Increasing Recycling: Adding Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste Regulations
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Aerosol cans are widely used for dispensing a broad range of products including paints, solvents, pesticides, food and personal care products, and many others. The Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA) estimates that 3.75 billion aerosol cans were filled in the United States in 2016 for use by commercial and industrial facilities as well as by households. Aerosol cans can account for nearly 40 percent of retail items that are managed as hazardous waste at large retail facilities.
With this rule, EPA adds hazardous waste aerosol cans to those “universal wastes” regulated under title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 273. This change in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations is expected to reduce regulatory costs for a wide variety of establishments generating and managing aerosol cans, including the retail sector, by providing a clear, protective system for handling hazardous waste aerosol cans.
The streamlined universal waste regulations are expected to:
- Ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and others that discard aerosol cans,
- Promote the collection and recycling of aerosol cans, and
- Encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors.
The federal Universal Waste program, established in 1995, creates a streamlined mechanism for collection and recycling of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste. From 1995 to 2018, four waste streams had been added to the federal Universal Waste program.
A few states have already added hazardous waste aerosol cans to their state Universal Waste programs. In March 2018, EPA proposed adding aerosol cans to the federal universal waste list. EPA used these state programs as models for this rule.