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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