May 12, 2017

Commercial Chemical Products vs. Manufactured Articles

People often get confused in determining whether a product to be disposed is a commercial chemical product, to which the P- and U-codes apply, or a manufactured article, to which they don’t. So, what’s the difference?

Commercial chemical products

In the comment included in §261.33(d), EPA notes “The phrase ‘commercial chemical product or manufacturing chemical intermediate having the generic name listed in…’ refers to a chemical substance which is manufactured or formulated for commercial or manufacturing use which consists of the commercially pure grade of the chemical, any technical grades of the chemical that are produced or marketed, and all formulations in which the chemical is the sole active ingredient….” Thus, unused pesticide containing 0.1% carbaryl as the sole active ingredient is U279 if disposed.

Manufactured articles

One of the most common errors in applying the P- and U-codes is that generators evaluate an unused product, find that it contains one or more of the listed commercial chemical products in §261.33(e–f), and then assign the associated hazardous waste code(s) to the product when they are getting ready to discard it. In general, EPA would term these objects “manufactured articles” and regulates them as follows:

“Manufactured articles that contain any of the chemicals listed [on the P- or U-list] are rarely, if ever, known by the generic name of the chemical(s) they contain and, therefore, are not covered by the [P- or U-] listings.” [November 25, 1980; 45 FR 78541]

Thus, unused wool blankets that were treated with DDT are manufactured articles containing DDT (which keeps moths from eating the blankets) and would not be U061 when disposed.

New guidance

EPA recently provided additional guidance to differentiate between commercial chemical products and manufactured articles in RO 14887. In that guidance, the agency noted that manufactured articles, such as batteries, fluorescent lamps, and thermometers, are all designed for a purpose other than to access the chemicals that are present in these articles. Specifically, one uses these articles for electrical energy (batteries), for light (lamps), or to measure temperature (thermometers). One does not use these articles in order to access the mercury or lead or other chemicals contained in them.

EPA then applied this additional interpretation of what constitutes a manufactured article in RO 14887 to a medical device that delivers nitric oxide (NO) therapy to patients. When the device is activated, an ampule containing liquid dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) is broken, releasing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas. The NO2 is then converted to NO while it passes through tubing that contains a catalyst. The agency noted the following in this guidance: