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Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (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 regulates the management of solid waste (e.g., municipal waste) and hazardous waste as well as other sources of pollution. There are separate sections of RCRA that deal with hazardous (Subtitle C) and non-hazardous wastes (Subtitle D).

  • RCRA Subtitle D The RCRA Subtitle D regulations establish standards and guidelines for solid waste collection and disposal programs, and recycling programs. The regulations also establish criteria for design, operation, maintenance and closure for municipal solid waste landfills. Finally, the regulations establish requirements for thermal processing (incineration) and resource recovery facilities. RCRA Subtitle D focuses on state and local governments as the primary planning, regulating, and implementing entities for the management of non-hazardous solid waste, such as household garbage and non-hazardous industrial solid waste. EPA provides these state and local agencies with information, guidance, policy and regulations through workshops and publications to help states and the regulated community make better decisions in dealing with waste issues, to reap the environmental and economic benefits of source reduction and recycling of solid wastes, and to require upgrading or closure of all environmentally unsound disposal units. In order to promote the use of safer units for solid waste disposal, EPA developed federal criteria for the proper design and operation of municipal solid waste landfills (MSWLFs) and other solid waste disposal facilities. Many states have adopted these criteria into their solid waste programs.
  • RCRA Subtitle C. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C establishes a federal program to manage hazardous wastes from cradle to grave. The objective of the Subtitle C program is to ensure that hazardous waste is handled in a manner that protects human health and the environment. To this end, there are Subtitle C regulations for the generation; transportation; and treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous wastes.

Although RCRA is a Federal statute, many States implement the RCRA program. Currently, EPA has delegated its authority to implement various provisions of RCRA to 47 of the 50 States (delegation has not been given to Alaska, Hawaii, or Iowa).

The following are applicable federal regulations developed pursuant to RCRA:

Identification of Solid and Hazardous Wastes (40 CFR Part 261) lays out the procedure every generator must follow to determine whether the material in question is considered a hazardous waste, solid waste, or is exempted from regulation.

Standards for Generators of Hazardous Waste (40 CFR Part 262) establishes the responsibilities of hazardous waste generators including obtaining an EPA ID number, preparing a manifest, ensuring proper packaging and labeling, meeting standards for waste accumulation units, and recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Providing they meet additional requirements described in 40 CFR 262.34, generators may accumulate hazardous waste for up to 90 days (or 180 or 270 days depending on the amount of waste generated and the distance the waste will be transported. Because waste generated in another county, such as Canada, cannot be tracked until it enters the U.S., the generator of imported waste is considered by U.S. EPA to be the "importer." This is an important distinction because the importer must therefore meet all the rules applicable to waste generators. Also, see: Imports of Hazardous Waste, 40 CFR 262.60.

Standards for Transporters of Hazardous Waste (40 CFR Part 263) establishes the responsibilities of hazardous waste transporters including obtaining an EPA ID number, completing portions of the hazardous waste manifest, proper placarding, and spill clean-up and reporting.

Land Disposal Restrictions (LDRs) (40 CFR Part 268) are regulations prohibiting the disposal of hazardous waste on land without prior treatment. Under the LDRs program, materials must meet LDR treatment standards prior to placement in a RCRA land disposal unit (landfill, land treatment unit, waste pile, or surface impoundment). Generators of waste subject to the LDRs must provide notification of such to the designated Treatment/Storage/Disposal (TSD) facility to ensure proper treatment prior to disposal.

EPA Hazardous Waste Information. This resource provides useful information that can help you determine if a waste is hazardous and it provides a good overview of regulations for generators, transporters, and treatment, storage, disposal facilities. It also has links to many more useful resources.

EPA Municipal Solid Waste Information. This resource provides useful information regarding the regulation of municipal solid waste (MSW). It also covers numerous topics such as MSW management, pollution prevention, recycling, used oil disposal, etc. Also, there are links to numerous EPA publications.



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