EPA Proposes to Classify Aerosol Cans as Universal Waste

April 27, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a rule that would streamline the regulation of hazardous waste aerosol cans (currently managed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C, generally because of their ignitability, and subject to stringent rules on handling transport and disposal) by adding them to the existing federal list of materials that can be managed under the universal waste management system. EPA’s universal waste rules provide a streamlined hazardous waste management system for common industrial wastes like batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and lamps.  (“Authorized” states would choose whether or not to adopt the new universal waste rules into their state programs.  Some states have already added them to their universal waste lists.)  This would likely simplify handling and disposal for contractors and save firms money (e.g., no manifest required for transport). Notably, because aerosol cans are often the only hazardous waste stream produced on a construction site, classifying them as universal waste could change a company’s “generator status” and exempt it from RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste requirements. Universal wastes do not need to be counted toward a hazardous waste generator’s inventory for determining whether the generator is classified as a Very Small Quantity Generator, Small Quantity Generator, or Large Quantity Generator.

According to EPA, the proposed rule revisions would save at least $3 million per year in regulatory costs and facilitate recycling of the metal used to make the cans. 

If the proposal is finalized, the existing universal waste requirements that are applicable to Small Quantity and Large Quantity Handlers of universal waste would be applicable to handlers of discarded aerosol cans.  Aerosol can wastes generated by households and Very Small Quantity Generators meeting applicable requirements would remain exempt from the RCRA regulations. Click here for chart on “general comparison of generator requirements to universal waste requirements.”

What if I generate a very small amount of universal waste? If you generate a very small amount of universal waste and are not otherwise designated as a small or large quantity generator of hazardous waste under your state’s regulations, you may qualify for the streamlined standards for Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs). Check with your state agency for information on whether your state recognizes CESQGs and what the limits are for that category of generator.

AGC is preparing comments in support of this rule in advance of the May 15, 2018, comment deadline.  Please review the Federal Register notice and contact AGC’s Leah Pilconis at if you would like provide input on AGC’s letter.

Industry Priorities: 
Go to top