FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Hazardous Waste and RCRA

Identifying Hazardous Waste

How do I know if I have a hazardous waste and if so, how is it classified, and what must I do with it?

These pages provide information, guidance and copies of the regulations regarding identification of hazardous wastes.

hazlabel.GIF (7312 bytes)

Hazardous wastes are regulated under RCRA, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act. The regulations have been codified at 40 CFR Part 260-280. hazdrum2.JPG (2955 bytes) The HWIR (Hazardous Waste Identification Rule) was published in the Federal Register on Monday, Nov. 30, 1998. Click here fore more.

Note: Nuclear wastes, PCB's and Asbestos are NOT hazardous wastes- unless these material are mixed together with something that meets a separate definition of a hazardous waste. "Hazardous waste" is a regulatory term that has a very specific meaning; not simply "this stuff is waste that is dangerous". Nuclear wastes and PCBs and Asbestos are regulated separately.

You can download the regulations below

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If your company generates waste as part of a manufacturing or industrial process, you might be subject to hazardous waste regulations. "Hazardous waste" is a legal term that describes certain toxic, ignitable, corrosive, or reactive wastes generated in manufacturing, industrial, or other processes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prepared this simple guide to explain hazardous wastes and help you determine whether
you generate hazardous wastes and are subject to regulation. Your company is responsible for making hazardous waste determinations correctly.

The hazardous waste regulations can be found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 261-299, which is available at at the bottom of this page. Also, many libraries have a copy or can be obtained from the U.S. Government Printing Office. It is updated daily with individual issues of the Federal Register.

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STEP 1 - Are you subject to the regulations as a generator of hazardous waste?

If you don't know that you are excluded from being regulated, then chances are VERY good that you are NOT excluded. In other words, you are subject to the regulations. See 40 CFR Part 260.1, 261.1 and especially 261.4

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STEP 2 - Is Your Waste a Solid Waste?

You must determine if your waste is a "solid waste" according to EPA. EPA defines "solid waste" as garbage, refuse, sludge, or other discarded material (including solids, semi-solids, liquids, and contained gaseous materials). The term "Solid Waste" has NOTHING to do with the physical state (solid, liquid, gas or mixture) or the waste. It is a regulatory term (typical of our beloved government). Again, for most practical purposes, assume it IS a Solid Waste. the definition of "Solid Waste" is found at 40 CFR 261.2

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STEP 3 - Is Your Waste a Hazardous Waste?


Again, you may want to check to see if the waste or your use of it is excluded. Be sure to note that some wastes are excluded from the definition of solid waste and from the hazardous waste regulations under 40 CFR 261.4 . . Excluded wastes include wastewater and air emissions (these are covered under the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, respectively), most agricultural wastes, household wastes and wastes from certain industrial processes. For example, domestic sewage, irrigation return flows, and in situ mining wastes are excluded from the definition of solid waste. Household wastes, agricultural wastes used as fertilizers, and cement kiln dust are examples of wastes that are excluded from the definition of hazardous waste. These wastes are not subject to the federal hazardous waste regulations but may be subject to other federal regulations or state waste programs.

If your waste is a solid waste, and it is NOT excluded, you must then determine if it is a hazardous waste. It is your responsibility as a generator either to test your waste or use your knowledge of the waste to make a determination about its properties. Once you know what is in your waste, you can then determine if EPA considers it to be
hazardous. EPA defines hazardous waste in six different ways.

A. Is the Waste a "Listed" Hazardous Waste?

EPA developed several lists of hazardous wastes (40 CFR 261.30). If your waste appears on any of these lists, it is hazardous. Wastes on these lists are hazardous regardless of the concentrations of hazardous constituents in the waste. The lists identify:

Nonspecific source wastes (40 CFR 261. 31) , which are material-specific wastes, such as solvent wastes, electroplating wastes, or metal heat-treating wastes, commonly produced by a wide variety (non specific sources) of manufacturing and industrial processes (designated with "F" waste codes).

Examples: Wastewater treatment sludges from electroplating operations (F006), process wastes such as distillation residues, heavy ends, tars, and reactorclean-out wastes (F024).

Specific source wastes (40 CFR 261.32) , which are wastes from specifically identified industries such as wood preserving, petroleum refining, and organic chemical manufacturing (designated with "K" waste codes).

Examples: Wastewater treatment sludge from the production of chrome yellow and orange pigments (K002), tar storage tank residues from coal tar refining (K147).

