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History of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is our nation’s primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste. Congress passed RCRA October 21, 1976 to address the increasing problems the nation faced from our growing volume of municipal and industrial waste.

RCRA was amended and strengthened by Congress in November 1984 with the passing of the Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA). Among other mandates, these amendments to RCRA required phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste, corrective action for releases and waste minimization. Waste minimization refers to the use of source reduction and/or environmentally sound recycling methods prior to treating or disposing of hazardous wastes.

RCRA has been amended on two occasions since HSWA:

  1. Federal Facility Compliance Act of 1992 – strengthened enforcement of RCRA at federal facilities.
  2. Land Disposal Program Flexibility Act of 1996 – provided regulatory flexibility for land disposal of certain wastes.

RCRA focuses only on active and future facilities and does not address abandoned or historical sites, which are managed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) – commonly known as Superfund.

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