News Blog Posts Tagged as RCRA

Is Your Waste Recycler Endangering Your Business?

Published 08/05/2020

Does sending your industrial waste or e-scrap to a precious metals reclaimer ever feel like whistling past the graveyard? It can, if you’re not paying attention to the way that a refiner handles hazardous waste.

Many businesses have found themselves subject to massive fines for environmental damage decades after they sent materials to a refiner for reclamation. While you may be sending out electronic components that don’t present hazardous waste risks, once a recycler processes them, they can become a liability for all parties involved.

For better or worse, just because you’re hiring a third party to dispose of your materials doesn’t  mean your hands are clean of any negligence on their part. We’ll explain why below.

The Long Arm of Liability

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed in 1976, gives EPA the authority to control hazard waste from cradle to grave. Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, otherwise known as the Superfund law, gives EPA the power to find the parties responsible for the release of hazardous waste and assure their cooperation in the cleanup. The cornerstone principle is that polluters pay the entire cost of cleanup, to prevent the burden from falling on taxpayers.

So, any parties responsible for the use, transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste are liable for the costs of cleanup. That means you could end up footing a massive bill for environmental damage, even decades beyond your dealings with a refiner.

Just ask any of the hundreds of businesses listed in this court filing from the Southern District of Illinois, thanks to doing business with a now defunct company called Chemetco.

Meet One of EPA’s Most Wanted

Trouble for Chemetco began in 1980, when the Illinois EPA started documenting dozens of environmental violations at the plant. In 1992, the U.S. EPA named Chemetco the country’s leading emitter of airborne lead. And in 1996, EPA discovered a hidden pipe discharging waste into a nearby tributary of the Mississippi River.

Chemetco’s owner at the time, Denis Feron, had ordered the 10” pipe installed in 1986 to connect one of the plant’s wastewater basins to Long Lake, a stagnant tributary of the Mississippi River. Contaminated rainwater and water used in the smelting process were dumped into Long Lake, depositing a 5’ thick toxic layer of zinc, lead, cadmium and copper.
One EPA representative estimated that Chemetco’s smelting operation created at least 900,000 tons of man-made slag.

This violation of the federal Clean Water Act resulted in a fine of $3.8 million, probation for five workers, and a manhunt for Feron, who had fled the country. Chemetco went bankrupt in 2001. Feron was placed on EPA’s 10 Most Wanted List in 2008, but charges were dropped in 2010 when he settled the charges with a $500,000 fine.


The Curse of Chemetco

Cleanup of the 41-acre contaminated property began in 2008, and the site was placed on the Superfund National Priorities List in 2010. In 2011, EPA began identifying parties that were legally responsible for the cleanup costs — including companies that brought materials to Chemetco for processing.

Several of the companies entered into an agreement with EPA in 2015, agreeing to pay for a remedial investigation and feasibility study while EPA continued to identify additional responsible parties. As an EPA attorney stated, “Litigation is driving this cleanup.

Eventually, the EPA will issue a record of decision defining future remedial actions at the site. One estimate suggests that cleanup could continue beyond 2021, requiring millions more dollars to restore the land for redevelopment.

Protect Your Business

In the end, it’s your responsibility to know your industrial waste recycler and hold them accountable for proper disposal. While the Chemetco story is an extreme example, we’re not sharing it for the shock value. We want you to be aware of the risks and diligent about protecting your company.

To learn more about performing due diligence when recycling e-scrap or industrial waste, read our article on how to find a responsible precious metals refiner.

Don’t let the curse of Chemetco happen to you.


Our Commitment to Sustainability

Learn more about how Gannon & Scott handles e-scrap and other hazardous waste by downloading the whitepaper or the data sheet for our proprietary TRu3Tec™ pollution control system. Click here to see our commitment to sustainability.

Shipping Hazardous Waste for Recycling

Published 07/01/2020

Shipping Hazardous Waste Compliance Checklist

For you and for us, things like used plating solutions, filters, and resins represent valuable materials to recover. To the U.S. EPA and DOT, they constitute hazardous waste, or at least regulated recyclable materials. And all hazardous waste generators, from jewelers to electronics manufacturers, bear full responsibility for its storage and transportation.
But when it comes to shipping hazardous waste, many businesses still get a few things wrong.

While EPA regulates onsite hazardous wastes under RCRA, DOT regulates hazardous waste transportation. DOT requires that hazardous waste be classified, described, packaged, marked, labeled, and in condition for shipment according to its guidelines. When you ship materials to a refiner, failing to meet DOT requirements can result in hefty fines, reducing any revenue you generate through precious metal recovery.

By familiarizing yourself with these regulations, you’ll be better equipped to stay within the legal boundaries for shipping hazardous waste. You can also make better choices
for your business, including the companies you partner with for shipping and refining—decisions that can ultimately affect your bottom line.

To help you navigate the regulations and meet DOT shipping requirements, we’ve created the five-step checklist below. Note that steps 3, 4, and 5 include a few of the most common
mistakes we see shippers make.

1. Determine Whether Your Material is Hazardous Waste

DOT defines hazardous waste in 49 CFR part 171.8 as “any material that is subject to the Hazardous Waste Manifest Requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency specified in 40 CFR part 262.” This means that DOT considers your materials to be hazardous waste only if they must be shipped on a manifest under the federal RCRA waste requirements.

