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In the United States, hazardous wastes are subject to regulations mandated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Every month, we provide clear, in-depth guidance on a different aspect of the RCRA regulations. The information presented here is an excerpt from McCoy’s RCRA Unraveled, 2019 Edition.

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Hazardous Demolition Waste Management Options

If demolition wastes are determined to be hazardous, there are several options available under the RCRA regulations for managing them. Some of the management options may be implemented onsite, while others will be conducted offsite. A discussion of these on- and offsite demolition waste management options is given in the sections that follow.

Onsite waste management options

If hazardous demolition wastes are generated, they may be managed onsite in units that are discussed in the following five subsections.

Scrap metal containers/yards

During the demolition of a building/structure, metallic wastes will be generated, including structural steel, metal decking/siding/roofing, stairways, handrails, piping and other equipment, etc. Section 261.6(a)(3)(ii) exempts such scrap metal—even if hazardous (e.g., coated with LBP)—from RCRA regulation if sent for recycling/reclamation. Therefore, it is unnecessary to make a hazardous waste determination (i.e., whether it exhibits a characteristic or is contaminated with listed hazardous waste) for material that meets the definition of scrap metal and will be recycled. [RO 11782, 11806, 11835, 14184]

Thus, bins filled with scrap metal are not subject to “Hazardous Waste” labeling, 90/180/270-day or speculative accumulation clocks, other §§262.16–17 requirements, etc. Similarly, scrap yards are not subject to RCRA signage requirements, liner standards, the speculative accumulation clock, etc.

Conversely, scrap metal that is to be disposed is not exempt; it is a solid waste, and the generator must determine whether it is hazardous and manage it in one of the units noted below if it is.

Satellite accumulation units

We see no reason why demolition wastes (such as contaminated PPE, LBP debris) could not be managed in an SAA. Note that the SAA regulations did not envision facilities generating one-time wastes (such as concrete chips from cleaning a floor stain) and essentially abandoning the wastes in an SAA. We are not aware of any specific EPA guidance on this issue; however, we suspect that some state agencies may not allow satellite accumulation containers to be used for demolition waste management.

The useful aspect of designating drums containing demolition wastes as satellite accumulation containers is that 1) there is no clock running, and 2) the drums are subject only to minimal labeling and RCRA container standards as noted in §262.15. If alternatively, the generator designates drums holding demolition wastes as 90/180/270-day accumulation containers, then there would be a clock running and these units would be subject to additional labeling and RCRA container standards as noted in the following section.

90/180/270-day units

Typically, such 90/180/270-day units would be tanks or containers, and these units would be subject to all of the RCRA requirements when in demolition waste service just as they are when in process waste service.

Containment buildings may be used as 90-day accumulation/treatment units [see §262.17(a)(4)] and as 180/270-day units [see §262.16(b)(5)]. These units give generators a way to accumulate/treat hazardous debris without having to obtain a RCRA permit.

Examples of the use of 90/180/270-day units for managing hazardous demolition waste are given in Case Study 1. Two additional examples are:

  • Accumulating hazardous building components coated with LBP in roll-off boxes; and
  • Treating hazardous debris in containment buildings. [August 18, 1992; 57 FR 37242, RO 13553, 13696]
Case Study 1 Figure 1

Universal waste units

Some hazardous wastes generated during building/structure demolition meet the definition of universal wastes and so may be managed under the less-stringent universal waste program. For example, fluorescent lamps, UPS batteries, and mercury thermostats and switches removed from a building slated for demolition may all be managed in universal waste containers in accordance with Part 273, Subpart B or C, depending on whether the facility is a small or large quantity handler of universal waste.

RCRA-permitted units

Although generally used for the treatment, storage, and/or disposal of process wastes, RCRA-permitted units, such as a hazardous waste container storage area, tank, landfill, or even surface impoundment, can be used for the onsite management of hazardous demolition wastes. The requirements for obtaining a RCRA Part B permit for a unit that will manage hazardous demolition wastes are the same as those for permitting a process waste management unit. These requirements are expensive, time-consuming, and trigger other RCRA provisions (e.g., the corrective action program).

Offsite waste management options

In addition to the onsite management options discussed above, hazardous demolition waste may be managed at offsite facilities, as discussed in the following four subsections.

Metallic demolition wastes to scrap metal recycling facility

During the demolition of a building/structure, metallic wastes will be generated, including structural steel, metal decking/siding/roofing, stairways, handrails, piping and other equipment, etc. These metallic wastes—even if hazardous (e.g., coated with LBP)—may be sent to an offsite scrap metal recycling facility without complying with the RCRA Subtitle C program. Thus, offsite shipments of scrap metal are not subject to hazardous waste manifest or LDR paperwork requirements.

Universal wastes to destination facility

All universal wastes generated during the demolition of a building/structure may be sent offsite to a universal waste handler for accumulation or to a destination facility for storage, treatment, recycling, or disposal. Offsite shipments of universal waste are not subject to hazardous waste manifest or LDR paperwork requirements.

Nonmetallic demolition wastes to Subtitle C TSD facility

Once the scrap metal has been segregated from the nonmetallic hazardous debris, the most likely option for the offsite management of hazardous demolition wastes is simply to send them to a commercial TSD facility. Several TSD facilities are RCRA-permitted to accept and treat, store, and/or dispose hazardous demolition wastes. If this option is chosen, the generating facility would manage the hazardous demolition wastes just like any other hazardous waste at its facility, and it would comply with all hazardous waste generator requirements, such as 90/180/270-day accumulation and manifesting requirements.

Hazardous demolition waste is subject to the LDR program

Demolition waste will be subject to the LDR program only if 1) it is generated (i.e., components are removed from the building/structure, residues are produced from cleaning/decontaminating the building/structure, and/or the building/structure is demolished), 2) it is hazardous (i.e., it exhibits a characteristic or contains a listed waste), and 3) it will be placed in a land disposal unit. For example, if hazardous debris is generated and will be disposed in an offsite landfill, it will be subject to the LDR program just like any other hazardous waste. However, EPA has developed less-stringent LDR treatment standards for hazardous debris in §268.45.


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Considerable care has been exercised in preparing this document; however, McCoy and Associates, Inc. makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee in connection with the publication of this information. McCoy and Associates, Inc. expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use or for the violation of any federal, state, or municipal law or regulation with which this information may conflict. McCoy and Associates, Inc. does not undertake any duty to ensure the continued accuracy of this information.

This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.