The wastes generated in the average American home may be just as hazardous for human health and the environment as any waste generated in an industrial or commercial setting; think of things like paints (both liquid and aerosol), bleach, toilet bowl cleaners, oven cleaners, ammonia, and more. And yet, as is often pointed out to me during one of my training sessions, there are no EPA regulations for household hazardous waste. What gives?
The answer is simple, and unsatisfactory, the EPA specifically exempted household waste from regulation as hazardous waste at 40 CFR 261.4(b)(1). While I’m sure it had its reasons for creating this exclusion – just think of the nightmare of regulating each US household – the end result is that a lot of hazardous waste may be disposed of improperly. The exclusion still leaves household waste regulated as a form of solid waste known as municipal solid waste, subject to Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. It is not, however, regulated as a hazardous waste by the US EPA.
The household waste exclusion is available for any material derived from households including: garbage, trash and sanitary wastes in septic tanks. A household means more than just a house and includes single and multiple residences, hotels and motels, bunkhouses, ranger stations, crew quarters, campgrounds, picnic grounds and day-use recreation areas. The exclusion applies to the waste from its point of generation and continues throughout its waste management cycle and therefore includes household waste that has been collected, transported, stored, treated, disposed, recovered (e.g., refuse-derived fuel) or reused. In other words, no matter how it is handled after its generation, the exclusion of 40 CFR 261.4(b)(1) remains in place (RO 11782).
Even if allowed by the EPA, leaving household hazardous waste at the curb for routine disposal in a municipal solid waste landfill (Subtitle D) is not a good idea. First of all State law and municipal regulations may preclude such disposal, so check with your State and local agencies. Also, it’s not a good idea, and many communities have places to go with household hazardous waste that ensure proper disposal at little or no cost. A good place to start is the EPA homepage for household hazardous waste.
Though I don’t spend a lot of time on household waste during my RCRA Training, I include it as a point of reference for industrial hazardous waste – which is the focus of the training – and to illustrate one of the many exclusions from RCRA that exist in the regulations. By attending one of my combined RCRA Training and HazMat Employee Training events (either open enrollment or on-site) you will learn how the regulations affect your operations and what exclusions from regulation you may be able to take advantage of. Please contact me for a free consultation of your training needs.