August 15, 2022

Chlorofluorocarbon Exclusion Applicability to Plasma Arc Units

EPA has issued guidance on the exclusion of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from the definition of hazardous waste in §261.4(b)(12). [RO 14945] The guidance clarifies both the requirements of the exclusion and RCRA status of CFCs. The guidance also addresses whether plasma arc destruction of CFCs meets the definition of reclamation. EPA’s primary purpose for excluding CFCs from the definition of hazardous waste was to encourage reuse and recycling and prevent harm to service technicians venting the coolants into the atmosphere. The regulatory language in §261.4(b)(12) states that the CFCs must be “reclaimed for further use.”

Plasma arc destruction units can achieve 99.9999% destruction efficiency using pyrolysis. Under the federal regulations, any material that is burned for destruction is considered a solid waste. [§261.2(b)(2)] Furthermore, pyrolysis does not meet the definition of reclamation in §261.1(c)(4). Thus, to operate a plasma arc unit without obtaining a RCRA permit, the operator must ensure the material being burned in the unit is not hazardous waste.

CFCs often contain chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, both RCRA toxic constituents in §261.24. If the CFCs contain these constituents above toxicity characteristic levels, they are hazardous waste when sent for plasma arc destruction, and the plasma arc facility must have a RCRA permit—regardless of whether carbon credits are received. EPA recommends consulting with state regulators to ensure all case-specific questions are addressed.

EPA provides additional guidance on making hazardous waste determinations on materials. If the material is being burned for destruction, and is, therefore, a solid waste, no distinction between “contaminant” and “constituent” exists. In other words, even an unused product not on the P- or U- list, but burned for destruction, is a solid waste and potentially hazardous waste. The agency emphasized the importance of reviewing all relevant knowledge and testing when making a hazardous waste determination.


©2022-2023 McCoy and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

McCoy and Associates has provided in-depth information to assist environmental professionals with complex compliance issues since 1982. Our seminars and publications are widely trusted by environmental professionals for their consistent quality, clarity, and comprehensiveness.



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.