Discarded commercial chemical products (40 CFR 261.33) , which are off-specification products, container residuals, spill residue runoff, or active ingredients that have spilled or are unused and intended to be discarded (designated with "P" and "U" waste codes). If the intent is to use the material or recycle it, it is not considered a hazardous waste.

Examples: Aldicarb (P070), parathion (P089), and vinyl chloride (U043).

B. Is the Waste a "Characteristic" Hazardous Waste?

EPA identified four characteristics, or traits, of hazardous waste: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity , and toxicity (designated with "D" waste codes). Your waste is considered hazardous if it exhibits any of these characteristics (40 CFR 261.20-24). These properties are measurable by standardized and available testing methods that can be found in a manual entitled Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste, Physical/Chemical Methods (SW-846). This document is available by calling 703 821-4690.

Here is a simple (not regulatory) definition of the 4 characteristics:

  • It catches fire under certain conditions. This is known as an "ignitable" waste. Examples are paints and certain degreasers and solvents
  • It corrodes metals or has a very high or low pH. This is known as a "corrosive" waste. Examples are rust removers, acid or alkaline cleaning fluids, and battery acid.
  • It is unstable and explodes or produces toxic fumes, gases, and vapors when mixed with water or under other conditions such as heat or pressure. This is known as a "reactive" waste. Examples are certain cyanides or sulfide-bearing wastes.
  • It is harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed, or it leaches toxic chemicals into the soil or ground water when disposed of on land. This is known as a "toxic" waste. Examples are wastes that contain high concentrations of heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, or mercury.

You can determine if your waste is toxic by having it tested at a lab using the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP), or by simply knowing that your waste is hazardous or that your processes generate hazardous waste.

Examples: Certain paints, degreasers, and solvents are ignitable; battery acid is corrosive; certain cyanides or sulfide-bearing wastes are reactive; and wastes that contain high concentrations of heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, or mercury, may be considered toxic.

C. Is the Waste a Mixture?

If your waste is a mixture of nonhazardous solid wastes and listed hazardous wastes, it is considered hazardous (40 CFR 261.3). A few wastes are listed only because they are ignitable or reactive. In these cases, if the
resulting mixture no longer is ignitable or reactive, the mixture is not considered a listed waste.

Examples: Spent solvents (F003), such as methanol or acetone, are listed hazardous wastes and are ignitable. If these sol vents are mixed with a non-ignitable nonhazardous waste, the mixture will still be considered hazardous, unless the mixture is not ignitable

D. Is the Waste a "Derived-From" Hazardous Waste?

Any solid waste generated (derived) from the management (treatment, storage, or disposal) of a listed hazardous waste, including sludge, spill residue, ash, emission control dust, or leachate, is considered hazardous waste (40 CFR 261.3).

Example: Any ash or residue left from the incineration process at a hazardous waste incinerator is considered hazardous waste.

E. Is the Waste Contaminated Media?

Environmental media (ground water, soil, or sediment) sometimes come in contact with listed hazardous waste. If these media become contaminated with (and therefore contain) hazardous waste, they must be managed as
a hazardous waste (no regulatory citation).

Example: If a tank leaks listed hazardous waste into ground water, the ground water must be managed as a hazardous waste because it contains a listed hazardous waste.

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F. Is the Waste Contaminated Debris?

Manufactured objects, plant or animal matter, and natural geological material that exceeds 60 mm (2.36 in) particle size and that is intended for disposal are considered "debris" (40 CFR 268.2). Debris is not
considered a solid waste, but if a hazardous waste is mixed with debris, it becomes hazardous waste.

Example: Rags, personal protective equipment, or wood pallets that are contaminated with a hazardous waste must be managed as a hazardous waste until they are decontaminated and no longer contain the listed waste.

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STEP 4 - What do I do if I have a hazardous waste?

What is my regulated status? What does this mean?

After determining that you do generate hazardous waste, you will need to measure how much you generate per month. Your generation level will determine your "generator category" i.e., the level of regulation you must meet. Refer to the table below to estimate your generator category. (100 kg = 220 lbs). This is IMPORTANT - it determines which regulations apply to you!

Monthly Generation Rate Max. Quantity Accumulation Limit Max. Time Accumulation Limit Generator Category
<100 kg/mo 1000 kg No Time Limit CESQG
100 to 1000 kg/mo 6000 kg 180 days SQG
>1000 kg/mo No storage limit 90 days LQG

CESQG-C onditionally E xempt S mall Q uantity G enerator;

SQG-S mall Q uantity G enerator;

LQG- L arge Q uantity G enerator

Jug of Hazardous Waste 55 Gallon Drums AST

Regardless of your generator status, ALL generators must comply with basic RCRA requirements including the use of manifests to track hazardous waste shipments, obtaining an EPA ID number for facility and waste tracking, and packaging, labeling, and accumulation requirements.


