April 17, 2020

Adequate U.S. Hazardous Waste Treatment and Disposal Capacity Through 2044

In December 2019, EPA published its most recent National Capacity Assessment Report. The report describes the nation’s long-term capacity for hazardous waste recovery, treatment, and landfilling at RCRA-permitted commercial TSD facilities. The impetus for these periodic reports is the 1986 SARA amendments to CERCLA. One of the SARA provisions requires a state to demonstrate 20 years’ worth of hazardous waste management capacity before a Superfund remedial action in that state can be federally funded. To help states fulfill this statutory requirement, EPA issued guidance for developing these reports in 1993, culminating in the first National Capacity Assessment Report in November 1996.

Data for the new report were collected primarily via the 2017 biennial reports submitted by large quantity generators and TSD facilities. RCRAInfo’s permit module, consultations with commercial hazardous waste management facilities, and internet research were also used. Hazardous waste quantities associated with imports/exports were included, along with estimated amounts from small and very small quantity generators and state-only hazardous wastes. The data were adjusted to 2019 and used to project national hazardous waste generation and management capacity through 2044.

The report lays out the tonnage of hazardous waste managed via various recovery, treatment, and disposal methods, concentrating on energy recovery, incineration, and landfilling capacity, at the nation’s commercial TSD facilities. Concluding the nation does indeed have recovery, treatment, and disposal capacity for managing all hazardous waste generated through 2044, the report provides some caveats. Recent consolidation and restructuring in the commercial hazardous waste industry has resulted in a decreased number of RCRA-permitted energy recovery facilities, incinerators, and landfills. Additionally, unforeseen circumstances, such as new federal regulations, permit denials, and changing market conditions, could also create capacity interruptions. “The dynamic hazardous waste market and the uncertainty of the permitting process make it difficult to guarantee that the current surpluses of hazardous waste management capacity will continue to exist.”

If you have ever wondered about the various treatment technologies a TSD facility might use to treat your hazardous waste, the report (starting on page 135) provides a brief description of the technologies reviewed. These include 1) numerous technologies for the recovery of metals, organics, and inorganics; 2) energy recovery, fuel blending, and incineration; and 3) methods for treating wastewaters and sludges.


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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.