The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a culmination of statutes and amendments enacted in 1976 to regulate and manage solid and hazardous waste. RCRA generally focuses on facilities that are currently in use. In contrast, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Cleanup and Liability Act (CERCLA) generally focuses on sites that are abandoned or no longer operating.
The U.S. Congress establishes and amends RCRA policy. The USEPA is responsible for translating this policy into workable standards that apply to government and business entities. The USEPA also enforces these standards.
RCRA, which includes numerous subtitles and regulations, is contained in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Two key subtitles of RCRA include Subtitle C which focuses on hazardous solid waste, and Subtitle D which focuses on non-hazardous waste.
Enforcement and Compliance
Subtitle C – Hazardous Waste
Simply defined, a hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. The main initiative set by the EPA enforces and regulates the safe management of hazardous waste from inception to final disposal, also referred to as “cradle-to-grave”. While the EPA often imposes implementation of these regulations on the states, if a state does not have a formal program, the EPA will enforce the requirements and policies. Subtitle C criteria directly regulate hazardous waste generators, transporters, and storage and disposal facilities.
- If there is waste generated or transported within a state designated facility, waste must be tracked through an applicable manifest.
- Hazardous waste is distinguished by its concentration of solvents and/or its source, including petroleum refining, or wastewater resulting from typical manufacturing processes or laboratory operations.
- Several requirements must be met in chemical and physical analysis to ensure that there is a plan in place to address the processing of hazardous materials.
- Subtitle C also includes provisions for public participation, corrective action, land disposal restrictions, underground storage tanks, mixed waste, medical waste, electronic waste, and military munitions.
Subtitle D – Non-hazardous Waste
The USEPA defines non-hazardous waste as any waste that does not meet the criteria for hazardous waste. Examples of non-hazardous waste can include whole scrap tires, sewage, construction, and demolition material. Subtitle D regulates the disposal of non-hazardous solid waste and bans open waste dumping. Minimum federal criteria are established in Subtitle D for municipal and industrial waste landfills. Under subtitle D there are several criteria, location restrictions, and requirements that must be met.
- Guidelines and regulations are delegated under the Solid Waste Disposal Act and apply to the collection of residential and commercial waste.
- Storing of non-hazardous waste must be done in a manner that will not pose risk to public health and safety.
- In the operation and collection of such waste, proper personal protective equipment, handling, and transportation of waste must be practiced consistently and frequently.
Waste management and the processes that make up a proper waste management plan are essential to the general health and wellness of a business or municipality and the communities they serve.