To determine whether your material falls under those requirements, answer these questions:

  1. Is it a solid waste, according to the EPA definition?
  2. Is it excluded from regulation under 40 CFR part 261.4?
  3. Does it meet any of the descriptions under the list of hazardous wastes in subpart D of 40 CFR part 261?

Thanks to an exemption in subpart F of 40 CFR part 266, recyclable materials from which “economically significant” amounts of precious metals are recovered are exempt from
full hazardous waste regulation. For your materials to qualify, you must receive an economic return valuable enough to cover the costs of recycling. However, you still have to comply
with all of the shipping requirements listed below, in addition to EPA’s record-keeping requirements.

2. Obtain an EPA ID Number (if you don’t already have one)

The EPA hazardous waste generator identification number allows EPA to track hazardous waste from cradle to grave. Whether or not you need an EPA ID number depends on
how much hazardous waste you generate per month, which determines your hazardous waste generator category.

If you generate more than 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs) per month, you are classified as a Large Quantity Generator (LQG) and you must obtain an EPA ID number.

If you’re a Small Quantity Generator (SQG), EPA does not require an ID number, but your state might, so it’s always best to also know the state-specific requirements.

You can find instructions and forms for obtaining an EPA ID number here.  


3. Fill Out the Hazardous Waste Manifest

The Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest is designed to meet both EPA and DOT documentation requirements for shipping hazardous waste. It contains information
about the hazardous materials being transported (classification, reportable quantity, etc.), emergency contact information, the generator’s EPA ID number, and more. If you’re not tired of reading regulatory documents yet, you can find manifest requirements and instructions in Subpart C of 49 CFR part 172.

Fortunately, EPA rolled out the Hazardous Waste E-Manifest System in 2018 to replace its previously paper-intensive process. You can learn more about how the system works at the
EPA website and create an e-manifest using the RCRAInfo site.

Keep in mind, DOT still requires that transporters carry paper copies of the manifest. If you use the e-manifest system, simply print out a copy from the RCRAInfo site. (DOT recognizes electronic signatures specifically for e-manifests.)

Common Mistakes

One of the most frequently cited paperwork violations is a failure to properly describe the hazardous material. Be sure to consult the Hazardous Materials Table for proper shipping
descriptions and classifications, along with guidance for packaging and handling requirements.

For us, the most common mistakes we see on manifests are pretty simple:

  • A shipper forgets to sign the manifest. Happens more than you think!
  • The manifest has the wrong package count, in which case you’ll get a call from us to resolve it.
  • The manifest shows an incorrect quantity of materials in a package, such as how much of a drum is full.

4. Choose the Right Packaging

General requirements for hazardous waste shipments and packaging are covered in 49 CFR 171.2(g) and 49 CFR part 173. DOT also offers a fairly easy to read summary here.

The Hazardous Materials Table in section 3 specifies the type of packaging required for each form of hazardous waste. For some materials, such as lithium cells and batteries, you may be required to use UN performance packaging.

If that’s the case, check out this guide to performance packaging from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). This two-page pdf shows you how to interpret codes and markings and includes a convenient list of volume conversion factors.

Common Mistakes

One of the most common shipping mistakes we’ve seen companies make is putting their material in improper packaging. That could mean using a poly drum when a steel drum
is required, or (this one makes us scratch our heads) putting liquids in a cardboard box instead of a drum.



5. Mark & Label Your Packages

This step provides crucial information for transporters, including orientation arrows, the nature of the waste (corrosive, flammable liquid or solid, etc.), shipper’s contact info and ID
number, hazardous material class, and more. DOT requirements for markings are listed in Subpart D of 49 CFR part 172, while labeling requirements are in Subpart E. PHMSA
also provides a handy markings, labeling, and placarding guide with general guidelines and visual examples.

While it’s important to follow the letter of the law when it comes to labeling, use some common sense, too. For instance, labels should be placed in a clear and visible
location on packages—that way, if an emergency response crew needs to get the information contained on a label, it’s quick and easy to find. Likewise, any
markings should be durable, in English, and not obscured by other markings
or labels.

Common Mistakes

There’s just one labeling mistake we see the most often: someone puts the wrong label on the wrong drum. It might seem like a minor slip-up, but the purpose of these labels is to communicate crucial information to everyone who handles your hazardous waste.

One Last Common Mistake

Here’s a word of advice that comes from years of fielding panicked calls from customers: Pay attention to the storage deadline for hazardous waste. EPA puts a limit on how much
hazardous waste you can accumulate onsite before it must be transported to a certified disposal facility. And, as you already know, shipping is hard to arrange at the last minute.

SQGs are allowed to store hazardous waste onsite for 180 days, according to 40 CFR section 262.16, while LQGs are limited to 90 days, per 40 CFR section 262.17. However,
if it’s day 89 and you suddenly realize you need to get the hazardous waste off-site tomorrow, you may not be able to find a shipping company with a suitable truck in the
area. So, we recommend you plan ahead and prearrange shipping, based on your expected hazardous waste accumulation.