Classes of hazardous waste generators
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April 14, 2014
Classes of hazardous waste generators
By Elizabeth M Dickinson, JD, Senior Legal Editor - EHS

Under the federal RCRA regulations, there are three classes of generators of hazardous waste: large quantity generators (LQGs), small quantity generators (SQGs), and conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs). Class status depends on the total amount (volume) and type of hazardous waste generated in a calendar month. You must add up the weight of all the hazardous waste your facility generates in a month; the total weight determines your generator class. There are, however, specific rules to determine which wastes are counted and which are excluded from being counted. Be sure that your state environmental regulatory agency knows your generator class.

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Determining Class: Monthly Volume and Counting

Monthly Volume

Because volumes of hazardous waste generated are computed monthly, it is possible, for example, to be a SQG one month and a “fully regulated generator” (LQG) the next. If the amount of waste generated in a given calendar month places the generator in a larger generator class, the generator must comply with all applicable requirements of that class for all waste generated during that calendar month.

Counting Generated Wastes

The RCRA rules that set forth which hazardous wastes must be counted each month, and which wastes are excluded from being counted, are found at 40 CFR 261.5(c) to (d) and are applicable to all three classes of generators (even though 40 CFR 261.5 is applicable primarily to CESQGs). When counting hazardous waste, the generator must include all hazardous waste it generates, except hazardous waste that:

  1. Is exempt from regulation under 40 CFR 261.4(c) to (f) (wastes generated in a product or raw material unit as well as waste samples used for characteristic determination or treatability studies)
  2. Is exempt from regulation under 40 CFR 261.6(a)(3) (certain recyclable materials)
  3. Is exempt from regulation under 40 CFR 261.7(a)(1) (hazardous waste remaining in an empty container or its inner liner)
  4. Is exempt from regulation under 40 CFR 261.8 (polychlorinated biphenyls regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act)
  5. Is managed immediately upon generation only in on-site elementary neutralization units, wastewater treatment units, or totally enclosed treatment facilities as defined in 40 CFR 260.10
  6. Is recycled, without prior storage or accumulation, only in an on-site process subject to regulation under 40 CFR 261.6(c)(2)
  7. Is used oil managed under 40 CFR 261.6(a)(4) and 40 CFR 279
  8. Is spent lead-acid batteries managed under 40 CFR 266, Subpart G
  9. Is universal waste managed under 40 CFR 261.9 and 40 CFR 273
  10. Is hazardous waste that is an unused commercial chemical product that is generated solely as a result of a laboratory clean-out conducted at an eligible academic entity pursuant to 40 CFR 262.213

To avoid being counted twice, wastes that the regulation states do not need to be counted when determining generator class (because these wastes were counted in the month they were initially generated) are:

  1. Hazardous waste when removed from on-site storage
  2. Hazardous waste that is produced from on-site treatment (including reclamation) of hazardous waste
  3. Spent materials that are generated, reclaimed, and subsequently reused on-site

State Law

Differences between state hazardous waste generator law and federal law may affect the generator’s class and what wastes are counted.  Some states have not adopted the federal CESQG class. If the federal generator classifications conflict with the state generator classifications, the more stringent (i.e., more inclusive) state law prevails.

In addition, the list of hazardous wastes that are excluded from being counted may vary in some states. In other words, a waste that does not need to be counted under the federal rule may have to be counted under a state rule. Similarly, wastes that have been designated by the generator’s state as hazardous (that are not so designated under federal law) must be counted.

Additional Resources:

EPA Hazardous Waste Codes for Waste Streams Commonly Generated by SQGs
Episodic Hazardous Waste Generators
Hazardous Waste Characteristics: A User Friendly Document

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