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Hazardous Waste

Legitimate Hazardous Waste Recycling Versus Sham Recycling

EPA established guidelines for what constitutes legitimate recycling and described activities it considers to be illegitimate or sham recycling. Considerations in making this determination include whether the secondary material is effective for the claimed use, if the secondary material is used in excess of the amount necessary, and whether or not the facility has maintained records of the recycling transactions.

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Definition and Factors of Legitimate Recycling

EPA’s definition of legitimate recycling is found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 260.43. The four legitimacy factors are as follows:

  1. Legitimate recycling must involve a hazardous secondary material that provides a useful contribution to the recycling process or to a product or intermediate of the recycling process.
  2. The recycling process must produce a valuable product or intermediate.
  3. The generator and the recycler must manage the hazardous secondary material as a valuable commodity when it is under their control.
  4.  The product of the recycling process must be comparable to a legitimate product or intermediate.

Use/Reuse Versus Reclamation

RCRA hazardous waste regulation makes an important distinction between materials that are recycled by being used/reused without reclamation and those that must be reclaimed before reuse.

A material is reclaimed if it is processed to recover a usable product, or if it is regenerated. Common hazardous waste reclamation activities involve recovery of spent solvents (e.g., recovery of acetone) or metals (e.g., recovery of lead). An example of a material that is reused without reclamation is emission control dust returned directly to a primary zinc smelting furnace.

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Sham Recycling

By contrast, sham recycling may include situations when a secondary material is Ineffective or only marginally effective for the claimed use; used in excess of the amount necessary; or handled in a manner inconsistent with its use as a raw material or commercial product substitute. 

Some examples of "sham" recycling include:

  • Ineffective or only marginally effective for the claimed use - e.g., using certain heavy metal sludges in concrete when such sludges do not contribute any significant element to the concrete's properties.
  • Used in excess of the amount necessary - e.g., using materials containing chlorine as an ingredient in a process requiring chlorine, but in excess of the required chlorine levels.
  • Handled in a manner inconsistent with its use as a raw material or commercial product substitute - e.g., storing materials in a leaking surface impoundment as compared to a tank in good condition that is intended for storing raw materials.
  • Recycled product is not comparable to a product made from analogous raw materials – e.g., producing a product with higher concentrations of hazardous constituents than would be normally found in such a product.

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