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Combustion

In the U.S more than 3.1 millions tons of hazardous waste were disposed of through combustion in 2005. This figure represents 7.2 percent of the approximately 44 million tons of hazardous waste generated (source: 2005 National Biennial RCRA Hazardous Waste Report, December 2006, EPA530-R-06-006). For additional information, see:

Types of Hazardous Waste Combustion Units

There are two categories of combustion units for solid and liquid hazardous wastes:

Incinerators

Incinerators are used to burn hazardous waste primarily for waste destruction/treatment purposes; however, some energy or material recovery can occur.

When performed properly, incineration destroys the toxic organic constituents in hazardous waste and reduces the volume of the waste. Since metals will not combust, incineration is not an effective method for treating metal-bearing hazardous wastes. There are many types of hazardous waste incinerators including:

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations governing incinerators can be found at 40 CFR Part 264 Subpart O-Incinerators and Part 265 Subpart O-Incinerators.

Boilers and Industrial Furnaces (BIFs)

BIFs are typically used to burn hazardous waste for the significant energy and material recovery potential, with waste treatment being a secondary benefit. Boilers typically combust waste for energy recovery, while industrial furnaces burn waste for both energy and material recovery.

A boiler is defined as an enclosed device that uses controlled flame combustion to recover and export energy in the form of steam, heated fluid, or heated gases.

An industrial furnace is a unit that is an integral part of a manufacturing process and uses thermal treatment to recover materials or energy. The following units are considered industrial furnaces:

RCRA regulations governing boilers and industrial furnaces can be found at 40 CFR Part 266, Subpart H-Hazardous Waste Burned in Boilers and Industrial Furnaces.

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Air Emissions Regulations for Hazardous Waste Combustors

Smoke stackHazardous waste combustors also are regulated under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The CAA protects human health and the environment from the harmful effects of air pollution by requiring significant reductions in the emissions of the most dangerous air pollutants. These pollutants are known or suspected to cause serious health problems such as cancer or birth defects, and are referred to as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).

As originally enacted, the CAA required that EPA establish National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) on a chemical-by-chemical basis. Under this mandate, EPA established NESHAPs for seven HAPs. However, the 1990 amendments to the CAA changed EPA's approach to regulating HAPs, so that NESHAPs are now established based on the "maximum achievable control technology" (MACT) for an industry group or source category (for example, hazardous waste combustors). These standards are based on emission levels that are already being achieved by the better-performing sources within the group.

The NESHAP for hazardous waste combustors was developed in two phases. Phase I, which addresses hazardous waste burning incinerators, cement kilns, and lightweight aggregate kilns, was originally promulgated on September 30, 1999 (64 FR 52828). Hazardous waste burning industrial boilers, process heaters, and hydrochloric acid production furnaces, were addressed in Phase II, which was signed September 14, 2005. Replacement standards for Phase I also were signed on this date.

For more information on implementation of the Hazardous Waste Combustion NESHAP (40 CFR Part 63, Subpart EEE), visit the Hazardous Waste Combustion NESHAP Toolkit.

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Exclusion of Hazardous Waste-Derived Fuel and Synthesis Gas


Comparable Fuel Exclusion (CFE), 1998: Hazardous waste-derived fuels are excluded from the regulatory definition of solid waste if they meet specification levels comparable to fossil fuels for concentrations of hazardous constituents and for physical properties that affect burning. The exclusion applies to the comparable fuel from the point it is generated and is claimed by the person generating the comparable fuel (which person can include a hazardous waste treater). Generators of the comparable fuel must comply with sampling and analysis, notification and certification, and record keeping requirements. The exclusion applies to liquid hazardous waste-derived fuels and synthesis gas derived from hazardous waste.  EPA promulgated the comparable fuel exclusion (63 FR 33782) (PDF) (48 pp, 399 K) on June 19, 1998.

Emission Comparable Fuel Expansion (ECF), 2008  

EPA expanded the Comparable Fuels Exclusion to encompass a new category of liquid hazardous secondary materials known as emission-comparable fuel (ECF). By expanding the Comparable Fuels Exclusion, ECF will be handled as a valuable commodity.

ECF is subject to the same regulations that currently apply to the Comparable Fuels Exclusion, with the exception of those for oxygenates and hydrocarbons (constituents which contribute energy value to the fuel). The rule specifies conditions on burning ECF which assure that emissions from industrial boilers burning ECF are comparable to emissions from industrial boilers burning fuel oil. The ECF exclusion also includes conditions for tanks and containers storing ECF to prevent improper disposal.

For more information on the comparable fuel exclusion and the emission comparable fuel expansion , visit Comparable Fuel Exclusion and Technical Information page.

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Background Information and Guidance

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

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Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the risk posed to human health and/or the environment by the actual or potential presence or use of specific pollutants. Risk assessments relating to hazardous waste combustion examine the potential risk posed by the operations of these facilities. For more information on risk assessment and EPA's risk assessment guidelines, visit EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment.

For additional information on hazardous waste combustion risk assessment, see the following documents:

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Economic Assessment

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Related Topics

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