Daniels Training Services

Precious Metal Recovery from Hazardous Waste

Precious Metal Recovery from Hazardous Waste

If you generate a hazardous waste that contains economically significant amounts of gold, silver, platinum, palladium, iridium, osmium, rhodium, ruthenium, or any combination of these, you may be able to take advantage of the exemption from regulation found in 40 CFR 266.70 – Recyclable Materials Utilized for Precious Metal Recovery. First, let’s get a better understanding of some of the terms used and the applicability of this exemption.

  1. The material to be recovered must be one or more of the following:
    • Gold
    • Silver
    • Platinum
    • Palladium
    • Iridium
    • Osmium
    • Rhodium
    • Ruthenium
  2. The exclusion only applies to a recyclable material which, according to 40 CFR 261.6(a)(1), is a hazardous waste (either characteristic or listed) that would be subject to full regulation if sent for disposal but instead is recycled.
  3. The recyclable material must be reclaimed which is defined at 40 CFR 261.1(c)(4) as a material processed to recover a usable product, in this case a precious metal.
  4. The precious metal to be reclaimed must be in an amount that is “economically significant”.  What does that mean?

EPA’s position has been that indicators of an economically significant amount and therefore legitimate precious metal recovery include:

  1. Efficient recovery operations.  You should be making an effort to recover every morsel of the waste due to its value.
  2. No land disposal of waste.  Natch.
  3. Payment by the reclaimer to the waste generator.  This demonstrates that the waste has an inherent value due to the presence of its precious metals.

The absence of one or more of the above may demonstrate to the EPA that your waste is not eligible for this exemption and may be subject to full RCRA regulation as a hazardous waste.  As the generator, you must be able to demonstrate [see 40 CFR 261.2(f)] you are engaged in a legitimate recovery activity(RO14267).

If you are eligible for this exemption you are subject to the following requirements:

  1. Submit a Notification of Regulated Waste Activity form to your State  environmental agency or regional US EPA office as applicable.
  2. Use the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest for off-site shipments.
  3. Refer to 40 CFR 266.70(b)(3) if you intend to import or export waste for precious metal recovery.
  4. You must be able to demonstrate through recordkeeping that the recyclable material is not accumulated speculatively as defined at 40 CFR 261.1(c)(8).
  5. And that’s it.  No other requirements of the RCRA regulations (labeling, inspections, training, on-site accumulation time limits, etc.) would apply to the waste.

Eligibility of this exemption is determined by the type of waste you generate and the recycling options available to you.  The most important criteria is if the waste has a value due to the presence of certain precious metals.  If it does, you may be able to use this exemption to reduce your regulatory burden.  Training on the hazardous waste regulations of the US EPA – required for facility personnel of a large quantity generator of hazardous waste – is a good idea for anyone who generates a hazardous waste or recyclable material.  You may also be interested in HazMat Employee training required by the US Department of Transportation.  I do both.  Contact me for a free consultation of your training needs.