Faxback 11782


United States Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C. 20460
Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response

October 7, 1993

Mr. Gregory L. Crawford
Vice President, Recycling Operations
Steel Recycling Institute
Foster Plaza X
680 Anderson Drive
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15220

Dear Mr. Crawford:

Over the past several years we have received numerous
questions concerning the regulatory status of used aerosol cans
under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous
waste regulations. I understand that confusion about these issues
may be hindering your efforts to increase steel aerosol can
recycling in this country. As environmentally protective recycling
is an important part of the Agency's waste management goals, I hope
that this letter will help to answer some of these questions.


First, I would like to emphasize that under the federal RCRA
regulations, household waste (including aerosol cans) is excluded
from the definition of hazardous waste (40 CFR 261.4(b)(1)). Thus,
any aerosol cans generated by households are not regulated as
hazardous waste. Because this exclusion attaches at the point of
generation (i.e., the household) and combines to apply throughout
the waste management cycle, household aerosol cans collected in
municipal recycling programs and subsequently managed in recycling
programs continue to be excluded from the hazardous waste
management regulations.

The data you submitted (see footnote 1) appear to confirm that
the majority of used residential aerosol cans contain very little
residual product or propellant. Along with your experience working
with many of the 600 or more communities currently recycling these
cans, the data suggest that aerosol cans can be effectively
recycled. The Agency does recommend that communities running
residential steel recycling programs educate their participants to
recycle only empty steel aerosol cans. Participants could also be
educated to: 1) purchase only the amount of consumer products that
they need to minimize the quantities of unused products, 2) give
unused products to someone else who can use them, 3) take unused or
partially full containers to a household hazardous waste collection
program if available, or 4) dispose of the partially full
containers as directed on the label.


I understand that you are also interested in facilitating the
recycling of aerosol cans generated by commercial or industrial
generators. The remainder of this letter discusses only these
non-household waste items.

We have been asked whether aerosol cans exhibit the
characteristic of reactivity. At this time, the Agency is not able
to determine whether various types of cans that may have contained
a wide range of products are reactive. However, a steel aerosol can
that does not contain a significant amount of liquid would clearly
meet the definition of scrap metal (40 CFR 261.1(c)(6)), and thus
would be exempt from RCRA regulation under 40 CFR 261.6(a)(3)(iv)
if it were to be recycled. Therefore, a determination of reactivity
or any other characteristic would not be relevant. Aerosol cans
that have been punctured so that most of any liquid remaining in
the can may flow from the can (e.g., at either end of the can), and
drained (e.g., with punctules end down), would not contain
significant liquids.

It should be noted that since the process of emptying the
aerosol cans is part of a recycling process (i.e., scrap steel
recycling), this activity would be exempt from RCRA regulation
under 40 CFR 261.6(c) (except as specified in 40 CFR 261.6(d)). The
Agency recommends that these activities be conducted in a safe and
environmentally protective manner and that care be taken to
properly manage any contents removed from the container (both
liquids and gases). Any liquids or contained gases removed from
aerosol cans may be subject to regulation as hazardous wastes if
they are listed in Subpart D of 40 CFR Part 261 or if they exhibit
any characteristics of hazardous waste as described in Subpart C of
40 CFR Part 261.

We have also been asked to determine whether used aerosol cans
would meet the definition of "empty" under 40 CFR 261.7. Again, if
the steel cans are being recycled, it is not necessary to determine
whether they are "empty" under the criteria listed in 40 CFR 261.7.
As long as an aerosol can being recycled does not contain
significant liquids, the can is exempt as scrap metal. However, in
order to dispose of a can as non-hazardous waste (rather than
recycle it), a generator would have to determine that the can is
empty under 40 CFR 261.7 (or that the product it contained was not
hazardous), and that the can itself is not hazardous. If a can is
to be disposed of, and either contains or is hazardous waste, it
must be managed under all applicable regulations.

Please be aware that this letter addresses only the federal
hazardous waste regulations. Authorized State agencies implement
the RCRA program in their states (although some parts of the
program may be implemented by the U.S. EPA Regions), and that state
regulations may be more stringent than the federal regulations.
Anyone managing aerosol cans should contact the appropriate state
environmental agency or U.S. EPA Regional Office to determine how
the regulations of that particular state will apply to their

I hope this information is useful in your efforts to increase
steel recycling. Thank you for the assistance that you and the
Steel Recycling Institute have provided my staff in researching
these issues. If you have any further questions, please call
Charlotte Mooney of my staff at (202) 260-8551.

Jeffrey D. Denit
Acting Director
Office of Solid Waste

cc: Waste Management Division Directors,
U.S. EPA Regions I - X

1 Texas Steel Aerosol Can Recycling Program, Final Report;
Steel Can Recycling Institute (now Steel Recycling
Institute), December 7, 1992.