Managing Non-Hazardous Municipal and Solid Waste (RCRA) | Region 10 | US EPA

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Managing Non-Hazardous Municipal and Solid Waste (RCRA)

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Overview of the Solid Waste Program

Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) addresses non-hazardous solid wastes, including certain hazardous wastes which are exempted from the Subtitle C regulations such as: hazardous wastes from households and from conditionally exempt small quantity generators. Subtitle D also includes garbage (milk containers, coffee grounds), non-recycled household appliances, the residue from incinerated automobile tires, refuse such as metal scrap, wall board and empty containers, and sludge from industrial and municipal waste water and water treatment plants and from pollution control facilities.

Besides the types of wastes, how do the RCRA Subtitle C and Subtitle D programs differ? Under the RCRA hazardous waste regulations, Subtitle C, EPA has primary responsibility for the permitting of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. This is until EPA authorizes a State to operate portions or all of the hazardous waste program in lieu of EPA operating the program. In contrast, Congress intended via RCRA Subtitle D that permitting and monitoring of municipal and non-hazardous waste landfills shall be a State responsibility. RCRA does not authorize EPA to issue Federal permits for disposal of Subtitle D wastes. Information on the permitting process and on individual landfills must be obtained by contacting the state agencies (and in some states the local health departments) and the local municipality, in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, or Washington.

Under Subtitle D, the state and local governments are the primary planning, permitting, regulating, implementing, and enforcement agencies for management and disposal of household and industrial or commercial non-hazardous solid wastes. EPA establishes technical design and operating criteria (which, at a minimum, the States include in their own regulations) for disposal facilities. Also, per Subtitle D, EPA must determine the adequacy (approval status) of the State permit programs. Note, EPA can only do compliance inspections and enforcement of the Federal minimum criteria after EPA has determined a State’s solid waste program to be inadequate. Approved States benefit from potential use of the flexibility that is included in the federal regulations. Tribes can also request (petition) EPA for use of the flexibility on a site-specific landfill basis.

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EPA’s minimum national technical criteria (regulations) include specific requirements for location, operation, design (liner, leachate collection, run-off controls, etc), groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure and post-closure care, and financial assurance responsibility. The primary regulations are found in 40 CFR Part 257 and Part 258 of the Code of Federal Regulations. EPA has also issued regulations under the Clean Air Act that apply to emissions from very large landfills, and certain EPA criteria issued under the Clean Water Act may apply. Note, EPA currently (10/01) does not have any specific or unique RCRA regulations on disposal of medical wastes at landfills. States and local communities should be contacted to find out how to dispose of medical wastes.

EPA provides States, local agencies, and Native American Tribes and Alaskan Native Villages with information, guidance, and policies to help these entities, the public, and the regulated community to make better decisions on waste issues. Subjects covered include incineration and landfilling activities, the environmental and economic benefits of source reduction and recycling of solid wastes, and upgrading or closure of environmentally unsound disposal units.

EPA has helped develop and implement new initiatives and programs that aid businesses, states, local governments, and tribes in implementing resourceful solid waste management programs. The focus is particularly on the environmental and economic benefits of source reduction and recycling (the term Source Reduction refers to reducing waste at the source, or point of creation, of the product itself). These initiatives include WasteWise, Jobs Through Recycling, Pay As You Throw (Unit Pricing), and Full Cost Accounting for municipal solid waste.

EPA has available on CD-ROM a Collection of Solid Waste Resources which includes over 170 documents covering characterization of municipal solid waste, buying recycled, pay as you throw, management of certain hazardous wastes, home health care, public participation, composting, household hazardous waste, recycling, source reduction, incineration, education, information sources, landfilling, tribal waste management, and additional topics on municipal solid waste management in general.
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Statute, Regulations and Policies Go to top of page

Working with States and Tribes Go to top of page

Information for Decision Makers and Households Go to top of page

Contacts and Other Useful Information Go to top of page

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