What is the RCRA?

In the mid 70’s, our country had a waste disposal problem. Landfills were piling up, water supplies were being contaminated, and natural resources were depleted greatly on a daily basis.

In response to these increasing problems, the United States government and the EPA passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in 1976.

Since that day, the RCRA has been the source of waste regulation in America. It has evolved over time to more effectively keep people and the environment safe from harmful wastes.

Using The RCRA To Dispose Of “Solid Hazardous Waste”

As a federal law, the EPA uses the RCRA to create a framework for individuals and larger entities, like businesses and corporations, to properly handle and dispose of their solid wastes.

Almost anything you do produces a waste, like how breathing oxygen produces carbon dioxide. Because of that, the RCRA regulates the disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes.

We already have a blog post detailing what counts as a hazardous waste, but that leaves the question:

What counts as a solid waste?

The EPA defines a solid waste as:

“any garbage or refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material.”

While there are more particulars, essentially any material discarded by industrial and community activities is considered a solid waste.

This definition is not exclusive to physically solid material, though. It also includes wastes that are liquid, semi-liquid and contain gaseous material.

If a solid waste fully meets these requirements, it must be discarded. The EPA lists the following criteria for waste that is discarded to be considered a “solid waste”.

  • Abandoned: Any material that is “thrown away”, as in disposed of, burned, incinerated, or sham recycled.
  • Inherently waste-like: Materials that are so harmful to human health, they are always considered solid wastes. A good example is any material containing certain carbon-dioxide wastes.
  • Discarded military munition: All ammunition products and components produced by and used by the U.S. Military. If these products are abandoned or declared a waste by a military official, then they fit into this category.
  • Recycled in certain ways: Any material that is used, reused, reclaimed, or used in a particular way, like burned for energy recovery.

If a waste does not meet these criteria, then it is not considered a solid waste and does not fall into the federal law.

Creating the Framework

RCRA not only defines solid wastes and whether or not they are hazardous, but it also contains guidelines for how to handle and properly dispose of these materials.

Using the framework detailed in the RCRA, the EPA implemented a slew of regulations to ensure that solid wastes are handled with care from “cradle to grave”.

This means that the regulations dictate how solid waste is taken care of from the moment of generation to how it’s transported, all the way to when it’s disposed of.

These regulations are strictly enforced by the EPA. They affect the larger generators of waste, like power supply companies and corporations. They also affect companies and vehicles that transport these solid wastes.

By creating safe designs, indicating proper materials, and further defining what counts and what doesn’t, RCRA laws ensure these wastes are contained.

Finally, they extend to how facilities dispose of these wastes by recycling them. By being so thorough in their rules and adding amendments every few years, the RCRA ensures that these solid wastes do not affect the larger population and environment.

How to Follow The RCRA Rules

RCRA regulations are always changing with amendments so it can be difficult to stay up to date. It’s important to educate yourself further with the EPA’s website, since they are the ones who actually regulate and implement the guidelines detailed in the RCRA.

At Environmental Hazards Services, we are dedicated to following EPA regulations, including the safety protocols listed in the RCRA. For disposing of RCRA hazardous wastes, it is vital to consult with a certified laboratory.

If you have any questions about the identification of RCRA wastes, please feel free to contact us!