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What is a Spent Material and When is it a Solid Waste?

What is a Spent Material and When is it a Solid Waste?

A spent material is defined at 40 CFR 261.1(c)(1) as any  material that has been used and as a result of contamination can no longer serve the purpose for which it was produced without processing.  Examples of spent materials include:  spent solvents, spent activated carbon, spent catalysts, and spent acids.  A spent material is part of a broader category of used or residual waste-like materials called secondary materials, which includes:

  1. spent materials,
  2. sludges,
  3. by-products,
  4. commercial chemical products, and;
  5. scrap metal.

To be a spent material it must be…

  1. Used and;
  2. Because of its use is contaminated or otherwise unable to do what it was produced to do, unless it undergoes regeneration, reclamation, or reprocessing.  Contamination could be any impurity, factor, or circumstance which causes the material to be taken out of service.

Table 1 in 40 CFR 261.2(c) documents the recycling activities available for all secondary materials (including spent materials) and if those recycling options affect the material’s definition as a solid waste.  For a full understanding of all of the potential options available, you’ll have to read the regulations, but in a nutshell:  spent materials are a solid waste if recycled when

  • Applied to the land or used to produce products that are applied to the land (Column 1 of Table 1).
  • Used for energy recovery or used to produce a fuel (Column 2 of Table 1).
  • Reclaimed, that is processed to recover a usable product or regenerated (Column 3 of Table 1).  There are, however, a bunch of exceptions to this rule that allow for the reclamation of spent materials that are not solid wastes.
  • Accumulated speculatively.

Remember, if a secondary material is a solid waste, it has the potential to be a hazardous waste unless exempted elsewhere in the regulations.  If it is not a solid waste, then it cannot be a hazardous waste.

Learn more about the reclamation of spent solvents by distillation.

My RCRA training and HazMat Employee training addresses topics like these and many more.  If you can’t attend one of my training workshops, contact me for a free consultation.