Frequent Questions

How must a business manage lead-acid batteries intended for recycling or disposal?

Businesses subject to the RCRA hazardous waste regulations may choose from three options for managing hazardous waste spent lead-acid batteries. They may manage the batteries under:

1. The streamlined standards specifically for lead-acid batteries found in 40 CFR 266 Subpart G,
2. The streamlined Universal Wastes standards for all hazardous waste batteries found in 40 CFR Part 273, or
3. The full Subtitle C hazardous waste management regulations found in 40 CFR Parts 262 - 264, 268, and 270

The first option, the streamlined lead-acid battery standards of 40 CFR Part 266, generally exempt persons who generate, transport, or collect spent lead-acid batteries destined for reclamation from the majority of hazardous waste regulations. Persons who store spent lead-acid batteries before reclaiming them must notify EPA and obtain a RCRA permit for that storage. Lead-acid batteries that are regenerated rather than reclaimed remain exempt from the hazardous waste regulations throughout the management cycle.

The following memoranda provide additional clarification on the management of lead-acid batteries pursuant to Part 266:

Monthly Call Center Report Question; May 1996 (RCRA Online #13783 )
Memo, Shapiro to McHenry; December 23, 1993 (RCRA Online #11947 )
Memo, Lowrance to Beaudoin; November 17, 1989 (RCRA Online #13339 )
Memo, Abrams to Williams; October 19, 1989 (RCRA Online #11476 )
Memo, Cochran to Norman; November 28, 1988 (RCRA Online #11383 )
Memo, Straus to Bello; June 24, 1987 (RCRA Online #11258 )
Memo, Porter to Gaydos; April 17, 1987 (RCRA Online #12910 )
Memo, Porter to Marlenee; February 19, 1987 (RCRA Online #12858 )
Memo, Porter to Helms; February 12, 1987 (RCRA Online #12856 )
Monthly Call Center Report Question; January 1987 (RCRA Online #12836 )
Memo, Porter to Martin; July 11, 1986 (RCRA Online #12688 )
Memo, Porter to Sappington; February 6, 1986 (RCRA Online #12557 )
Memo, Straus to Licht; December 18, 1985 (RCRA Online #11117 )

The second option, the streamlined Universal Waste standards of 40 CFR Part 273, apply to any type of hazardous waste batteries, including spent lead-acid batteries. The Universal Waste rule is designed to reduce the amount of hazardous waste items in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream, encourage recycling and proper disposal of certain common hazardous wastes, and reduce the regulatory burden on businesses that generate these wastes. It offers streamlined regulations for designated universal wastes, including batteries, mercury-containing equipment, hazardous waste pesticides, and hazardous waste lamps. You can access the Universal Waste Web site to examine information about the program and download resources about battery management:  http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/universal/index.htm

Additional information on the management of batteries as universal waste is available in the following frequently asked question: 
What types of batteries can be managed as universal waste in accordance with Part273?

Finally, the third option is to manage lead-acid batteries under the full RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste management regulations found in 40 CFR Parts 262 - 265, 268, and 270. Generators of spent-lead acid batteries who chose this option would comply with the generator standards in 40 CFR Part 262.Finally, the third option is to manage lead-acid batteries under the full RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste management regulations found in 40 CFR Parts 262 - 265, 268, and 270. Generators of spent-lead acid batteries who chose this option would comply with the generator standards in 40 CFR Part 262.

Please note that the preceding is an explanation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste regulations. In general, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorizes states to implement the RCRA hazardous waste program. States promulgate their own hazardous waste regulations and an authorized state's regulations are applicable within the state in lieu of the federal regulations. In addition, states' regulations may be more stringent and/or broader in scope than the federal regulations. Thus, you should check with the appropriate state agency, or if the state is not authorized, the EPA regional office, to determine the requirements applicable to your activities.  State web sites are located at the following URL:   http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/wyl/stateprograms.htm

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