American Coatings Association


EPA Designates Aerosol Cans as Universal Waste


On Nov. 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule adding hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste program under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations. According to the pre-publication notice, this change will benefit the “wide variety of establishments generating and managing hazardous waste aerosol cans, including the retail sector, by providing a clear, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans.”

ACA supported this move by EPA when it was proposed in March 2018. The rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Under the reclassification, aerosol cans, pressurized or spent — including spray paint cans — will be treated and handled as universal waste. In 1995, EPA promulgated the universal waste rule to establish a streamlined hazardous waste management system for widely generated hazardous wastes to encourage environmentally sound collection and proper management of the wastes within the system. Hazardous waste batteries, certain hazardous waste pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and hazardous waste lamps are already included on the federal list of universal wastes. The universal waste regulations in 40 CFR part 273 are a set of alternative hazardous waste management standards that operate in lieu of regulation under 40 CFR parts 260 through 272 for specified hazardous wastes.

The streamlined universal waste regulations are expected to ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and others that discard hazardous waste aerosol cans; promote the collection and recycling of these 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.

Because not all states have adopted the same federal regulations under RCRA, waste regulations are different across the United States. Notably, five states — California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Ohio — already have universal waste aerosol can programs in place; and Minnesota has proposed to add aerosol cans to their universal waste regulations. The universal waste programs in all these states include streamlined management standards like 40 CFR part 273 for small and large quantity handlers of universal waste, and a one-year accumulation time limit for the aerosol cans. In addition, the four state universal waste programs, as well as Ohio’s proposed regulations, set standards for puncturing and draining of aerosol cans by universal waste handlers.

More information on EPA’s Universal Waste Program may be found here.

Contact ACA’s  Rhett Cash for more information.


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