Managing Hazardous (RCRA) Wastes
In order to regulate the over 800,000 hazardous waste generators in the United States cost effectively, EPA in 1985 established three types of generators. These rules were updated and published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016 as the Generator Improvements Rule. This rule finalizes a much-needed update to the hazardous waste generator regulations to make the rules easier to understand, facilitate better compliance, provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed and close important gaps in the regulations.
Two key provisions where EPA is finalizing flexibility are:
- Allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste provided the episodic waste is properly managed, and
- Allowing a very small quantity generator (VSQG) to send its hazardous waste to a large quantity generator under control of the same person.
In addition to finalizing key flexibilities, the rule enhances the safety of facilities, employees, and the general public by improving hazardous waste risk communication and ensuring that emergency management requirements meet today's needs.
Further, the EPA is finalizing a number of clarifications without increasing burden, including a reorganization of the hazardous waste generator regulations so that all of the generator regulations are in one place.
Note that not all states have yet adopted the GIR so it's important to check with your state regulations. This document will refer to VSQGs instead of CE-SQGs.
A very useful cross-walk between the old and new hazardous waste generator regulations is available at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2021-01/documents/generator_improvements_rule_crosswalk_0.pdf
- Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) (fka Conditionally-Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CE-SQG) who generate less than or equal to 100 kg of non-acute hazardous waste a month, less than or equal to 1 kg of acute hazardous waste a month (e.g. p-listed wastes such as arsenic trioxide) and less than or equal to 100 kg of residues or contaminated soil, waste, and other debris from the spill cleanup of acute hazardous waste;
- Small Quantity Generators (SQG) who generate greater than 100 kg and less than 1000 kg of non-acute hazardous waste a month, less than or equal to 1 kg of acute hazardous waste a month, and less than or equal to 100 kg of spill residue from acute hazardous waste; and
- Large Quantity Generators (LQG) who generate 1000 kg or more of non-acute hazardous waste a month, greater than 1 kg of acute hazardous waste a month, and greater than 100 kg of spill residue from acute hazardous waste.
- A VSQG is exempt from the regulation as long as it complies with the set of regulations described in Section 260.10. An SQG must also meet limited requirements in Section 260.10. These reduced requirements for SQGs are to ensure that while some tracking of and accountability for the waste is placed on the small quantity generator, the requirements are not so burdensome as to prevent compliance. An LQG, of course, must meet the full set of Part 262.17 requirements.
- Please note that a facility's generator status may change from month to month. One can be a VSQG in January and a LQG in February and then must remain so for the remainder of the calendar year. Since generators are required to comply with all applicable requirements according to their generator status, one should probably evaluate the risks associated with changing status on a month to month basis on one's environmental and legal liabilities.
- A hospital's generator category is determined at the facility level not the building or clinic level. Thus, if your clinic is producing less than 100 kg a month of non-acute hazardous waste but the military base that your clinic is part of produces more than 1000 kg a month of non-acute hazardous waste, your clinic will have to comply with the large quantity generator requirements. This is an important point and a violation that exists at many hospitals. The RCRA definition of a facility is all contiguous land, structures, and appurtenances under the control of the same owner or operator. The State can make exemptions to this definition on a case by case basis.
Under Subpart P, hazardous waste pharmaceuticals will no longer count towards generator status. Once your state adopts Subpart P and you perform an initial generator calculation to determine if your facility must register under Subpart P, it is likely you will drop down from LQG to SQG or even VSQG.
EPA Identification Number
Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators (LQG) ONLY are required under the Federal hazardous waste program to obtain an EPA ID number and use it when manifesting wastes off-site. This allows EPA and the states to track waste activities.
Please note that since a generator is responsible for its waste from cradle to grave, many small business programs have recommended that all generators for their own good get an EPA ID number even if they are very small quantity generators (VSQGs) since they can track where their wastes ended up. Also, current SQGs and LQGs must register under Subpart P when it is adopted by your state. VSQGs may register to enjoy all the benefits but are not required to do so.
One can obtain an EPA ID number by checking with your state environmental protection agency at https://rcrainfo.epa.gov/rcrainfoprod/action/public/public-site/state-contacts. In many cases, you can now register through the myRCRAid online program.
As for reporting, large quantity generators (LQG) only are
required to submit a biennial report to their EPA regional office by March
1 of every even numbered year. This reporting requirement is intended to provide
EPA with reliable national data on hazardous waste management. The report includes:
- EPA ID number, name and address of the generator, and
every transporter, treatment, storage, and disposal facility and recycler
- Descriptions and quantities of waste; and
- Actions taken to reduce the volume and toxicity of the
waste, and the results of those actions.
Quantity Limits for Hazardous Waste
Both very small quantity generators (VSQG)
and small quantity generators (SQG) have limits on how much hazardous waste
they can store at their facility at any one time. If they go above those limits,
they need to comply with the requirements of the next higher generator category.
