The Terrible Ten

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers 25,081 total current, “significant” hazardous waste violations as of August 28, 2018 across the country. These are the ten states with the most violations registered last week.

A list of the ten U.S. states with the highest number of  significant hazardous waste violations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers 25,081 total current, “significant” hazardous waste violations as of August 28, 2018 across the country.  Significant violations can range from improper temporary storage of hazardous waste, transporting hazardous waste without a permit, illegal dumping/disposal of hazardous waste, to name a few.  Penalties can include jail time and fines in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Violators include businesses, colleges and universities, hospitals, government operations and any other non-residential waste generators.

Improper disposal of lamps

The ten states with the greatest number of current, “significant” hazardous waste violations are (totals as of Sept. 28):

10.  Alabama     680

9.  Pennsylvania     685

8.  Kentucky     765

7.  Maryland     872

6.  Louisiana     1607

5.  Texas     1733

4.  Missouri     1804

3.  Washington     2068

2.  Ohio     2244

 1.  West Virginia     3308

The ten states with the greatest number of total current hazardous waste violations are:

10.       Illinois     3235

9.         Pennsylvania     3344

8.         Ohio     3574

7.         New York     3813

6.         Louisiana     4165

5.         California     4399

4.         Washington     4707

3.         Missouri     4732

2.         Texas     4912

1.         West Virginia     5270

The EPA defines hazardous waste as a waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment.  And though there are many industrial waste products that fall into this category, there are a large number of “everyday” materials that are hazardous, too.  Burned-out fluorescent bulbs, batteries (alkaline and rechargeable), lighting ballasts and thermostats are some of the common items that are also considered hazardous waste.  TerraCycle’s Regulated Waste division offers options for the safe recycling and disposal of fluorescent bulbs, batteries, ballasts, medical sharps to keep businesses of every size EPA-compliant.

And in case you were wondering, the Top Ten states with the least number of significant EPA hazardous waste violations this week are:

10.       Kansas     81

9.         Rhode Island     73

8.         Maine     62

7.         Florida     60

6.         Arizona     59

5.         Vermont     53

4.         South Dakota     51

3.         Nevada      40

2.         Minnesota      39

1.         Delaware     23

The EPA reports that one out of every ten hazardous waste violations is related to the mismanagement of universal waste like batteries, mercury-containing components and lamps.  Unmarked or improperly marked universal waste containment and improper universal waste storage are two of the three most common violations.  Utilizing an EasyPak container for smaller quantities or a BulbEater 3® for larger quantities can prevent storage issues.

EPA adds Manifesting Fees to Processing Costs

TerraCycle discusses the EPA’s updated manifesting fees going into effect September 1, 2018

EPA Logo
EPA Logo

In an effort to encourage all hazardous waste receiving facilities to adopt fully electronic manifesting, the EPA has changed the fee structure for Manifest User Fees.  Effective September 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019, hazardous waste receiving facilities will be charged based on a scale that rewards them for adopting the EPA’s fully-integrated, electronic system.  The agency will continue to accept paper manifesting, but at a higher fee.  Fluorescent lamp waste generators and other hazardous waste generators can expect to see an increase in their recycling cost as processors pass the new expense on to their customers. 

TerraCycle Regulated Waste is aware of the new fees and is working to limit the impact on responsible recyclers.  Contact your TerraCycle Regulated Waste representative directly for more information or questions.  

Illegal disposal of fluorescent lamps can be a costly mistake

Fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lamps illegally dumped

In 1976, the federal government passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  The act has been amended several times, giving the EPA definitions and guidelines that provide them the ability to take action against facilities and businesses that fail to meet regulations for the health and safety of people and the environment.  An important subsection of the RCRA regulations addresses the handling of waste, and more specifically, regulated waste.

According to EPA records, over the last two years hundreds of companies and facilities have been fined for failing to comply with the EPA’s rules on the handling of universal waste.  Fines typically range from $3,000 to $9,000, but some have been recorded as high as tens of thousands for substantial violators. A check of the inspection records for several states and regions indicates that cited violators were not limited to large universal waste producers or any specific industry.  From small, public schools to major corporations, any facility that utilizes fluorescent lighting can find themselves in trouble if their universal waste is not properly managed.

According to the Cornell Law School, the EPA has the authority to inspect and levy fines for failure to properly handle hazardous waste under Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR Part 273, Subpart A – General).  Fluorescent lamps, batteries, pesticides and mercury-containing equipment are specifically defined as “Universal Waste” by the EPA, and are subject to heightened scrutiny because of the potential danger to the environment when not properly disposed of or recycled.

For example according to the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website, two universities in the Upstate region of South Carolina were recently fined in excess of $12,000 combined for RCRA violations.  A retail chain store in Kentucky was fined $3,750 by their state DEP when the federal EPA recorded the violation.  Additionally, the management team at that Kentucky store was required to attend an Enforcement Conference with the EPA.  But perhaps the most notable financial penalty for improper disposal of hazardous and universal waste in the last year is the $27.84 Million Home Depot agreed to pay to California.

Fortunately, fines and citations are easily preventable, if you work with a registered, reputable hazardous waste handler.  A certified universal waste recycler can provide facility management with a clear record of their waste’s proper handling and will provide a Certificate of Recycling Compliance for future reference.  Having an understanding of your recycler’s downstream procedures can be the difference between an uneventful inspection and a disciplinary action.

The most recent federal budget slashes the EPA funding by 23%, causing a large reduction in staff.  This might mean more pressure on inspectors to find actionable violations.  With less direct budgetary funding, it could also mean the EPA will be looking to increase the financial impact of fines and violations to help defray the cost of other important programs.  It becomes all the more important for a business or facility to have the necessary documentation of compliance.

EasyPak
TerraCycle EasyPak fluorescent lamp recycling box

 

Depending on the amount of universal waste a facility is producing, there are good options for EPA-compliance.  A smaller facility that isn’t producing much hazardous waste, say 100 kilograms (220 lbs.) or less a month, is considered a very small quantity generator (VSQG).  Setting up a box and store program for their fluorescent lamps, like an EasyPakTM box, will most likely be enough to remain compliant.

A mid-sized or larger facility could fall into either the small quantity generator (SQG) or large quantity generator (LQG) category.  Depending on a number of factors, such as the number of waste lamps generated each month and available storage space, a facility might consider a drum-top bulb crusher like the BulbEater3L® for their compliance needs (check local regulations for approval).  For very large quantities of waste lamps, a facility can set up a bulk pick-up to clear their property of potentially hazardous lamps.

The key is to get ahead of the violations before the EPA comes to inspect a facility.  No manager wants to have to spend money on a fine, plus find themselves under greater scrutiny when a situation is easily preventable.  The solutions cost a fraction of the fines the EPA can levy and prevent the embarrassment of citation.