EPA Rule Promotes Responsible Hazardous Materials Recycling, Protects Communities


WASHINGTON- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized new safeguards that promote responsible recycling of hazardous secondary materials and demonstrate a significant step forward in promoting recycling innovation, resulting in both resource conservation and economic benefits, while strengthening protections for environmental justice communities.

“Americans do not have to choose between a clean environment and economic prosperity,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “This important rule gives communities a voice in the decisions that impact them, promotes safe and responsible recycling of hazardous secondary materials and conserves vital resources, while protecting those most at risk from the dangers of hazardous secondary materials mismanagement. This innovative rule demonstrates that protecting communities and leveraging economic advantages for sustainable recycling and materials manufacturing can go hand-in-hand.”

The Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) final rule modifies the EPA’s 2008 DSW rule to protect human health and the environment from the mismanagement of hazardous secondary material, while promoting sustainability through the encouragement of safe and environmentally responsible recycling of such materials.

EPA conducted a rigorous environmental justice analysis of the DSW rule that examined the location of recycling facilities and their proximity and potential impact to adjacent residents. The methodology and scope was developed through a broad public engagement and expert peer review process. The analysis identified significant regulatory gaps in the 2008 rule, which could negatively impact communities adjacent to third party recyclers, including disproportionately impacting minority and low-income populations.

It includes several provisions that result in both resource conservation and economic benefits by encouraging certain types of in-process recycling and remanufacturing:

  • The rule addresses significant regulatory gaps in the 2008 rule by requiring off-site recycling at a facility with a RCRA permit or verified recycler variance, which will allow EPA and the states to verify that a facility has the equipment and trained personnel to safely manage the material, adequate financial assurance, is prepared to respond in case of an emergency, and can demonstrate that the recycling is not disposal in the guise of recycling. The new verified recycler exclusion also includes a public participation requirement for recyclers seeking variances, so that communities are notified prior to the start of recycling operations.

  • The rule affirms the legitimacy of the pre-2008 DSW exclusions, such as the scrap metal exclusion, and does not change the regulatory status of material legitimately recycled under these long-standing exclusions.

  •  The final rule includes a revised definition of legitimate recycling that re-affirms the legitimacy of in-process recycling and of commodity-grade recycled products, such as metal commodities. The rule retains the exclusion for recycling under the control of the generator, including recycling onsite, within the same company and through certain types of toll manufacturing agreements, which recognizes those generators who follow good business practices by taking responsibility for their recycling and maintaining control of their hazardous secondary materials.

  •  Finally, the final rule includes a targeted remanufacturing exclusion for certain higher-value hazardous spent solvents, which are being remanufactured into commercial-grade products. This allows manufacturers to reduce the use of virgin solvents, resulting in both economic and environmental benefits, including energy conservation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

More information about this rulemaking can be found on EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/waste/hazard/dsw/rulemaking.htm.

The docket for this rulemaking is EPA-HQ-RCRA-2010-0742 and contains the supporting documents for the final rule, including the final DSW environmental justice analysis. The docket can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov once the final rule is published.

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