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RCRA Summary

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), an amendment to the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, was enacted in 1976 to address a problem of enormous magnitude - how to safely manage and dispose of the huge volumes of municipal and industrial waste generated nationwide. The goals set by RCRA were:

  • To protect human health and the environment from the hazards posed by waste disposal;
  • To conserve energy and natural resources through waste recycling and recovery;
  • To reduce or eliminate, as expeditiously as possible, the amount of waste generated, including hazardous waste; and
  • To ensure that wastes are managed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.

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 (MSWLFs) 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 tanks storing hazardous substances and petroleum products

All RCRA provisions do not fit neatly into the solid waste, hazardous waste, and underground storage tanks (UST) regulatory frameworks.

The Statute established additional miscellaneous provisions to further the goals of the waste management program, and to address materials that were not covered by Subtitles C, D or I.

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