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What’s a Hazardous Waste Generator to do About “Cradle to Grave” Responsibility Under RCRA?

What’s a Hazardous Waste Generator to do About “Cradle to Grave” Responsibility Under RCRA?

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as envisioned by the US Congress when it was passed in 1976 was meant to create a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated to its final disposal, i.e.  “cradle to grave”.  While acknowledging this system, many hazardous waste generators fail to realize their responsibility for compliance with the RCRA regulations for the hazardous waste they generate from its initial generation to its final disposal.  In short, if you generate a hazardous waste you can be held responsible for its improper off-site transportation and disposal.  Short of transporting, storing, treating, and disposing of your hazardous waste yourself, what can a hazardous waste generator do to minimize their potential liability once the hazardous waste is out of their hands?  This article will provide guidance on questions to ask and information to seek out when choosing your hazardous waste transporters and TSDFs.

First of all, nothing beats visiting a site, conducting a walk-through inspection, and sitting down and talking to company representatives who can answer your questions.  If that is not possible, the following information can be gleaned through other sources or through long-distance communication.

  • Is the hazardous waste transporter currently permitted and registered by your state environmental agency?
  • Does the TSDF have  a current operating license/permit?  A TSDF can only accept those wastes specifically identified on its operating license or permit.
  • Request proof of current insurance coverage from both a transporter and a TSDF.  Insurance is a requirement for permitted/registered transporters and for TSDFs that are licensed/permitted.  Check with your legal department to determine if your company has a minimum insurance requirement.
  • Are the transporter and TSDF the same company, or are they independent?
  • Ask the transporter if the hazardous waste will be delivered to the TSDF that day.  If not, when?  If there are overnight stops on the road, will the transporter only use secured sites?
  • Ask the initial transporter if any other transporters will be used to deliver the hazardous waste to the TSDF.  Will the hazardous waste be stored in a 10-day transfer site?
  • If the uniform hazardous waste manifest identifies a treatment or storage facility instead of a disposal facility such as a landfill, what is the location of the final destination, i.e. disposal, of the hazardous waste?
  • Will the transporter or TSDF assist in the completion of the uniform hazardous waste manifest?  Remember:  as the Shipper of a hazardous material – which includes a hazardous waste – you are ultimately responsible for the correct completion of the manifest.
  • Will the transporter or TSDF assist in the completion of the certification of no further treatment or the notification of further treatment required for the hazardous waste under the Land Disposal Restriction (LDR or Landban) regulations?  Remember:  pursuant to 40 CFR 268.7(a)(1) determination of the requirements of the LDR regulations can be made by a RCRA-permitted TSDF on your behalf.
  • If you are offering a small volume of hazardous waste, ensure the transporter and TSDF are interested in it.
  • Does the TSDF require specific tests to be run or test method to be used for the hazardous waste determination?
  • Does the TSDF require a specific lab to be used for the hazardous waste determination?
  • Ask the transporter and TSDF for the names of their customers in your industry that you may contact for references.
  • Ask the transporter and TSDF if they have any requirements or restrictions to make the waste acceptable for pick-up and/or disposal; such as:  limits on the types of acceptable containers, additional labeling or marking, scheduling restrictions, &etc.
  • What does the transporter or TSDF do to avoid spills or leaks and especially, releases to the environment?
  • Search State and Federal databases for the status of the facility’s regulatory compliance.
  • Will the transporter or TSDF enter into a written contract stipulating the duties, rights, and responsibilities of all parties?

Training Services I provide for HazMat Employees & Hazardous Waste Personnel:

Onsite Training


Learning Management Systems

That should be a good start.

One more thing:  Don’t make your decision based on costs alone.  Since your company can be held responsible for the improper transportation and/or disposal of a hazardous waste, selecting a transporter or TSDF that is less expensive but has less extensive environmental controls than their competitors with higher costs and a better environmental program may not be cost-effective in the long run.

Will any of this eliminate a generator of hazardous waste’s “Cradle-to-Grave” responsibility for their hazardous waste?  No.  But it can help you to avoid doing business with those companies that leave you open to a greater exposure to fines and violations under RCRA.

Wherever you find yourself in the Cradle-to-Grave management of hazardous waste:  Generator, Transporter, or TSDF, my training can ensure your personnel know the regulations and are able to ensure your compliance.

Daniels Training Services