The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste program. The universal waste regulations allow an alternative management option for hazardous wastes designated as universal wastes, provided the requirements for management as a universal waste are met. This reduces the regulatory burden for management of these wastes, and the wastes do not have to be counted toward a facility’s hazardous waste generator status when managed in compliance with universal waste regulations.

The final rule becomes effective February 7, 2020 within the states for which EPA is the RCRA authority. If a state agency is the RCRA authority rather than EPA, the state agency must adopt these new regulations for them to be applicable within that state.

Under the rule, an aerosol can means a non-refillable receptacle containing a gas compressed, liquefied, or dissolved under pressure, the sole purpose of which is to expel a liquid, paste, or powder and fitted with a self-closing release device allowing the contents to be ejected by the gas. The rule does not apply to the following types of aerosol cans:

  • Not yet considered a waste (an aerosol can becomes a waste on either the date it is discarded for used cans or the date a person decides to discard it for unused cans);
  • Not classified as a hazardous waste; and
  • Meets the standard for empty containers under 40 CFR 261.7.

Generally, handlers of universal waste aerosol cans must manage the waste in a way that prevents releases of any universal waste or component of a universal waste to the environment, as follows:

  • Universal waste aerosol cans must be accumulated in a container that is:
    • structurally sound;
    • compatible with the contents of the aerosol cans;
    • lacks evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable conditions; is protected from sources of heat; and
    • Is labeled or marked clearly with any of the following phrases: ‘‘Universal Waste—Aerosol Can(s),’’ ‘‘Waste Aerosol Can(s),’’ or ‘‘Used Aerosol Can(s)’’;
  • Universal waste aerosol cans that show evidence of leakage must be packaged in a separate closed container or overpacked with absorbents, or immediately punctured and drained; and
  • As long as each aerosol can is not breached and remains intact, a handler may:
    • Sort aerosol cans by type;
    • Mix intact cans in one container; and
    • Remove actuators to reduce the risk of accidental release.

A handler that punctures and drains aerosol cans under the universal waste program must recycle the empty punctured aerosol cans and meet the following requirements:

  1. Conduct puncturing and draining activities using a device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the residual contents and any emissions;
  2. Establish and follow a written procedure detailing how to safely puncture and drain the universal waste aerosol cans:
    • Must include proper assembly, operation and maintenance of the unit, segregation of incompatible wastes, and proper waste management practices to prevent fires or releases;
    • Must maintain a copy of the manufacturer’s specification and instruction on site; and
    • Must ensure employees operating the device are trained in the proper procedures;
  3. Ensure that puncturing of the can is done in a manner designed to prevent fires and to prevent the release of any component of universal waste to the environment:
    • Includes locating the equipment on a solid, flat surface in a well-ventilated area;
  4. Immediately transfer the contents from the waste aerosol can or puncturing device, if applicable, to a container or tank that meets the applicable requirements for hazardous waste containers;
  5. Conduct a hazardous waste determination on the contents of the emptied aerosol can and manage that material in accordance with the applicable hazardous waste regulations for the facility’s hazardous waste generator status;
    • If the contents are determined to be nonhazardous, the handler may manage the waste in any way that is in compliance with applicable Federal, state, or local solid waste regulations; and
  6. Establish and follow a written procedure in the event of a spill or leak and a spill clean-up kit must be provided:
    • All spills or leaks of the contents of the aerosol cans must be cleaned up promptly.

If you need assistance with determining EHS applicability, determining hazardous waste management requirements, or complying with the requirements of universal waste regulations, contact a VBA professional.