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Drum Recycling


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Drum recycling facilities receive drums with residual chemicals and oil from various facilities. Based on the label information or field screening, the drums are separated into in various compatibility categories. When the residual chemicals are consolidated, the drums are rinsed, leak tested, reshaped, and painted for reuse. Soap detergent and steam cleaning are the most common process for rinsing. Unusable drums are crushed and disposed as scrap material.


Any kind of chemical can be found on a drum recycling facility. The most common chemicals are:


On-site storage of consolidated bottoms/sludges from the drum cleaning process are common at drum recycling facilities. Incompatible, leaking and unusable drums are often stored in large drum storage yards. These areas may contain heavily contaminated soils. At some abandoned facilities, lagoons, waste pits or buried drums may contribute to subsurface soil or groundwater contamination. The drum rinsate is generally reused, or treated and discharged into the municipal sewer.


It should be noted that many of the drums containing chemicals may represent a significant inhalation threat to assessment personnel. All drums encountered onsite should be visually inspected, inventoried and staged. The contents may be identified by reading labels followed by confirmation using qualitative indicators or wet chemistry field screening techniques. Unlabeled drums should be sampled for on-site screening and laboratory analysis. Visually identified contaminated areas, waste piles, drums and lagoons should be characterized by collecting several samples for laboratory analysis. Application of non-intrusive subsurface geophysics should be evaluated to detect underground burial pits, buried drums and storage tanks.

Nearby surface water, on-site and local wells may be sampled if surface or groundwater contamination is an environmental concern.


Due to the wide range of potential contaminants, analytical parameters should be selected based on field screening results. The analysis may include the following parameters:

Cyanide Analysis

pH analysis

Target Analyte List (TAL) metals

Target Compound List (TCL) (volatile, semivolatile and pesticide/PCBs)

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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