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EPA Issued Proposed Rule to Add Hazardous Waste Aerosol Cans to Universal Wastes Regulated under RCRA
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By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham

On March 6, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule (pre-publication version available here) to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the category of universal wastes regulated under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations (Title 40 of the C.F.R., Part 273), entitled Increasing Recycling: Adding Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste Regulations.  EPA cites as authority for this change Sections 2002(a), 3001, 3002, 3004, and 3006 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by RCRA, as amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Act (HSWA).  EPA states the streamlined Universal Waste regulations are expected to:

  • Ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and other establishments that discard aerosol cans by providing a clean, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans;
  • Promote the collection and recycling of aerosol cans;
  • Encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors; and
  • Result in an annual cost savings of $3.0 million to $63.3 million.

As aerosol cans are “widely used for dispensing a broad range of products” including pesticides, the proposed rule may have implications for chemical companies that create and distribute pesticide products marketed in aerosol cans.  Hazardous waste aerosol cans that contain pesticides are also subject to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements, including compliance with the instructions on the product label.  Under 40 C.F.R. Section 156.78, a flammability label statement is required for pressurized pesticide product products that states “Do not puncture or incinerate container,” but EPA’s 2004 determination (that will be posted to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0463 on for this proposed rule) allows for the puncturing of cans.  The proposed rule states:

  • EPA issued a determination that puncturing aerosol pesticide containers is consistent with the purposes of FIFRA and is therefore lawful pursuant to FIFRA section 2(ee)(6) provided that the following conditions are met:  
    • The puncturing of the container is performed by a person who, as a general part of his or her profession, performs recycling and/or disposal activities;
    • The puncturing is conducted using a device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the residual contents and any emissions thereof; and
    • The puncturing, waste collection, and disposal, are conducted in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local waste (solid and hazardous waste) and occupational safety and health laws and regulations.
  • EPA anticipates that this 2004 FIFRA determination would not be affected by the proposed addition of hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste rules.

Comments will be due 60 days after the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register.