In March, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) revised the state’s hazardous waste and universal waste regulations, based on a fall 2014 proposal.  There are several particularly important changes to the universal waste rules, which have been moved to a new chapter 858.

The most significant of these changes is the addition of “Architectural Paint” as universal waste.  To put this change in context, in 2013, Maine passed the Maine Architectural Paint law.  The law contemplates that paint manufacturers will propose a Stewardship Plan for DEP approval so that municipal and retail collection centers can collect unused Architectural Paint.

The rule just published carefully defines Architectural Paint (a term that includes interior and exterior architectural coatings sold in containers of 5 gallons or less that is unused, with certain qualifications and exceptions).  If the Architectural Paint qualifies as hazardous waste, it may then be managed as universal waste – but only by Maine’s small quantity generators.  (Recall that small quantity generators generate less than 100 kg per calendar month and accumulate no more than 55 gallons at any one time in total.)  Further, these generators may only manage Architectural Paint as a universal waste after the DEP approves a Stewardship Plan later this year.  In practice, small quantity generators who want to follow universal waste management practices would actually have to meet more extensive requirements for Architectural Paint than for other hazardous waste.  Continuing to follow hazardous waste rules for Architectural Paint is always an option.

The Maine Pulp and Paper Association and others commented on these proposed DEP rules last fall, and the DEP made a number of changes in response to those comments.  Unfortunately, the DEP did not accept a recommendation that would have allowed more generators to take advantage of the Architectural Paint program.

The new universal waste rule makes another important change:  DEP removed the requirement to obtain and retain a “certificate of recycling” for ALL universal wastes shipped for recycling.  This paperwork requirement has bedeviled generators, transporters, and recycling facilities since it was initially adopted.   Notably, DEP retained the existing mandatory recycling requirements – only the paperwork obligations were repealed.

The 2013 Maine Architectural Paint law has recently been the subject of proposed changes introduced in the Maine Legislature.  Those changes, if adopted, could modify these new DEP rules and the contemplated Stewardship Plan, and change state law to lessen burdens on paint waste collection facilities.  It is possible that legislation may also make other changes.

Universal waste generators should be sure to get a copy of the new regulations which are available on the DEP website, and are now effective, available through these links:   See Chapter 850 and Chapter 858.