What is RCRA Waste?

There are many different types of waste. First, there are everyday household wastes such as empty food packaging containers which are benign in nature and do not pose serious hazards when disposed of using normal trash disposal methods. However, there are also wastes that are considered hazardous. Hazardous wastes cannot be safely disposed of using traditional garbage disposal methods because they pose serious dangers. Hazardous wastes can be in solid, gas, or liquid form. However, certain solidification processes may be needed in order to ensure proper removal. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or simply RCRA is a law that mandates the proper removal of hazardous wastes so that they are disposed of in safe and environmentally friendly ways. The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA oversees the RCRA laws and also differentiates between what wastes are considered hazardous and what wastes are not.

Types of Hazardous Wastes

Because there are quite a variety of different hazardous wastes, they have been broken down into two main categories for easy identification.

·         Listed Wastes – These are wastes that are generated from specific industrial operations and can be divided into the following “lists”: the F-list, the K-list, and the P-list & U-list. The wastes on the F-list are from non-specific sources and are commonly derived from manufacturing and industrial processes. The K-list wastes are source specific and can be classified as coming from a particular source such as an oil refinery or pesticide manufacturing facility. Lastly, the P-list and U-list go hand-in-hand and include wastes classified as unused, discarded commercial chemical products. Wastes identified in the P-list are often fatal and extremely damaging to people and animals, while wastes on the U-list pose a safety threat to people and the environment.

·         Characteristic Wastes – Characteristic wastes are waste products that do not meet any of the above listed waste criteria but still possess hazardous qualities. Characteristic wastes include wastes that may be corrosive, ignitable, toxic, or reactive.

Furthermore, the EPA also differentiates wastes even further by also utilizing these additional two categories as well.

·         Universal Wastes – These wastes include pesticides, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, and equipment containing mercury such as thermometers.

·         Mixed Wastes – The treatment and regulation of mixed wastes can be tricky because mixed wastes contain more than one hazardous material. Mixed wastes are both radioactive and hazardous.

Sources of Hazardous Waste

There are numerous sources of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste does not just come from big oil refineries or large manufacturing companies. Instead, hazardous wastes are also emitted from less obvious sources such as hospitals, photo centers, and dry cleaners. However, the important thing is that hazardous materials are disposed of properly so they don’t endanger the lives of people or animals, or cause damage to the environment.

The threat of hazardous waste is real and should be taken seriously. The requirements outlined by the RCRA are mandatory for all businesses organizations that produce, store, or dispose of any hazardous waste material. Without proper hazardous waste management, the strain and impact on the environment could be disastrous.