs. On the other hand, improperly disposed of hazardous waste can result in fines of up to $70,000 per day or more. Plus, ignorance of the law does not exempt any organization from regulatory compliance or from having to pay penalties.

The EPA offers these resources for defining and regulating hazardous wastes:

Cradle-to-Grave Responsibility

Congress mandated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to provide understanding surrounding the proper management of hazardous solid waste. Based on RCRA guidelines, the EPA instituted the Cradle-to-Grave policy which means from the time hazardous waste is created – to when it is transported, treated, stored, disposed or destroyed – the generator is held fully responsible. For this reason, we can see why various regulatory agencies are involved (e.g. DOT for transfer issues).

According to the EPA, waste generators must ensure and fully document that their hazardous waste is properly identified, managed, and treated before recycling or disposal. The degree of regulation that applies to each generator depends on the amount of waste that a generator produces.

Outsourcing Expertise

While it’s important to have at least working knowledge of hazardous waste identification and disposal regulation, some companies choose to hire hazardous waste experts in the field. Consultants help determine the nature of an entity’s waste products and the proper manner in which to dispose of them.

Most environmental waste experts can be hired on an ad hoc basis. This means if the company’s waste profile remains stable, occasional audits should be sufficient to stay compliant. Plus, consultants typically remain up to date regarding new regulations or materials added to the hazardous waste list. This way they can keep their clients aware of any new regulations.

Certificate of Destruction

As mentioned earlier, this document represents a key element in compliance with any internal or regulatory standards. The Certificate of Destruction definitively marks the final phase of the Cradle-to-Grave responsibility chain assumed by hazardous waste generators.

Some firms provide a hazardous waste disposal service which includes pick-up, transportation, and disposal giving companies the opportunity to outsource the entire process. These environmental solutions providers can also offer expert advice on determining whether a product is hazardous and how it should be handled. Finally, qualified providers can generate a Certificate of Destruction to verify the final destination of the waste.

Environmental Waste Brokers

Some waste brokers for hazardous waste disposal offer comprehensive services to accompany waste generators, including all relevant procedures and documentation. They may even provide waste management online portals where clients can order services, track jobs and store critical documents such as Certificates of Destruction, all in one place.

It’s not unusual for environmental waste brokers to carry expertise in a wide range of hazardous waste services, such as emergency spill response, environmental remediation, hazardous waste disposal and medical waste disposal.

Need help with the proper identification, transport, disposal and documentation of your hazardous waste? Call PegEx at (800) 936-2311 or click here to send email.

The featured image used in this post is by the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Secondary Waste Transport Center and was posted here on Flickr.