Test Page Title

Regulatory Areas

Hazardous Waste
Hazardous Waste Universal Waste RCRA Generator Status Manifests
Almost all retail stores – including grocery stores, home improvement stores, convenience stores, and drug stores – may produce hazardous waste. Returned or expired chemicals, spilled cleaning products like bleach, damaged aerosol cans, and even used florescent bulbs may need to be managed as hazardous waste. Even though you may generate only a small volume of hazardous waste, the fines for hazardous waste noncompliance can still add up.

This area covers the proper management and disposal or recycling of Hazardous and Universal wastes. Hazardous wastes include any waste that can be dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, or contained gases that have properties, such as being toxic or flammable. Typical examples of hazardous wastes that a retail facility might generate include batteries, mercury-containing equipment, returned or damaged products like pesticides, some cleaning products and some cosmetics, aerosol cans, and cleaning materials such as solvent rags or concentrated cleaners. Some expired pharmaceuticals may also be considered hazardous waste, and are discussed in the CRC Pharmacy Department page.

Compliance Considerations

At the federal level, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) ​governs the management of hazardous wastes. RCRA does not provide a single list of all hazardous wastes. It lists some specific wastes that are hazardous and also provides guidance on how to identify "characteristic" hazardous wastes. The majority of  hazardous wastes generated at a retail location are likely to fall into three categories under RCRA. The first being what are called characteristic wastes and include materials which are corrosive, ignitable, toxic, or reactive. The remainder would generally be what are called "P-listed" and "U-listed" (discarded commercial chemical products) waste. The P and U lists include specific commercial chemical products in an unused form, including some pesticides and some pharmaceutical products. P- and U-list wastes are specifically listed in the regulations.

Many states are authorized to implement the RCRA program. Notably, state regulations can be more stringent than the federal requirements. The CRC has a matrix showing some of the differences in state programs and one with variations in hazardous waste reporting​ requirements​.

What is a Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous Waste LabelsRCRA hazardous wastes include discarded material (garbage, refuse, some recyclable materials, sludge, or other discarded material including solids, semisolids, liquids, and contained gaseous materials) that pose a significant threat to public health or the environment. Wastes as we discussed previously are defined as hazardous by EPA if they are specifically named on one of the four lists of hazardous wastes or if they exhibit one of four characteristics (characteristic wastes). State regulations may designate additional hazardous waste characteristics or lists of hazardous wastes.


Universal Waste

Fluorescent Bulbs

Universal waste is a subcategory of hazardous waste. At the federal level, universal waste includes: batteries, some recalled and unused pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g., thermostats), and lamps (e.g., fluorescent bulbs). EPA allows facilities to manage these waste streams as universal instead of hazardous to make the process easier. For example, a facility does not have to include the universal waste weight when determining their hazardous waste generator status (discussed below), and is allowed to store universal waste onsite for up to one year. A summary of the federal regulations for each universal waste category is found below:

  • ​Batteries
  • Some used and recalled pesticides
  • Mercury-containing equipment 
  • Light bulbs (lamps)

States may impose additional requirements on these wastes (except for some battery types designated under federal law) and may also allow other types of hazardous wastes to be managed under that state's universal waste regulations. EPA has information on state universal waste regulations.

Hazardous Waste Determinations

All facilities should know what is commonly in their waste and recycling. Before disposing or recycling of something that might be hazardous, a waste determination should be made. (Remember, many common household products may become hazardous waste.) There are many ways to complete waste determinations, including generator knowledge (e.g., based on Safety Data Sheets (SDS) or experience), analytical testing for one of the four characteristics, or a review of the lists of hazardous wastes.  Your state may also have additional characteristic or listed hazardous wastes. Be sure to consult your state's environmental protection webpage when making a determination.

Once you have determined if your waste is hazardous, you can check to see if it has been excluded or exempted​. For example, EPA exempts alcoholic beverages that have less than 24% alcohol by volume from the hazardous waste rules. Additionally, many types of solvent rags have been given an exemption as long as certain conditions are met. EPA has a waste determinations guide and a Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) Decision Tool.

Hazardous Waste Generators

Once you have determined that your facility generates hazardous waste, you need to know how much hazardous waste is generated and the frequency. At the federal level, Hazardous Waste Generators are divided into three categories based upon the quantity of waste. Your state may have different or additional categories. The federal categories are:

  1. ​Large Q​uantity Generators (LQGs) generate 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste, more than 1 kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste, or more than 100 kilograms per month of acute spill residue or soil.
  2. Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) generate more than 100 kilograms, but less than 1,000 kilograms, of hazardous waste per month.
  3. Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs) generate 100 kilograms or less per month of hazardous waste, or 1 kilogram or less per month of acutely hazardous waste, or less than 100 kilograms per month of acute spill residue or soil.

Each class of generator must comply with its own set of requirements (which include the level of required training, waste accumulation time limits, storage requirements, and manifest requirements). SQGs and LQGs must also submit a Notification of RCRA Subtitle C Activity- Instructions and Form (Form 8700-12)​  to the EPA and state to obtain an EPA ID number. For more information on these requirements, see the EPA Generator Summary Chart.

Additionally, most states are authorized to implement the RCRA program and can have categories of hazardous waste generators that are different from the federal categories, see the State Differences in Hazardous Waste Generation Quantity Map.​

Hazardous Waste Generator Requirements

The EPA has Guidance on federal requirements for each generator size. In general, this includes ensuring that the waste is stored in compatible containers, is properly labeled with the words "hazardous waste" and the name of the waste, and that there is adequate space to ensure containers can be inspected. There are also additional inspection, training, record keeping, and reporting requirements depending on your generator status. In general, the lower your generator status the fewer requirements. States may also impose different obligations on generators for training, accumulation, reporting, and other requirements for managing hazardous waste.

Hazardous Waste Manifests and Shipping

All hazardous waste shipments initiated by LQGs and SQGs must have a manifest. For SQGs and LQGs, all personnel signing the hazardous waste manifests must be trained before they can sign manifests and need a refresher every three years. Before signing, you should check the information entered on the manifest to ensure that it is accurate and complies with the applicable DOT regulations. When signing a hazardous waste manifest, you certify that the materials listed on the manifest are properly classified, described, packaged, marked,​ and labeled, and are in proper condition for transportation according to DOT regulations. You are responsible for ensuring the hazardous waste transporter/hauler has an EPA ID Number and that the waste reaches the destination facility.  Some states may impose additional requirements for hazardous waste transporters and/or require hazardous waste manifests for VSQGs.

Sustainability and Reducing Compliance Risk

Because RCRA is a complex regulation with potentially significant risks, understanding the regulations and developing a strong compliance program can reduce your regulatory risk.

In addition, reducing the amount of hazardous waste generated can reduce regulatory requirements, thus making compliance easier and less expensive. Hazardous waste can be reduced by reducing the amount of waste (fewer returned items, changing processes to reduce waste generated) or reducing materials that are considered hazardous if they become a waste (using cleaning products that are not hazardous and selecting merchandise that will not become a hazardous waste).

Hazardous Waste Minimization – options for lower toxicity and persistence of chemicals

Waste Management Hierarchy – reducing waste streams reduces disposal costs for facilities ​​

Look here for retail-specific information on environmental regulations by regulatory area. If you don’t know which areas apply, use the store department search function.

Last Update: 4/6/2015 12:00:00 AM