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June 02, 2016
Accumulating universal waste: the one-year factor
By Elizabeth M Dickinson, JD, Senior Legal Editor - EHS

“One year” is the operative time frame for managing universal wastes under the RCRA regulations at 40 CFR 273. All handlers of universal waste have one year to keep universal waste onsite. To prove that it meets this time limitation, the handler must be able to demonstrate the number of days the universal waste has been accumulating at the facility. Similarly, any handler of universal waste that wants to accumulate universal wastes for over one year must be able to demonstrate that more than 365 days is needed to accumulate enough universal waste to make offsite shipments easier.

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Accumulation for 365 days

Both small quantity handlers of universal waste (SQHUWs) and large quantity handlers of universal waste (LQHUWs) must comply with an accumulation-time limit of one year for storing universal wastes (a permit is not needed). The year time period is measured from the time the waste is either generated (the date it becomes a waste) or the date it is received from another universal waste handler. A SQHUW or LQHUW must be able to demonstrate the length of time that the universal waste has been accumulated. The universal waste rule suggests various methods to meet this requirement, including:

  • Placing the universal waste in a container that is marked or labeled with the earliest date that any universal waste in the container became a waste or was received
  • Marking or labeling each individual item of universal waste with the date it became a waste or was received
  • Maintaining an inventory system
  • Placing the universal waste in a specific accumulation area and identifying the earliest date that any universal waste in the area became a waste or was received, or
  • Any other method which clearly demonstrates the length of time that the universal waste has been accumulated from the date it becomes a waste or is received.

The one-year time period applies to each handler of the universal waste When universal waste is transferred and accumulated by multiple handlers, each individual handler can utilize the one-year accumulation provisions for SQHUWs and LQHUW, since each location at which universal wastes are consolidated or collected is regulated as a separate handler.

Accumulation for more than 365 days

Universal wastes can be stored longer than one year if the handler can demonstrate to the U.S. EPA or the state environmental agency that more time is necessary to properly recycle, treat, or dispose of the universal waste.

Why would you need to do this? And how do you do this? The first question is relatively easy. If your container is only half-full of your universal waste, perhaps batteries or lamps, it’s probably not practical to arrange for offsite disposal for a container that’s not full. But the second question is how can you show that longer accumulation is needed? It could be that the partially-full container is evidence enough but perhaps you have shipping records that can show that, historically, you seldom fill a container within a year. But you should check with your state environmental agency to see if they have a procedure related to proving your need for an extension to the one-year accumulation time period The agency may have standards that must be met (either specified in state regulations or just their agency policy) and it could be that you may need to obtain their approval.

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