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Beneficial Reuse/ Recycling of Dangerous Waste

Reclamation of Usable Materials

Some materials can be reclaimed before they are considered solid waste. Some materials can be reused, as is. These materials are excluded from the solid and dangerous waste regulations. For instance, wastes that are on the "Discarded chemical products list" at WAC 173-303-9903 are chemical products that have expired or are otherwise unwanted.  Reclaiming these materials to be reused will exempt them from the waste regulations, if done correctly.

The regulations exclude from solid waste classification three kinds of recycled waste that are reclaimed prior to being recycled.   To "reclaim" means to process a material in order to recover useable products, or to regenerate the material.

  1.  Characteristic By-products—By-products are residual materials that are not produced intentionally and that are unfit for end use without substantial processing. Examples are process residues such as slags or still bottoms. The term does not include a co-product produced for the general public's use and is that ordinarily used in the form produced by the process.
  2. Characteristic Sludges—A sludge is any residue (solid, semisolid, or liquid) from a water or air pollution control device.  Examples of sludges include flue and baghouse dust, and wastewater treatment sludge.
  3. Commercial Chemical Products (CCP):

"Commercial chemical product or manufacturing chemical intermediate" 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."

CCPs include:

  • P- and U-listed wastes identified in the "Discarded chemical products list" at WAC 173-303-9903.
  • Residues or contaminated debris from the cleanup of a spilled listed CCP
  • Any unused commercial products (e.g. gasoline, paint) that designates as dangerous waste. 

*"Characteristic" refers to dangerous wastes which are dangerous waste either because they are ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic, or are a state-only waste.

Commercial Chemical Product Exception

Commercial Chemical Products that are placed on the land or burned for energy recovery usually remain solid wastes and possible dangerous wastes.  There are two exceptions to this:

  • When they are land-applied and that is their intended, ordinary manner of use. For example, spilled pesticide residue can be applied according to label instructions.
  • When waste Commercial Chemical Products are themselves a known fuel (or component of a fuel) and are used to produce a fuel or burned for energy recovery.  An example of this exception would be contaminated gasoline, diesel, or methanol burned for energy recovery. 

Beneficial Reuse

The regulations provide an exemption from solid waste for recyclable materials that are reused as is, without reclamation. These reusable materials are viewed as product streams that are part of ordinary manufacturing and production operations. The exemption applies at the time the material is first generated. It can be managed or used as a usable product either on-site or at an off-site location.  It can be:

  1. Used or reused as ingredients or feedstocks in an industrial process to make a product
  2. Used or reused as a substitute for a commercial product
  3. Returned to the original production process. Recyclable materials are returned to the original production process where they were generated.

In each of these cases the recyclable material cannot be reclaimed prior to being used or reused.

Another exclusion, termed "closed-loop recycling" is similar to the third exemption above. It differs because reclamation is allowed to occur prior to the material being recycled back to the original production process. It also differs in that the recycling train occurs entirely within closed piping.

Three specific types of recyclable materials are also exempt from solid waste when reused as described in "Recycling processes involving solid waste" at WAC 173-303-017(2)(b):

  • Pulping liquors that are reclaimed and reused in the pulping process
  • Spent pickle liquor reused in wastewater treatment
  • Spent sulfuric acid used to make virgin sulfuric acid.

In each of the above situations, certain regulatory conditions apply to the recyclable material and to the end use of a resulting waste-derived product. They must not be:

  1. Disposed or applied to the land
  2. Burned for energy recovery, or to produce a fuel
  3. Speculatively accumulated, or
  4. Mismanaged so that  it poses a threat to public health or the environment.

Wastes Exempt by Variance

Some recyclable materials can qualify for a written variance exempting them from being defined as solid waste. For example, a variance is available for materials that are being accumulated for recycling, but do not meet the speculative accumulation rules that require 75 percent of recyclable materials be recycled each year. A variance is also available for materials that are partially reclaimed, but must be further reclaimed to be fully recovered.   "Recycling processes involving solid waste" at WAC 173-303-017(5) fully explains the variances and how to obtain one.

Exempt Industrial Waste Streams

The dangerous waste regulations in "Recycled, reclaimed, and recovered wastes" at WAC 173-303-120(2), list three product-like industrial waste streams conditionally exempt from most dangerous-waste-management requirements :

  • Reclaimed industrial ethyl alcohol
  • Fuels and oils produced from petroleum-refinery dangerous waste
  • Coke and coal tar from the iron and steel industry

Recycling Determination Checklist

Businesses are not required to obtain permission to beneficially recycle a dangerous waste. However, Ecology reccommends that the business has their recycling proposal reviewed through the "recycling determination checklist" process. The checklist asks a series of questions intended to show that the recycling is legitimate and does not amount to disposal of a dangerous waste without a permit. This checklist review protects the business, by making sure they are within the regulations.  It also helps show visiting hazardous waste inspectors that legitimate recycling of an apparent waste material is occurring. Assessment criteria include that the recyclable material is:

  • Effective and useful for the claimed use. Where it replaces an analogous raw material, it is comparable in effectiveness.
  • Not used in amounts in excess of the amount necessary for operating a process.
  • Stored and handled similar to an analogous raw material or product.
  • Has economic value and there is a market for the end product.

The assessment also ensures the end product is not applied to the land, burned for energy recovery, or used to produce a fuel. It is important that exempt recycling is documented, since the recycling proponent has the burden of proving that they meet the conditions of the exemption. For example, a contract could show that a second party uses the material as an ingredient in a production process. 

Contact Rob Rieck at (360) 407-6751 for more information on the checklist process or on any other recycling determination question.

Related information

Identify (Designate) Dangerous Waste can help you determine if your waste is a dangerous waste and what kind it is.

Washington Dangerous Waste Designation Tool is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet that will walk a generator through the process of assigning waste codes to dangerous waste.

Which Rules Apply? can help you to determine your generator status once you know how much waste you produce.

Identifying solid waste is at WAC 173-303-016 of the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Recycling Processes involving dangerous waste is at WAC 173-303-017 of the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Designation of dangerous waste  is at WAC 173-303-070 in the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Excluded categories of waste at WAC 173-303-071 contains a list of substances excluded from the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Recycled, Reclaimed and Recovered Wastes is at WAC 173-303-120 of the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Discarded Chemical Products List is at WAC 173-303-9903 of the Dangerous Waste Regulations.