For non-acute hazardous waste, this limit is 1000 kg or 2,200
lbs for a VQG and 6000 kg or 13,200 lbs for a SQG.
For acute hazardous waste, the limit is the same for both:
1 kg for an acute hazardous waste or 100 kg for spill residue from an acute
hazardous waste. Thus, if your hospital accumulates just 1 kg of a p-listed
waste on site, you will need to comply with all the RCRA Subtitle C requirements
since you will be treated as a large quantity generator (LQG). Thus, again,
it is very important to keep track of your P-listed wastes!
An LQG can store as much hazardous waste as it wants on site.
There is no quantity limitation.
The length of time that hazardous waste can be stored on-site
varies depending on generator status:
- There are no time limits placed on a VSQG for the storage
of hazardous waste. [Although there is a limit on how much hazardous waste
a conditionally-exempt small quantity generator (CE-SQG) can accumulate on
site, one of the advantages of being a CE-SQG is that as long as one remains
below that limit (see discussion above), one can store that waste forever.]
- Small quantity generators (SQG) can only keep their waste
on–site for 180 days or 270 days if their treatment, storage, and disposal
facility is more than 270 miles away.
- Large quantity generators (LQG) can only store their waste
for 90 days without obtaining a permit as a storage facility.
Note that state rules may vary with respect to hazardous
waste storage time limits. Check your state's rules using the Hazardous
Waste State Resource Locator.
Storing Hazardous Waste
Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators
(LQG) have additional requirements placed on them when storing their hazardous
waste. They are recommended for conditionally-exempt small quantity generators
but not required.
There are two types of storage areas: the satellite accumulation
area and the main hazardous waste storage area. The satellite accumulation
area is an area at or near the point of hazardous waste generation and under
the control of the operator of the process generating the waste where the wastes
are allowed to be temporarily stored for 3 days before being moved to the main
hazardous waste storage area. The key here is at or near the
point of generation and under the control of the process operator.
Thus the satellite accumulation area can not be three floors down from the
laboratory that generated the waste. One university system in New York gave
out Frisbees to their hazardous waste generators and told them that they need
to be able to hit their satellite accumulation area with the Frisbee when standing
at the process which generated the waste. Ultimate Frisbee winners were excluded.
The main hazardous waste storage area can be anywhere at the facility and is
where the facility stores their waste before being sent off-site for treatment,
disposal, or recycling. There can also be more than one main storage area.
The requirements for each storage area are listed below.
Satellite Accumulation Areas
- Can accumulate up to 55 gallons of non-acute hazardous
waste or one quart of acute hazardous waste
- Required to date the containers when the above quantity
limits are reached so that the generator can remove the hazardous waste to
the main hazardous waste storage area or ship the wastes off-site within
3 days of reaching the above limits
- Need to keep the containers closed except when adding
or removing wastes; and
- Must mark the containers with either the words “Hazardous
Waste” or with other words that identify the contents of the container.
Main Hazardous Waste Storage
- Required to comply with the hazardous waste time and quantity
limits appropriate to your generator status;
- Must keep the containers sealed except when adding or
removing wastes, in good condition, and secured from failure (i.e., the container’s
material needs to be compatible with the waste)
- Must conduct weekly inspections with log book entries;
- Need to label each container with the words “Hazardous
Waste”, the specific description of its contents, and the date on which
the container first entered the main storage area. In regards to this latter
point, if you have several main hazardous waste storage areas at your facility,
you cannot start the clock over again by moving your wastes from one main
hazardous waste storage area to another. The date is the time the container
first left the satellite accumulation area and was transferred to a main
Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators
(LQG) have specific requirements placed on them under RCRA so that they are
prepared for emergencies involving hazardous waste. These requirements are
recommended for conditionally-exempt small quantity generators but not required.
First, they must have an adequate internal alarm or communication
system in place. Voice is Ok for small facilities.
Second, they must also designate an emergency coordinator
and an alternate who is on the premises or on call at all times. Thus if an
inspector shows up at your door when your emergency coordinator is on vacation
and no one can answer his questions, you will be in violation of this requirement
Third, they must post emergency information by the phone.
Employees should not have to go searching through a bunch of papers for the
number of the local fire department when there is a chemical fire looming in
the background. It should be right by the phone. This emergency information
should include the name, office, and home phone numbers, and address of the
emergency coordinator. Particular attention should be paid to outside hazardous
waste sheds to make sure that employees can call for emergency assistance quickly
and easily since in many cases there is no phone in the shed.
Fourth, SQGs and LQGs must ensure adequate aisle space for
emergency response, adequate water for fire fighting, and have available properly
maintained fire extinguishers and alarms, spill control material, and decontamination
Fifth, they must make advanced emergency arrangements with
the police and fire departments, emergency response teams, equipment suppliers
and emergency contractors, and hospitals.
