Frequent Questions

I would like to open a facility that disposes of or recycles universal waste and nonhazardous waste. What do I need to do to be permitted to do this?

Regulations governing the management of nonhazardous waste are developed and administered the state.  Questions regarding permitting and opening a facility to dispose of or recycle nonhazardous waste should be directed to the state.  RCRA Section 4001 encourages environmentally sound solid waste management practices that maximize the reuse of recoverable material and foster resource recover.  Unlike regulations addressing hazardous waste management, EPA has not promulgated regulations dictating how solid wastes should be managed.  Instead, solid waste is primarily regulated by states and municipalities and managed on the local level.  The only exceptions are the 40 CFR Part 257 federal solid waste disposal criteria for nonhazardous, nonmunicipal landfills, and the Part 258 municipal solid waste disposal facility criteria.

Section 4005(c)(1) of the hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1986 requires States to develop and implement permit programs or other systems of prior approval for facilities which receive household hazardous waste and hazardous waste from small quantity generators.

If this facility will be disposing of or recycling universal waste, then this type of destination facility is regulated under the universal waste program in 40 CFR part 273, Subpart E.  A destination facility treats, disposes of or recycles universal waste.  In general, a destination facility is subject to full hazardous waste regulations as a treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF), including permitting, general facility standards, and unit-specific standards.  Destination facilities that recycle universal waste without any prior storage are subject to regulation in Section 261.6(c)(2).  

Standards for destination facilities found in 40 CFR Section 273.60 indicate which of the full hazardous waste regulations destination facilities must follow.  These are the same full hazardous waste regulations these facilities would be subject to if they were handling non-universal hazardous waste.  Specifically, facilities that treat, dispose of, and recycle universal waste, except for those activities described in paragraphs (a) and (c) of Sections 273.13 and 273.33, are subject to the permitting or interim status requirements of 40 CFR Parts 264 or 265.  Facilities that recycle universal waste without accumulating the waste before it is recycled are subject to the recycling requirements of 40 CFR Section 261.6(c)(2).

Recycling facilities are excluded from the definition of universal waste "handlers".  See 40 CFR Section 273.6.  They are subject to normal hazardous waste management requirements.  Under those requirements, storage prior to recycling is regulated and requires a permit.

References:  Territorial Environmental Commissioners, February 22, 1988 (RCRA Online #13141)
Training Module: Introduction to Universal Waste (40 CFR Parts 273) [PDF File, 234 KB] [EPA530-K-05-019]
60 FR 25492, 25501, May 11, 1995 
Universal Waste Web Site
40 CFR 261.6(c)(1)
Memo, Shapiro to Senior RCRA Policy Managers Regions I-X, February 13, 1997 (RCRA Online #14088)

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