Last week, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) announced a proposal to amend its Hazardous Waste rules to allow certain paints to be managed as universal waste.  While the proposed rules may appear limited and largely ministerial, there are a number of noteworthy features that raise issues beyond universal waste management and recycling. 

In 2013, the Maine Legislature established a “Stewardship Program for Architectural Paint” and authorized the Maine DEP to accept and approve proposals to operate a fee and collection program.  The paint covered by the law is limited to interior and exterior architectural coatings sold in containers of 5 gallons or less, but the proposed rule excludes many other types of coatings.   The DEP proposal only addresses paints that would otherwise be hazardous waste, attempting to address the regulatory hurdles for those paints.   (Non-hazardous waste paints will also be subject to the stewardship program when it is adopted next year, but will not be subject to these hazardous waste requirements.)

For reasons that are not explained, the DEP is only proposing to allow a limited class of small quantity generators to recycle their paint under the program.  The rule imposes a number of other restrictions that will both limit the usefulness of the provisions (including secondary containment for 5-gallon containers) and discourage recycling.

Other proposed changes to the general Universal Waste and Hazardous Waste rules are even more curious and come with no explanation.  These include:

  • Additional inspection requirements for all types of universal waste
  • A new “collection container” definition for universal waste
  • New definitions in the Hazardous Waste rules that appear to differ from existing definitions
  • Attempts to incorporate certain federal rules, including a not-yet-published Code of Federal Regulations volume

A public hearing on the proposed rules is scheduled for October 7th, and those wishing to provide comments must do so by October 17th.