Finally, LQGs only are required to prepare a written contingency
plan which is designed to minimize hazards from fires, explosions, or any unplanned
release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents into the environment.
It is recommended for SQGs but not required. SQGs are only required to establish
basic safety guidelines and response procedures. This written contingency plan
must be kept on-site and an additional copy must be submitted to all local
emergency service providers.
One of the most common questions we get is what hazardous
waste training does a small quantity generator (SQG) need to give their employees?
Under RCRA, an SQG must ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with
the proper waste handling and emergency procedures relevant to their responsibilities.
Large quantity generators (LQG), on the other hand, must have a formal personnel
training program in place in accordance with the requirements in 265.16 and
262.34(a)(4). This requires initial training and annual review that teaches
proper waste management and familiarizes them with procedures, equipment, and
systems to effectively respond to emergencies. Please note that conditionally-exempt
small quantity generators are not legally required to train their employees
on hazardous waste management and emergency procedures but it is highly recommended.
Hazardous Waste Minimization
Under RCRA, small quantity generators (SQG) must make a good
faith effort to minimize waste generation and to select the best available
waste management method that they can afford. Large quantity generators (LQG),
on the other hand, are actually required to have a formal hazardous waste minimization
program in place to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste generated to the
degree economically practicable, and must select a currently available treatment,
storage, or disposal method that minimizes present or future threats. Please
remember that when one signs a hazardous waste manifest, one is stating to
EPA that one’s facility has a hazardous waste minimization program. Thus,
if your hospital does not, HERC highly recommends that you contact Practice Greenhealth for they can help you meet this requirement. Conditionally-exempt
small quantity generators are exempt from this requirement.
RCRA requires that SQGs and LQGs of hazardous waste
inspect containers in storage (not in satellite accumulation areas) at least
weekly for signs of leaks, corrosion, or other deterioration and record those
inspections in a log. At a minimum, these records must include the date and
time of inspection, the name of the inspector, a notation of the observations
made, and the date and nature of any repairs or other remedial actions. A
facility may choose its own format for recording such observations as long
as the format provides for full documentation of observations and any remedial
actions taken. If a checklist is chosen as the documentation format, the
checklists must be filled out completely. Each item on the checklist must
be addressed by means of a check mark or other item-specific notation.
Shipping Waste Off-Site
As for shipping wastes off-site, very small quantity generators (VSQG) are required to ensure delivery of their hazardous wastes to either a RCRA treatment storage and disposal facility (TSDF), a state authorized solid waste facility, or a recycler. If a VSQG sends its wastes to any other facility, it will lose its exemption and must comply with the requirements for a small quantity generator (SQG). The key here is the term "ensure delivery". The fact that a VSQG can send their hazardous wastes to a municipal landfill does not mean they can throw that wastes in the trash. The wastes are at a minimum required to get to the destination intact. So throwing fluorescent light bulbs in the trash will not be permitted since the odds of the bulbs getting to the landfill intact are small. One should check with one's state hazardous waste program on how they interpret the phrase "ensure delivery.
As for small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity
generators (LQG), they must send their wastes to either a RCRA TSDF or a recycling
facility. Their wastes cannot go to a municipal landfill. In addition, they
must ensure that hazardous waste shipments are properly packaged, labeled,
marked, and placarded to Department of Transportation regulations. This is
usually done by the transporter. Furthermore, they must prepare hazardous waste
manifests correctly which allow all parties involved in hazardous waste management
(e.g.. generators, transporters, TSDFs, EPA and state agencies) to track the
movement of hazardous wastes from the point of generation to the point of ultimate
treatment, storage, and disposal. Each time a waste is transferred (e.g., from
the generator to the transporter, the transporter to the TSDF, or from a transporter
to a transporter if there is more than one), the manifest must be signed to
acknowledge receipt of waste. A copy of this manifest is retained by each individual
in the transportation chain. Once the waste is delivered to the TSDF, the TSDF
must sign the manifest and return a copy to the generator. Thereby, closing
the loop and letting the generator know that his waste has safely arrived at
its ultimate destination. SQGs and LQGs must keep copies of the manifests that
are signed by the TSDF for 3 years. If they do not receive a copy back from
the TSDF in 35 days, they must investigate why this is the case and if they
do not receive the copy back in 45 days, they must notify EPA. States may have
shorter time periods. Finally, SQGs and LQGs must ensure that their hazardous
waste meets the land disposal restriction (LDR) requirements and send the receiving
TSDF a completed LDR form. This document indicates what wastes you are disposing and how the wastes will be treated prior to application on the land to assure compliance with RCRA. For example, the treatment standard for many drug wastes on the P and U list is combustion. Although the generator is responsible for LDR determinations, your hazardous waste vendor can assist you in preparing the form. Land Disposal Restrictions (LDRs) are found in 40 CFR 268.7.
