Empty Steel Aerosol Cans as a Reactive Hazardous Waste (D003)

Pursuant to 40 CFR 262.11 it is the responsibility of the generator to determine if the waste they generate is hazardous.  This responsibility applies to empty steel aerosol cans that are likely generated somewhere within your facility (think:  Maintenance).  While your site specific conditions may vary, for the purposes of this article I will make some assumptions about the contents and nature of your empty aerosol cans.  Based on those assumptions, it is possible that empty steel aerosol cans meet the definition of a hazardous waste:

  • D001 for Ignitability – The liquid content residue (if any) and the compressed gas propellant (if any) may separately meet the definition of ignitability.
  • D002 for Corrosivity – The liquid content residue (if any) may meet the definition of corrosivity (eg. oven cleaner).
  • D003 for Reactivity – The aerosol can as an article may meet the definition of reactivity.
  • Doo4 – D043 for Toxicity – The liquid content residue (if any) may meet the definition of toxicity (eg. chlorinated solvents, pesticides).
  • U-Listed or P-Listed – The liquid content residue (if any) may be listed at 40 CFR 261.33.

The MSDS and/or analysis of a representative sample will provide you with the information you need to determine if any of the above hazards are present, except for the D003.  Since D003 is determined entirely by your knowledge of the operation (D003 – The Characteristic Hazardous Waste Code for Reactive Waste) there is not an acceptable test method.  And EPA provides little help:

…we are not at this time able to make a categorical determination as to whether various types of cans that may have contained a wide range of products exhibit the characteristic of reactivity.  It remains the responsibility of the generator of any particular waste to make this determination (see 40 CFR 262.11) [RO 11806].

So, the ball is back in your court.  Luckily for you there are some options available for the management of your empty steel aerosol cans, even if they are a hazardous waste; you can read about Managing Aerosol Cans Under the RCRA Scrap Metal Exemption.

Contact me for a free consultation to determine how best to meet the training requirements of the EPA for Hazardous Waste Personnel (RCRA Training) and those of the DOT for HazMat Employees.


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Daniel Stoehr

I am the owner and sole training provider for Daniels Training Services. I have over twenty years of experience with environmental, health, and safety regulations at the state and Federal level. My past employers include 6+ years with a hazardous waste disposal company where I drove a straight truck transporting hazardous waste. More recently I was employed for 13+ years by Fehr-Graham and Associates, a science and engineering consulting firm where I was exposed to a wide range of EHS regulations at the state and Federal level. Since starting my own company I have provided HazMat Employee and Hazardous Waste Personnel training nationwide at a variety of open enrollment and on-site training events.

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