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RCRA 101 Part 2: How to Make Hazardous Waste Determinations

Hazardous Waste Determinations.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to part 2 in our series about the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). During this series, we’ll guide you through proper hazardous waste handling so you stay compliant and safe.

Certain types of solid wastes present health and environmental hazards. This is where RCRA rules really begin to kick in. For every solid waste stream that is generated by or at a facility, a hazardous waste determination must be made.

The first step in this process is determining if the waste is a solid waste, because if it is not a solid waste, it cannot be a hazardous waste. Remember, materials being recycled — even though they may be hazardous — are not solid wastes.

Under RCRA rules, solid wastes can become hazardous wastes in a number of ways:

  • The waste is a hazardous waste if it is listed on the F, K, P or U lists
  • The waste has a hazardous characteristic of toxicity, reactivity, ignitability or corrosivity
  • The waste has been mixed with a listed hazardous waste
  • The waste has been mixed with a characteristic hazardous waste and still exhibits that characteristic
  • The waste is derived from the treatment, storage or disposal of a listed hazardous waste and has not been exempted

RELATED POST: RCRA 101 Part 3: Listed and Characteristic Wastes

When one or more of these situations apply, the waste must be managed as a RCRA hazardous waste. There are a number of exemptions, especially for hazardous wastes that will be recycled and for wastes that present a low level of hazard when properly managed and disposed of.

Hazardous wastes have specific management standards that must be followed while the waste is stored and handled onsite, as well as transportation and disposal requirements that minimize the potential for the waste to cause harm to humans and the environment.

Need more help determining if your waste is hazardous? Use this chart to help decide if your solid wastes are hazardous waste.


Take a deeper look into how wastes can become hazardous by being listed or characteristic in RCRA 101 Part 3: Listed and Characteristic Wastes.

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