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The Identification of Solid Waste in Texas

The Identification of Solid Waste in Texas

TCEQ training for hazardous waste personnel

TCEQ regulates hazardous and non-hazardous waste from both industrial and non-industrial facilities.

Though very similar to those of the USEPA, as a state with an authorized hazardous waste program under RCRA, Texas waste regulations – created and enforced by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) – have their own state-specific nuances.  For a person in Texas subject to these regulations, slight differences between state and Federal regulations can make a big difference.  This article will look at one aspect of the waste regulations of the TCEQ in Texas:  What is, and isn’t, a Solid Waste.

The importance of properly defining a solid waste – no matter what state you’re in – can’t be overstated.  In order for a material to be regulated as a waste at all, it must first be a solid waste.  If it is not a solid waste, either because it does not meet the definition or because it is excluded from regulation, then it is a product or other material and is not subject to the regulations (state or Federal) of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

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A full definition of solid waste can be found in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 30, Chapter 335,  Subchapter A, Part 335.1(138).  It’s key points are summarized below.

A solid waste may not be “solid”:

The definition of solid waste includes:

  • Solid
  • Liquid
  • Semisolid
  • Contained gaseous material.  Gas must be in a container to be a solid waste.  The definition of solid waste does not include fugitive air emissions or emission from a stack.
A solid waste can be generated from a variety of sources:

A solid waste may be a material resulting from any of the following sources:

  • Industrial Operations
  • Municipal Operations
  • Commercial Operations
  • Mining Operations
  • Agricultural Operations
  • Community Activities
  • Institutional Activities
Solid waste can include:

The definition of solid waste includes:

  • Any garbage or refuse.
  • Sludge [defined at 30 TAC 361.003(33)] from a
    • Waste treatment plant
    • Water supply treatment plant
    • Air pollution control facility
  • And other discarded material.  More on this later.
    Discarded Material as a Solid Waste

    In Texas, a Solid Waste includes “…and other discarded material.”

A solid waste is not:

By definition, a solid waste does not include the following:

1.  Wastewaters:

  • Domestic sewage
  • Irrigation return flows
  • Industrial discharges if permitted under the Clean Water Act in Texas.  Note that this exclusion applies to the actual point source discharge and not to the industrial wastewater while it is being collected, stored, or processed before discharge.  The exclusion also does not include the sludges (see above) generated by industrial wastewater treatment.

2.  Clean fill:

If uncontaminated and used to fill land for the purpose of construction of surface improvements:

  • Soil, dirt, rock, & sand.
  • Other uncontaminated natural or man-made inert solid material.

Other restrictions and limitations apply.

3.  Exploration development or production of oil, gas, or geothermal:

Wastes from exploration, development, and production of oil or gas or geothermal

Waste materials generated by the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas or geothermal resources are not solid waste per TCEQ.


Waste materials that result from any of the following activities:

  • Exploration
  • Development
  • Production

If those activities are associated with the following resources:

  • Oil
  • Gas
  • Geothermal

And, any other substance or material regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas…

Unless such waste, substance, or material is a hazardous waste and results from activities associated with the following:

  • Gasoline plants
  • Natural gas or natural gas liquids processing plants
  • Pressure maintenance plants
  • Repressurizing plants

4.  Materials excluded from regulation as solid wastes by USEPA:

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A material excluded from the definition of solid waste by Federal regulation at 40 CFR 261.4(a)(1-22).


  • As of August 2014, 40 CFR 261.4(a) contains 26 exclusions from regulation as solid waste [(a)(1-26)] while the reference in the TCEQ regulations is for [(a)(1-22)].  Most of the missing exclusions [(a)(23-25)] apply to hazardous secondary materials being reclaimed, which TCEQ does not regulate in the same manner as USEPA.  The remaining USEPA exclusion missing from this TCEQ reference [(a)(26)] applies to solvent-contaminated wipes, which USEPA actived January 31, 2014 and will not be adopted by reference by TCEQ until the end of 2014.
    RCRA exclusion for solvent contaminated wipes

    TCEQ intends to adopt by reference the USEPA exclusion for solvent-contaminated wipes.

  • Special mention is made in the TCEQ definition of solid waste of the USEPA exclusion at 40 CFR 261.4(a)(16) for Comparable Fuels which also has a Texas-specific interpretation and must be researched separately.
What is a discarded material?

A discarded material is any material which is:

A full explanation of the four types of discarded materials will have to wait for a later article.  To vastly oversimplify:  it’s anything you generate for a commercial purpose that is not your finished product.

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Determination of a solid waste is the first step.  After that a facility – Industrial or Non-Industrial – must proceed to determine if their solid waste meets the definition of a hazardous waste.  In Texas, additional regulations apply to the generators of an Industrial Waste whether it is hazardous or non-hazardous.  Make certain you are in compliance with the waste management regulations of the TCEQ.  Contact me with any questions you may have or to arrange for Texas-specific training on the regulations pertaining to the management of waste in Texas:  hazardous, non-hazardous, industrial, non-industrial, universal, & used oil.