A cornerstone of RCRA is the manifest system. The manifest is a data sheet that accompanies all waste shipments from plant to the final disposal site, and allows for clear identification of waste type and source at all times. Manifests include multiple copies which must be kept by generators, transporters, disposal facilities, and some regulatory agencies. See 40 CFR 262.40 through 262.44 for record keeping details. Manifests will usually be supplied by the licensed hazardous waste disposal firm that you arrange to dispose of your waste.

Hazardous Waste Manifest
Hazardous Waste Manifest Form

EPA ID Number

Once you determine you generate over 100 kg per month, you will need to get an EPA identification number that will be used to monitor and track your hazardous waste activities. Contact your EPA regional authority or state agency ( Find your state's environmental agency here ) for obtaining an EPA Identification Number.


While on-site, accumulation points for hazardous waste must be labeled "Hazardous Waste". In most cases, you will be sending your hazardous waste off-site for treatment and disposal. Therefore, your management will be oriented towards packing and storing the waste before shipping. There are specific Department of Transportation requirements related to how you must package and label the waste for shipment. Refer to 49 CFR Parts 172, 173, 178, and 179 for details on transportation-related labeling and packaging.

Accumulation Requirements

Accumulation of hazardous waste is described in 40 CFR 262.34 . In general, accumulation of hazardous waste up to 90 days is allowed. As noted in the table above, both types of SQGs can keep waste on-site for longer periods. If a facility desires to keep waste on-site longer than the time allowed, a RCRA storage permit is needed. Facilities can be exempt from this rule if they face a transportation burden (200 miles or more from a registered handling or disposal facility).

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STEP 5 - What do I do if I have a hazardous waste?

How Do I Manage My Wastes? What must be done with them?

If your waste is hazardous, you must comply with EPA's treatment, storage, and disposal requirements, Many of these are found in 40 CFR Part 268 (see below). The most common options are

1. Sending the waste via a licensed haz waste transportation company to a licensed TSDF (Treatment, Storage or Disposal Facility). This typically includes incineration or chemical treatment followed by disposal in a regulated hazardous waste landfill.

2. Having the waste recycled, on site or offsite.

Since most states have the authority to pass more stringent hazardous waste regulations, you should also check with your state hazardous waste agency to learn about additional requirements. ( Find your state's environmental agency here ) If you generate nonhazardous solid waste, you should consult your state solid waste agency to deter mine any requirements that might apply to you as well. If your waste is not considered a solid waste, you should contact your state to determine if the waste is regulated by other statutes, such as the Clean Water Act , or TSCA (PCB's, asbestos, etc.).

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Download the 40CFR Hazardous Waste Regulations here!

You can view and print the federal hazardous waste regulations
( 40 CFR 260 to 280) right here, or click here to search the federal regs !

Table of Contents
260.1 to 260.41
Hazardous Waste Management System: General - Includes important definitions used in RCRA regulations
261.1 to 261.38
Identification And Listing Of Hazardous Waste - Includes definitions and regulations pertaining to hazardous wastes and hazardous waste generators.

261.5 Describes rules specific to CESQG status - see above.
262.10 to 262.108
Standards Applicable To Generators Of Hazardous Waste - Includes definitions and regulations pertaining to hazardous wastes and hazardous waste generators.
262.44 Describes record keeping and reporting rules specific to LQG.
263.10 to 263.31
Standards Applicable To Transporters Of Hazardous Waste
264.1 to 264.1202
Standards For Owners And Operators Of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, And Disposal Facilities
265.1 to 265.1202
Interim Status Standards For Owners And Operators Of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, And Disposal Facilities
266.20 to 266.422
Standards For The Management Of Specific Hazardous Wastes And Specific Types Of Hazardous Waste Management Facilities
268.1 to 268.50
Land Disposal Restrictions
273.1 to 273.81
Standards For Universal Waste Management
279.1 to 279.82
Standards For The Management Of Used Oil
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State Hazardous Waste Regulations

Georgia's regulations are a typical example of a state's unaltered adoption of the federal regs. Click here to locate your state's regs to download ,

State of Georgia's regulations and information

Get * Some of the documents provided by here and by the US EPA are in an Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) file. They can be viewed, and printed, with the use of an Adobe Acrobat Reader. The Adobe Acrobat's Reader is available, free, for Unix, Macintosh, IBM DOS and IBM Windows operating systems. Click this button to download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat.

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