U.S.-EPA consider to be hazardous waste. Are there any discrepancies in the regulations?.
The statutory regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designs hazardous waste as simply consisting of: a waste with a chemical composition or other properties that make it capable of causing illness, death, or some other harm to humans and other life forms when mismanaged or released into the environment (Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), 2005, p.2). The involved definition is, however, more complex than that particularly since a regulatory program structured for safe and immediate handling of hazardous waste demands a more rigid and tightly structured definition.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), therefore, worked at length to create tightly controlled definitions of the term so that adherence to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) should be simpler and less confusing.
CFR §262.11 of the RCRA requires that any individual generating or producing a waste must determine if that waste is hazardous and, if so, dispose of it in the correct manner.
Regulatory and Statutory Definition of Waste
There are four steps of identification in the process:
1. Is the waste a solid waste
2. Is the waste excluded?
3. Is the waste a listed hazardous waste?
4. Does it exhibit a certain characteristic? (EPA. Waste identification.)
All of these categories revolve around identification the waste. This is not always easy since something that can seem waste matter to one person (e.g. aluminum) may be defined by another (e.g. A chemist) as valuable. RCRA, therefore, uses solid waste, which pertains to solid, semisolid or liquid -- any sort of waste. However, EPA later (EPA. Hazardous waste characteristics scooping study) elaborated on this distinction because of the above problem.
More so, one may consider that certain wastes should, because of their toxic component, be immediately eliminated. However, it may be impractical or unfair to impose regulations on these same wastes. Household wastes that can contain dangerous chemicals, like solvents and pesticides, are a case in point but subjecting household wastes to the strict RCRA requirements would be impractical. For this reason, too, RCRA has to determine which hazardous wastes should fall under their regulations and a homogenous definition of hazardous wastes should be sought (Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), 2005).
In very broad statutory terms, RCRA §1004(5) defines hazardous waste as:
A solid waste, or combination of solid waste, which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may (a) cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious
irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (b) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed (p.7)
Being an inadequate definition for the above reasons, the EPA sought to provide clearer distinctions so that waste handlers would be able to determine whether or not their wastes fall into the category of hazardous matter. It is the regulatory definition of hazardous waste -- rather than the statutory definition (in above quotation) that serves as guideline for the characteristics of hazardous waste.
EPA uses listings to determine whether wastes are hazardous, but listings can be confusing in more ways than one. Firstly, hazardous wastes are composed of an infinite diversity of chemicals all of which EPA would have to examine, one by one, to determine if their components are indeed hazardous. EPA lacks the resources to investigate this abundance of chemicals. Secondly, regulations are too general. For instance, some waste matters are defined as hazardous even though their composition under other circumstances may alter and lose their harm-inducing characteristics. By tightly constraining matter to lists, the EPA falls into the error of defining matter that is not hazardous as hazardous.
The heuristic that EPA uses to determine whether a substance is hazardous or not is via its question: "what properties or qualities can a waste have which cause that waste to be dangerous?" (EPA, 2005, p.9). For example possibility of inflammability is one characteristic that would deem a matter to be potentially dangerous. Laboratory tests are used, as far as possible, to determine existence of potentially harmful characteristics. However, testing can often be impractical (due to extensive and time and resource consuming procedures) as well as possibly dangerous to scientists concerned and, therefore, EPA…