Hazardous Waste Determination

Last updated on September 29, 2021

One of the most important, but often misunderstood parts of the hazardous waste (HW) regulations is the “Hazardous Waste Determination” that must be made by HW generators. As it is misunderstood, it is typically not done correctly. From different agency analyses, generators consistently fail to make an accurate hazardous waste determination, leading to the mismanagement of hazardous waste.

  • Non-compliance rates range from 10 to 30 percent.
  • Reasons vary from not understanding RCRA to not even being aware of RCRA.

Making an accurate hazardous waste determination reduces the Domino Effect. That is, hazardous waste most likely will be managed safely from “cradle to grave” when the correct determinations are made by the generator.

Based on this new final rule per § 262.11(a), the hazardous waste determination for each solid waste must be made

  • at the point of waste generation,
  • before any dilution, mixing, or other alteration of the waste occurs, and
  • at any time in the course of its management that it has, or may have, changed its properties as a result of exposure to the environment or other factors that may change the properties of the waste such that the RCRA classification of the waste may change.

The third criteria, starting with the phrase, “At any time in the course of its management…” is new to the waste determination definition. Why has the phrase been added, you may ask?  The EPA added this phrase to make certain that the generator “intimately” knows the waste that has been produced. The generator needs to understand the chemistry and chemical properties of their waste.

If the waste is not excluded under 40 CFR 261.4, the person must then use knowledge of the waste to determine if the waste meets any of the listing and/or characteristic criteria defined by the EPA in CFR 261. Acceptable generator knowledge that may be used in making an accurate determination as to whether the waste is a hazardous waste may include:

  • waste origin,
  • composition,
  • the process producing the waste,
  • feedstock, and
  • other reliable and relevant information.

When available knowledge is inadequate to make an accurate determination, the person must test the waste according to the applicable methods set forth in subpart C of 40 CFR part 261 or according to an equivalent method approved by the EPA. Generators may also take conservative approach and manage non-HW as HW if they so choose.

Still have questions about managing your hazardous waste?  Call 800.772.5657 to learn how Sharps Compliance can help you out.

Joe Jordan has a Bachelors of Arts degree in Chemistry from Washington and Jefferson College. He is certified in RCRA and DOT as well as 40 Hour HAZWOPER certified. Joe has been in the hazardous waste industry since 1990 and has managed industrial, healthcare, retail, and governmental clients, both large and small.

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