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EPA Finalizes Proposal to Add Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste List

Updated: Dec 9, 2019


On November 15, 2019, EPA finalized its proposal to add aerosol cans to the universal waste program under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulations. The rule offers generators of aerosol can waste two options for the management of this waste stream. Generators may continue to puncture aerosol cans as has been common practice for several years. Alternatively, generators may manage unpunctured aerosol cans as universal waste.


Universal waste handlers managing unpunctured aerosol cans as universal waste must follow several guidelines to ensure proper handling and disposal. Handlers must manage aerosol cans in a way that prevents releases to the environment. Required practices include accumulating the waste in a container that is structurally sound, compatible with the contents of the aerosol cans, lacks evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable conditions, and is protected from sources of heat. If an aerosol can shows evidence of leakage, the handler must package the aerosol can in a separate closed container, overpack the existing container with absorbents, or immediately puncture and drain the can. As is the case for other universal wastes, containers must be labeled with any of the following phrases: “Universal Waste—Aerosol Can(s),” “Waste Aerosol Can(s),” or “Used Aerosol Can(s)”.


A handler of universal waste may also puncture and drain aerosol cans under the final rule. To do so, handlers must establish and follow a written procedure detailing how to safely puncture and drain the universal waste aerosol cans and respond to spills or leaks. While EPA is not requiring the use of commercial puncturing devices, the equipment used must be “specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the residual contents and emissions thereof.” All residuals generated from this process must be subjected to a hazardous waste determination pu rsuant to 40 C.F.R. 262.11 and managed accordingly. In addition, all punctured cans must be recycled as scrap metal.


Because the final rule is less stringent than the current federal program, states are not obligated to adopt it. However, states that listed aerosol cans as universal waste prior to this rulemaking may be required to amend their rules to ensure they are at least as stringent as the federal rule.


The pre-publication version of the rule is available here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-11/documents/aerosol_can_final_rule_prepublication_version.pdf





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