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What is a Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous Waste Storage Area Image

General Description

Hazardous wastes are defined and regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, known as RCRA ("Rick-Rah"). RCRA regulates hazardous wastes from the instant a hazardous waste is generated until the waste is ultimately destroyed. This "Cradle to Grave" authority includes hazardous waste generators, transporters, and disposal facilities.

In addition, EPA has issued guidance clarifying whether or not specific wastes are considered hazardous wastes. Categories include: byproducts; batteries; mercury-containing items; miscellaneous items such as aerosol cans, antifreeze, paint wastes, pesticide rinse water, pharmaceutical wastes, and used refrigerants; and petroleum wastes.

Summary of Federal Requirements

Use the following flowchart to guide you through the process of determining whether the material you have is Federally classified as hazardous waste.

Summary of State Requirements

States may identify waste streams as hazardous waste even when they are not identified as such Federally. This rarely happens.

State-by-state guidance concerning hazardous waste can be found at ENVCAP's Hazardous Waste Resource Locator.

Laws and Statutes

The Resources Conservation and Recovery Act, Subtitle C

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Regulatory Sources
40 CFR 260
Hazardous Waste Management System: General

40 CFR 262
Standards Applicable to Generators of Hazardous Waste

40 CFR 264
Standards for Owners and Operators of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities

40 CFR 265
Interim Status Standards for Owners and Operators of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities

40 CFR 266
Standards for the Management of Specific Hazardous Wastes and Specific Types of Hazardous Waste Management Facilities

40 CFR 268
Land Disposal Restrictions

40 CFR 270
EPA Administered Programs: The Hazardous Waste Permit Program

State Hazardous Waste Guidance
State-by-State information on hazardous waste.

RCRA Online

State RCRA Contacts

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Last Updated: July 05, 2017