QUESTION: “Can a plastic 55-gallon drum – or any plastic container – be used for the transportation of a flammable liquid hazardous waste?”
ANSWER: Yes. There is nothing in the regulations of the US DOT or US EPA that precludes the general use of a plastic container for the transportation of a flammable liquid hazardous material or hazardous waste. In fact, the applicable regulations refer to plastic drums, jerricans, and boxes as acceptable packagings for the shipment of a flammable liquid. You should check with your State environmental agency or Fire Marshall to learn their requirements.
Selecting a container/packaging for a hazardous waste is important for several reasons; the two most important:
- When the container/packaging is onsite and being used for the accumulation/storage of hazardous waste it is subject to the regulations of the US EPA or authorized State agency.
- When offered for transportation and transported in commerce – assuming the hazardous waste is not treated or disposed onsite – the container/packaging is subject to the regulations of the US DOT.
The US EPA’s regulations for the onsite management of hazardous waste in containers are located at 40 CFR 265, Subpart I referred there from §262.34 they include basic requirements such as the container must be in good condition, compatible with its contents, kept closed when not filling or emptying, inspected, managed to prevent ruptures and leaks, and separated from incompatible waste.
The US DOT’s regulations for the transportation of that same hazardous waste are more descriptive and specific than those of the US EPA without necessarily being more restrictive. This is because the hazardous waste will now leave your property and begin a journey of unknown duration and distance until it reaches its designated facility. It is important that you are aware of the applicable regulations of the US DOT when selecting a container for the accumulation of your hazardous waste (the selection of the container for a hazardous material or a hazardous waste is known as a Pre-Transportation Function and must be done by a trained HazMat Employee) if you intend to offer the hazardous waste for shipment.
Begin at 49 CFR 173.24 – General Requirements for Packagings and Packages of the US DOT regulations to ensure the selection of the correct packaging. This section is applicable to bulk and non-bulk packagings, new packagings and reused, and specification and non-specification packagings. It requires that every packaging used for the shipment of a hazardous material be designed, constructed, maintained, filled, limited to its contents, and closed, so that under the normal conditions of transportation there is…
- No release to the environment.
- No loss of effectiveness of the packaging due to normal conditions of transportation (temperature, humidity, pressure, shocks, loadings, vibrations, etc).
- No mixture of gases or vapors in the package which could damage it.
- No hazardous material residue on the outside of the package.
In addition to the above, a packaging must be authorized for a hazardous material shipment as specified in Column 8 of the Hazardous Materials Table (§172.101) and as otherwise required by §173.24(c,d). You’ll have to refer to §173.24(c,d) for the full list of applicable parts and sections as its just too much to list.
The container must be closed properly and, no matter what the regulations require, it is the responsibility of the Shipper to ensure the packagings are compatible with their contents.
Column 8 of the Hazardous Materials Table entry for a Packing Group I (highest degree of danger) Flammable Liquid references §173.201 – Non-Bulk Packagings for Liquid Hazardous Materials in Packing Group I which includes the types of packagings (steel drum, fiber drum, steel box, plastic, etc.) authorized for the shipment of the applicable hazardous material.
Years ago, employed as a truck driver for Laidlaw Environmental Services I would have sworn up and down that you could not use a plastic container for the accumulation and transportation of a hazardous waste. I now know that – at least according to the Federal regulations of the US DOT & US EPA – such a thing is acceptable.
Attend my training, ask your questions, and see what you learn.