EPA published a proposed rule (83 Fed. Reg. 11654) today that would ease the management standards for aerosol cans. Stakeholders, particularly the retail sector, has pushed for this addition for some time. Currently, once a waste, aerosol cans must often be managed as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), generally because of their ignitability, and thus often are subject to stringent regulations related to handling, transportation, and disposal. Today’s proposal would add aerosol cans to the existing federal list of universal wastes.

As background, in 1995, EPA established a streamlined regulatory scheme for widely generated hazardous waste – such as batteries, certain pesticides, and lamps – as a way to encourage environmentally sound collection and proper management of these common wastes. These are known as universal wastes and, although they are still hazardous wastes, qualify for less stringent regulation than hazardous waste regulations. For example, universal waste may be stored for one year before recovery, treatment, or disposal, whereas hazardous waste may be stored for a maximum of 270 days. Also, generators may accumulate up to 5,000 kilograms of universal waste, but can only accumulate up to 1,000 kg of hazardous waste. This EPA webpage includes a table detailing all the differences.

In addition to adding aerosol cans to the list of universal wastes, EPA proposes specific management standards for the puncturing and draining of aerosol cans, which is part of a recycling process the Agency seeks to promote through the new standards. Specifically, EPA seeks to make it “more economical to send hazard waste aerosol cans to recycling for recovery of metal value,” rather than disposal as a hazardous waste.

In the proposed rule, EPA solicits comments regarding (1) whether aerosol cans meet the criteria for universal waste, (2) the cost-benefit analysis for the change in management standards, (3) whether to include a can size limit, (4) the appropriate scope of the definition “aerosol can,” and (5) the appropriate requirements for puncturing and draining aerosol cans. The comment period for the proposed rule is open until May 15, 2018.