The first step in the waste identification process – assuming you’ve already identified the material as a waste – is to determine if it is a solid waste as defined at 40 CFR 261.2.  Once identified it is the responsibility of the generator of the solid waste to determine if it is a hazardous waste.  If it is not excluded from regulation pursuant to 40 CFR 261.4then it likely is a hazardous waste.  A hazardous waste may be a listed hazardous waste per 40 CFR 261, Subpart Dand it may also be a characteristic hazardous waste.  A characteristic hazardous waste determination must be made by the generator by one of two methods:

  • Test the waste by a method specified in 40 CFR 261, Subpart C, such as flash point, pH, or toxicity.
  • Apply “Generator Knowledge” of the material based on its chemical composition (refer to the MSDS) or the process of generation.

The above description is far too brief for a process as complicated and important as a generator’s waste determination.  However, the process itself is not the point of this article and that quick synopsis allowed me to jump to what is the point:  One of the four hazardous waste characteristics – REACTIVITY.  Reactivity (waste code D003) joins three other characteristic hazardous wastes:

  • D001 – Ignitability
  • D002 – Corrosive
  • D004 to D043 – Toxicity

Reactive hazardous waste is unique among the characteristic hazardous wastes in that it lacks an approved test method to aid you in determination.  You must rely on your knowledge of the waste and the processes of generation.  Some definitions from other regulatory agencies may assist you in this determination, more on this later.

A reactive hazardous waste is identified in 40 CFR 261.23.  It is a solid waste that is not excluded at 40 CFR 261.4and it displays any of the following:

  1. It is normally unstable and readily undergoes violent change without detonating.
  2. It reacts violently with water.
  3. It forms potentially explosive mixtures with water.
  4. When mixed with water, it generates toxic gases, vapors or fumes in a quantity sufficient to present a danger to human health or the environment.
  5. It is a cyanide or sulfide bearing waste which, when exposed to pH conditions between 2 and 12.5, can generate toxic gases, vapors or fumes in a quantity sufficient to present a danger to human health or the environment.
  6. It is capable of detonation or explosive reaction if it is subjected to a strong initiating source or if heated under confinement.
  7. It is readily capable of detonation or explosive decomposition or reaction at standard temperature and pressure.
  8. It is a forbidden explosive as defined in 49 CFR 173.54, or is a Division 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3 explosive as defined in 49 CFR 173.50 and 173.53.

A reactive hazardous waste can include:

  • Cyanide-bearing electroplating solutions.
  • Lithium batteries – It may be best to manage fully-charged lithium batteries as a universal waste.
  • Sodium metal.
  • White and yellow phosphorus.
  • Aerosol cans if not destined for recycling or “RCRA Empty” per 40 CFR 261.7(b)(2).

I intend to devote an article to the last bullet point of the above at a later date.  For now, I suggest you do everything possible to completely empty aerosol cans for their intended use.  You may also wish to consider the purchase of an aerosol can puncture device.  Or, manage your aerosol cans as a D003 hazardous waste.

Lastly, as I wrote earlier, though US EPA doesn’t provide much guidance as to what a reactive hazardous waste may be, other agencies, notably OSHA and the US DOT have some regulatory definitions that you may find helpful.  They are:

OSHA @ 29 CFR 1910.1200

  • Pyrophoric chemical
  • Unstable reactive chemical
  • Water-reactive chemical

US DOT @ 49 CFR 173.124

  • Spontaneously combustible material
  • Self-heating material
  • Dangerous when wet

A reactive hazardous waste may be a material like Trinitrotoluene that you are certain will never be found at your facility.  Or, it may be a more common material like a lithium battery or an aerosol can.  Whichever, you are responsible for determining the hazardous waste characteristics – or lack of- for all of your waste.  This completed, you must then determine the quantity of hazardous waste you generate and from that, your hazardous waste generator status.  Your regulatory requirements as a generator of hazardous waste are determined by your status:  Large Quantity Generator, Small Quantity Generator, or Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator.

I cover all this, and a lot more in the four hour morning session of my 1 day training events.  These four hours meet the US EPA training requirements for hazardous waste personnel found at 40 CFR 265.16.  The four hours of the afternoon are dedicated to fulfilling the training requirements for DOT HazMat Employees found at 49 CFR 172, Subpart H.  Click here to see if there is a date and location convenient to you.

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