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Hazardous Waste Recycling

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Hazardous Waste Recycling Frequent Questions

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As stated by Congress, the objectives of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are "to promote the protection of health and the environment and to conserve valuable material and energy resources." With these goals in mind, EPA developed the hazardous waste recycling regulations to promote the reuse and reclamation of useful materials in a manner that is safe and protective of human health and the environment.

Additional questions on hazardous waste recycling:

What is hazardous waste recycling?

Many industrial hazardous wastes can be recycled safely and effectively. A hazardous waste is recycled if it is used, reused, or reclaimed. Furthermore, RCRA hazardous waste regulation makes an important distinction between materials that are used or 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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How much hazardous waste is recycled in the U.S.?

EPA and States collect and report data on hazardous waste recycling as part of the National Biennial Report, which provides data on the generation, management, and final disposition of hazardous wastes regulated under RCRA. In 2011, about 1.5 million tons of hazardous wastes were managed by recycling (metals, solvent, or other recovery). This amount is just under four percent of all hazardous waste managed in 2011. The table below shows the tons of hazardous waste managed through recycling in 2011 as reported to the National Biennial Report by facilities receiving waste for management.

Tons of Hazardous Waste Recycled in 2011*

Recycling Management Method Tons Managed Percentage of Total Managed
METALS RECOVERY 1,039,554 2.7%
OTHER RECOVERY 184,533 0.5%
Total Recycled 1,479,306 3.8%
Total Managed 39,027,932 100%
*Table includes rounding error.
*Table includes wastes generated by large quantity generators (LQGs), small quantity generators (SQGs), and conditionally-exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs) that were received for recycling by facilities reporting to the National Biennial Report.

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Where can I find additional information on hazardous waste recycling?

Definition of Solid Waste.
This web site is designed to provide useful and timely information to help federal, state, and industry officials implement definition of solid waste and hazardous waste recycling regulations.

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

Safe Hazardous Waste Recycling (PDF) (4 pp, 66K)
This fact sheet provides a basic overview of hazardous waste recycling activities, including combustion for energy recovery, use constituting disposal, reclamation, and direct use and reuse, as well as the recycling of the following hazardous materials: used oil, precious metals, and scrap metal. Other fact sheets in the Managing Hazardous Waste in Your Community series are available here.

RCRA Orientation Manual, Section III: Managing Hazardous Waste - RCRA Subtitle C, Chapter 2: Hazardous Waste Recycling and Universal Wastes (PDF) (10 pp, 145K)
The RCRA Orientation Manual provides introductory information on the solid and hazardous waste management programs under RCRA. It is designed for EPA and state staff, members of the regulated community, and the general public who wish to better understand RCRA. This chapter discusses hazardous waste recycling regulations, including used oil and universal waste regulations. The full manual can be accessed here.

RCRA Hotline Training Module - Definition of Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste Recycling (PDF) (23 pp, 68K)
This document explains the statutory and regulatory definitions of solid waste including the standards governing the recycling and management of specific types of waste. RCRA Training Modules for other topics are available here.

Guidance Manual on RCRA Regulation for Recycling Hazardous Waste (PDF) (318 pp, 4.0MB)
This manual provides guidance for State and Regional personnel who must apply the definition of solid waste and for industrial facilities generating and managing solid and hazardous waste that is recycled. Guidance is provided primarily in the form of examples illustrating application of the definition of solid waste regulations to actual recycling practices.

Smaller download:

Hazardous Waste Recycling Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This page lists FAQs addressing topics related to hazardous waste recycling.

Submit a Question
If you can't find what you are looking for, use this page to submit a question to the EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.

For more general resources on RCRA regulation, see RCRA Guidance, Policy, and Resources.

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How do I know if my waste is hazardous?

Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. A RCRA hazardous waste is a waste that appears on one of the four hazardous wastes lists (F-list, K-list, P-list, or U-list), or exhibits at least one of four characteristics-ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity. To find out if a waste is a regulated hazardous waste under RCRA Subtitle C, the first step is to determine if the waste meets the definition of "solid waste" under RCRA Subtitle C. For more information on this topic, see the Definition of Solid Waste area. For more information on characteristic and listed wastes, see the Hazardous Waste area.

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