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hazardous waste landfill questions and answers

Frequently Asked Questions About Waste 
Trash, Hazardous Waste, Chemical, etc.

bulletWhat is RCRA?  bulletWhat is Superfund (or CERCLA) bulletWhat is regulated under RCRA? bulletWhat is a RCRA hazardous waste? bulletWhat is a RCRA solid waste? bulletWho is regulated by the RCRA hazardous waste program? and... Who is regulated by the RCRA municipal solid waste program? bulletCan anyone handle RCRA hazardous waste? bulletDo citizens have any control over the construction of a waste facility in their community? bulletHow can I report environmental problems with waste management? bulletHow much hazardous waste is generated each year in the United States? bulletHow much municipal solid waste is generated each year in the United States? bulletWhat types of businesses generate hazardous waste? bulletHow should household hazardous waste (e.g.,paint, paint thinner, batteries, used oil) be disposed? bulletWho regulates landfills that accept municipal garbage? Can these municipal landfills accept hazardous waste? bulletRCRA Orientation Manual bulletWhere can I get answers to more questions about RCRA?

What is RCRA?
RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1976. RCRA's primary goals are to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, to conserve energy and natural resources, to reduce the amount of waste generated, and to ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner. RCRA mandated regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at Title 40 (40 CFR), Parts 260 through 280.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), addresses a problem of enormous magnitude--how to safely manage and dispose of huge amounts of waste generated nationwide. RCRA, which was passed in 1976, is an amendment to the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1956. Revisions to RCRA were last made in 1984 as more information has became available about the amount and types of waste we generate.

The 1984 amendments are referred to as the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA). RCRA is divided into four distinct yet interrelatedUnderground Storage Tanks programs. Subtitle C (hazardous waste) and Subtitle D (solid, primarily nonhazardous, waste) set forth a framework for the U.S. EPA’sSyringe comprehensive waste management programs. RCRA also regulates underground storage tanks (USTs) under Subtitle I and medical waste under Subtitle J.

The hazardous waste regulatory program may be run by either the EPA or a state agency. RCRA encourages states to assume primary responsibility for the implementation of RCRA regulations, instead of EPA. States must develop a hazardous waste program that is at least as stringent as the EPA so that minimum standards are met nationwide while giving states the flexibility to implement a more stringent or broader program.

What is Superfund or CERCLA?

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), referred to as Superfund is a related statute that deals with cleaning up inactive and abandoned hazardous waste sites. RCRA, on the other hand, deals with materials that are currently destined for disposal or recycling.  For more information see our Superfund Page

 What is regulated under RCRA?
RCRA regulates the management of "solid" waste (e.g., garbage - it can be solid, liquid or gas - it's just called "solid waste"), hazardous waste, and underground storage tanks holding petroleum products or certain chemicals.

What is a RCRA hazardous waste?
Wastes that exhibit certain characteristics may be regulated by RCRA (see 40 CRF Part 261). A waste may be considered hazardous if it is ignitable (i.e., burns readily), corrosive, or reactive (e.g., explosive). Waste may also be considered hazardous if it contains certain amounts of specifically regulated toxic chemicals. In addition to these characteristic wastes, EPA has also developed a list of over 500 specific hazardous wastes. Hazardous waste takes many physical forms and may be solid, semi-solid, or even liquid.

What is a RCRA solid waste?
According to the EPA regulations, solid waste means any garbage, or refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semi- solid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities.

Who is regulated by the RCRA hazardous waste program? and... Who is regulated by the RCRA municipal solid waste program?
The RCRA hazardous waste program regulates commercial businesses as well as federal, state and local government facilities that generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste. Each of these entities is regulated to ensure proper management of hazardous waste from the moment it is generated until its ultimate disposal or destruction. The RCRA municipal solid waste program regulates owners and operators of municipal solid waste landfills. The regulations stipulate minimum criteria that each landfill must meet in order to continue operating.

Can anyone or any company handle RCRA hazardous waste?
No. Handlers of hazardous waste must meet certain regulatory requirements. Generators and transporters must have government issued identification numbers, and comply with other regulations regarding the handling of hazardous waste. Treatment, storage and disposal facilities must meet even more stringent requirements, and must have a permit to operate.

Do citizens have any control over the construction of a waste facility in their community?
The RCRA regulations require public participation, such as public meetings, throughout the permitting process for new hazardous and solid waste treatment, storage, or disposal facilities. Public participation provides citizens with a forum to express their concerns over the construction of a new facility.

How can I report environmental problems with waste management?
The public may discuss environmental problems and concerns over waste management with their local or state government waste management division. Another resource for solid and hazardous waste issues is your EPA Regional office.

How much hazardous waste is generated each year in the United States?
In 1995, nearly 20,000 hazardous waste generators produced 279 million tons of hazardous waste regulated by RCRA.

How much municipal solid waste is generated each year in the United States?
In 1995, approximately 208 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated in the United States. This means each person generated an average of 4.3 pounds of solid waste per day.

What types of businesses generate hazardous waste?
Many types of businesses generate hazardous waste. Some are small companies that may be located in your community. For example, the following types of businesses typically generate hazardous waste: dry cleaners, auto repair shops, hospitals, exterminators, and photo processing centers. Some hazardous waste generators are larger companies like chemical manufacturers, electroplating companies, and petroleum refineries.

How should household hazardous waste (e.g., paint, paint thinner, batteries, used oil) be disposed?
Hazardous wastes that are generated in the home, like mineral spirits and old paint, are not regulated by the federal RCRA program. Many communities provide collection centers or pick-up services for the management of household hazardous waste.

Who regulates landfills that accept municipal garbage? and... Can these municipal landfills accept hazardous waste?
Landfills that collect household garbage are predominately regulated by State and local governments. EPA has, however, established minimum criteria that these landfills must meet in order to stay open. The only hazardous waste that municipal landfills can accept is household hazardous waste and waste that is exempt from hazardous waste regulation.

RCRA Orientation Manual
This manual provides introductory information on solid and hazardous waste management programs under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

RCRA: Reducing Risk from Waste        September, 1997, EPA530-K-97-004
Reducing the risk of hazardous waste

This document provides an overview of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) solid and hazardous waste regulations. It describes the history of RCRA, the role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states, and hazardous waste definitions and management requirements, including the roles of generators, transporters, and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. In addition, it presents information on hazardous waste minimization. It covers municipal and industrial solid waste as well, providing information on reducing, reusing, and recycling, and household hazardous waste.

Adobe Acrobat PDF Files
Part I [749 K] || Part II [901 K] || ASCII Text File [76 K]
En Espaņol [2000 K] || About

Where can I get answers to more questions about RCRA?
Call the
RCRA Hotline at (800) 424-9346 or (703) 412-9810 (from the Washington, DC area). The Hotline is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. eastern time, or click here to go to our list of topics

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