- Laws & Regulations
- RCRA History
- Hazardous Waste Regulations
- Non-Hazardous Waste Regulations
- Guidance & Policy
History of RCRA
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act commonly referred to as RCRA is our nations primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste. Congress passed RCRA on October 21, 1976 to address the increasing problems the nation faced from our growing volume of municipal and industrial waste. RCRA, which amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, set national goals for:
- Protecting human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal.
- Conserving energy and natural resources.
- Reducing the amount of waste generated.
- Ensuring that wastes are managed in an environmentally-sound manner.
To achieve these goals, RCRA established three distinct, yet interrelated, programs:
- The solid waste program, under RCRA Subtitle D, encourages states to develop comprehensive plans to manage nonhazardous industrial solid waste and municipal solid waste, sets criteria for municipal solid waste landfills and other solid waste disposal facilities, and prohibits the open dumping of solid waste.
- The hazardous waste program, under RCRA Subtitle C, establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal in effect, from cradle to grave.
- The underground storage tank (UST) program, under RCRA Subtitle I, regulates underground storage tanks containing hazardous substances and petroleum products.
RCRA banned all open dumping of waste, encouraged source reduction and recycling, and promoted the safe disposal of municipal waste. RCRA also mandated strict controls over the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The first RCRA regulations, Hazardous Waste and Consolidated Permit Regulations, published in the Federal Register on May 19, 1980 (45 FR 33066; May 19, 1980), established the basic cradle to grave approach to hazardous waste management that exists today.
RCRA was amended and strengthened by Congress in November 1984 with the passing of the Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA). These amendments to RCRA required phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste. Some of the other mandates of this strict law include increased enforcement authority for EPA, more stringent hazardous waste management standards, and a comprehensive underground storage tank program.
RCRA has been amended on two occasions since HSWA:
- Federal Facility Compliance Act of 1992 strengthened enforcement of RCRA at Federal facilities.
- Land Disposal Program Flexibility Act of 1996 (5 pp, 24K, about PDF) provided regulatory flexibility for land disposal of certain wastes.
RCRA focuses only on active and future facilities and does not address abandoned or historical sites which are managed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) commonly known as Superfund.