Empty HAZMAT Container? Check Again.

What appears empty to the normal eye may not be considered empty by the EPA.

So even though you set out to comply with all the hazardous waste management regulations for the material itself, you may still end up being at risk of violating the law.

The Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) contains the regulations that define whether the containers are truly empty in the view of the EPA. The true determining factor is whether a container is considered “RCRA empty.”

Standards for Hazardous Waste, Acute Hazardous Waste and Compressed Gas Hazardous Waste

There are 3 different “emptiness” standards that are necessary to avoid hazardous waste material removal regulations.

1.) Hazardous Waste

A hazardous waste container, or its inner liner, is considered empty by RCRA standards  if it meets the one-inch rule. That means that all possible waste is removed through pouring, pumping, or suction and that 1 inch or less of residue remains.

In addition, containers or inner liners up to (and including) 119 gallons capacity can only have remaining material up to  3% maximum of the original hazardous material by weight, in order to meet the RCRA empty standards.

If your container is more than 119 gallons in capacity, then the remainder can’t exceed .3% of a percent of the hazmat by weight in order to be labeled RCRA empty.

These standards still apply whether the material is a mixture of solid and liquid.

2.) Acute Hazardous Waste

A hazardous waste is considered acute if it is any P-listed waste, one of a select list of F-listed wastes, and in general when even slight exposure may have severe effects on human health. This means stricter regulations, and in effect, containers can have no residue left.

In order to meet RCRA empty standards for acute hazardous waste, one of these 3 conditions must be met:

  • The container was triple-rinsed with a solvent capable of removing hazardous waste.
  • It has been cleaned using a different method that has been proven to achieve the equivalent removal of triple-rinse.
  • If it is a container, the inner liner that prevents contact of the hazardous waste was removed.

If you have questions, it is highly recommended that you discuss with an expert who is familiar with both federal and local regulations.

3. Compressed Gas Hazardous Waste

Regulations for this type of hazardous material are much simpler.  A container of compressed gas is considered empty by RCRA standards when the pressure inside the container is equal to atmospheric pressure. However, you are still required to open the container, where all applicable rules, regulations and precautions still apply.

If you have any questions regarding these types of materials, or need help regarding any aspect of your hazardous waste program, please call us at 1-877-777-6708.

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