On September 12, 2016, EPA issued its "Strategy for Addressing the Retail Sector under RCRA's Regulatory Framework." The Strategy represents an effort by the EPA to address specific regulatory issues that retailers face under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"), which is the federal statute that governs the management of solid and hazardous waste. In a 2014 Notice of Data Availability ("NODA"), EPA received commentary from stakeholders in the retail sector in an effort to understand how these stakeholders are affected by the RCRA framework and to collect suggested revisions. The Strategy is an effort to use this collected data toward making RCRA more efficient.
Retailers face significant challenges in complying with RCRA's hazardous waste management rules. One major challenge is dealing with goods that are moved through a reverse distribution process, where unused goods are sent to consolidation or distribution centers and a decision is made at that point as to whether the goods will be resold, reused/recycled or discarded. Retailers often struggle to determine at what point goods become a waste under RCRA and the identity of the generator once the goods are determined to be waste under RCRA.
EPA recognizes that RCRA regulations were developed primarily for manufacturing facilities and may not easily translate to a retail setting. In the new Strategy, EPA identifies the following goals to address the challenges of applying RCRA to the retail setting:
- EPA intends to issue Agency policy, guidance and rulemaking to ensure a better fit between RCRA regulations and the retail sector.
- EPA intends to research retail hazardous waste management practices and related issues in the area of reverse distribution, universal waste and other challenges.
- EPA intends to use the results of its evaluation and research and identify additional approaches to address outstanding RCRA retail sector issues if needed.
The Strategy outlines the steps that EPA plans to take to meet these goals. Retailers may not see significant benefits from the Strategy in the short term, but they should be familiar with EPA's efforts and be aware of opportunities for stakeholder comment.
EPA's Strategy can be found at the following link:
Ultimately, understanding how RCRA impacts retail operations, including the management of goods in a reverse distribution system, is a critical function for many such operations to assure proper management of materials.