Hazardous Waste Manifest
A hazardous waste manifest must accompany all hazardous
waste that is shipped off site. A hazardous waste manifest is a multipart
form designed to track hazardous waste from generation to disposal. It will
help you to track your waste during shipment and make sure it arrives at
the proper destination. If you send waste to a recycling facility, you may
be able to use a tolling agreement instead of a manifest. A tolling agreement
is a "closed-loop" arrangement whereby a generator contracts with
a recycling company to reclaim its hazardous waste and return it as a recycled
product, thereby avoiding disposal. A copy of the contract must be kept on
file for three years after the contract has ended.
Various versions of hazardous waste manifest forms
are available. Most states require their own manifest form. If the state
to which you are shipping your waste requires its own manifest, use that
states form. To obtain manifest forms, contact the hazardous waste management
agency of the recipient state, your transporter, or the TSD that you intend
to use. If the state to which you are shipping your waste does not have its
own manifest, but the state in which your waste was generated does require
its own manifest, use your states form. To obtain blank forms, contact your
transporter or your state hazardous waste agency. If neither state requires
a manifest, you can use the federal Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest, EPA
Form 8700-22. Copies are available from some transporters, TSDs, and some
commercial printers. Your state hazardous waste agency can refer you to manifest
You must fill in all parts of a manifest. Information
requested includes: name of transporter, name of the designated facility,
your EPA ID number, and a description of the waste based on DOT requirements,
such as proper shipping name and hazard class. Call the DOT information line
for more information on DOT waste description requirements.
The transporter signs the completed manifest when the
shipment is accepted for transport. The facility operator at the designated
TSDF also signs the form when the shipment is received and sends a copy of
it back to you. You must keep this copy on file for three years. (It might
be a good practice, however, to keep it for as long as you are in business.)
Any SQG that does not receive a signed copy of the
manifest from the designated TSDF within 60 days of shipment must submit
a legible copy of the manifest to the state or EPA regional office. This
copy, known as an exception report, simply indicates that a signed copy was
not received from the facility operator.
Recordkeeping and Reporting
Biennial Report (SQGs and LQGs only)
SQGs and LQGs who ship hazardous waste off-site to a treatment,
storage, disposal (TSD) facility must prepare and submit a Biennial Report
to the EPA Regional Administrator by March 1 of each even numbered year (2024, 2026, 2028, etc.). Use EPA Form 8700-13A/B for submitting the report, and include
the following information:
- The EPA identification number, name, and address of the
- The calendar year covered by the report
- Your EPA identification number, name, and address for
each off-site treatment, storage, or disposal facility to which waste was
- The name and EPA identification number of each transporter
- A description, EPA hazardous waste number (from 40 CFR
part 261, subpart C or D), DOT hazard class, and quantity of each hazardous
waste shipped off-site
- A description of the efforts undertaken during the year
to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste generated.
- A description of the changes in volume and toxicity of
waste actually achieved during the year in comparison to previous years
- The certification signed by the generator or authorized
Some states require have more frequent reporting requirements
(e.g., annually). Find your state's rules using the Hazardous
Waste State Resource Locator.
Exception Reporting (SQGs and LQGs only)
Exception reports are part of the RCRA tracking system. After
you send waste off-site for disposal, the TSDF is required to return to you
a copy of the original manifest. If you don't receive the manifest from the
TSDF, then you must submit an Exception Report. SQGs must file a Exception
Report if they have not received a copy of the manifest with the handwritten
signature of the owner or operator of the designated facility within 45 days
of the date the waste was accepted by the initial transporter. There is no
special form for the Exception Report. You can write directly on a copy of
the manifest or attach a separate sheet of paper (handwritten or typed). Make
sure you include:
- A legible copy of the manifest in question
- A statement explaining the efforts taken to locate the
- Your signature
The Exception Reporting requirements for LQGs are a little
different. If you do not receive a copy of the manifest within 35 days of the
date that the waste was accepted by the original transporter, you must contact
the transporter and TSDF to determine the status of the waste. If you still
haven't received a copy of the manifest within 45 days, then you must submit
the Exception Report as described above for SQGs.
You must retain records for three years, including:
- All notices and documentation associated with Land Disposal Restrictions
- Biennial Reports
- Exception Reports
- Any test results, waste analyzes, or similar information
related to the waste shipped off-site
- Your inspection schedule and reports. (Specific inspection
requirements are found in 40 CFR 265.15.)
The three-year time period is automatically extended indefinitely
if you have any unresolved enforcement action. In this case, maintain the files
until all matters are fully resolved.