What Every Small Business Should Know About Hazardous Waste

By: Amy Bauer

Almost every business, from property managers to commercial shops to small manufacturing, assembly, and distribution operations, have the potential to generate hazardous waste. Many times, small amounts of wastes are generated, not directly from manufacturing operations, but rather, maintenance and other support activities. Some examples include batteries, paints, solvents, and oils used to support equipment and other aspects of the business. Also, retailers must deal with returned or damaged automobile, personal care, household, electronics, and other products, and recently, some have made the news for sending some of these materials to landfills where prohibited. These businesses might not generate hazardous waste on a regular basis, but have paint or other wastes in the building that if a “clean up” were to occur, the business would generate small amounts of hazardous waste. Businesses that generate less than 220 pounds of non-acute hazardous waste every month (1) are referred to as Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) (2) of hazardous waste.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations provide for less stringent management options to scale back hazardous waste (e.g., universal waste classification for waste batteries); however, all generators, including VSQGs, must make an accurate determination as to whether a waste is a hazardous waste to ensure wastes are properly managed according to applicable RCRA regulations and understand how much hazardous waste is generated and stored at the facility. A VSQG must also ensure that hazardous waste is delivered to a person or facility who is authorized to manage it.

One aspect of the RCRA program was recently updated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and states are in the process of adopting these regulations. The final Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule was published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016. The final rule includes more than 60 changes to the hazardous waste generator regulations. Any portion of the rule that USEPA has determined to be more stringent than a state’s program must be adopted by that state, and states may choose not to adopt any portion of the rule that is less stringent. In many states, the rule is already in effect (3). Two key provisions allowing additional flexibility for VSQGs 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 VSQG to send its hazardous waste to a large quantity generator (LQG) under control of the same person.

RCRA sets the framework for any generator to manage its hazardous waste from “cradle to grave” meaning from the time it is generated (created) until it is disposed. The VSQG has the least stringent, most flexible requirements of all hazardous waste generator classifications, but sometimes this leads to little or no formal program for waste management. The key is understanding what each state (4) expects with regards to waste management and developing the groundwork to avoid mis-management. For more information on how EHS Support can help you develop and implement a waste management program, please contact Amy Bauer at 251-533-6949 and amy.bauer@ehs-support.com or Bruce Martin at 703-944-4709 and bruce.martin@ehs-support.com.


[1] Total onsite accumulation must not exceed more than 2200 pounds of non-acute hazardous waste.

[2] Formerly known as Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators.

[3] https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/where-hazardous-waste-generator-improvements-rule-effect

[4] Additionally, most states are authorized to implement the RCRA program. State generator categories can be different than the federal categories.

Amy BauerABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Bauer has 17 years of experience conducting and managing environmental site assessments, regulatory compliance audits, environmental investigations, and regulatory compliance support. Amy specializes in assisting clients in interpreting and implementing various regulatory compliance requirements, and providing guidance and support for interactions with regulatory agencies… Read More



Related Posts