Hazardous Waste Management

Hazardous Waste Container Definitions that Stump Everyone

Containers & Tanks

There’s a lot of confusion around whether a management unit is a container or a tank. Here’s the difference—you know you’re dealing with a hazardous waste container if it’s portable. A tank will always remain stationary. The RCRA hazardous waste regulations define a container as “any portable device in which a material is stored, transported, treated, disposed of, or otherwise handled.”

There are many different portable devices. The most common types of containers include 55 gallon drums and barrels, but keep in mind that a container can also be a tanker truck, railroad car, small bucket, or test tube.

Why would you want to use containers instead of tanks? Containers are the most common unit used to store and transport hazardous waste. They are often preferred over tanks and surface impoundments largely due to the ease with which they can be handled and their relative low cost. Containers are a good option for if you want to store, transport, and dispose of hazardous waste without changing the unit.

Empty Containers

Empty containers, or sometimes called “RCRA empty,” are not subject to most RCRA standards. Your hazardous waste container or inner liner is empty if:

  • All waste has been removed that can be removed by pouring, pumping, or by means of suction; and
  • No more than 1 inch (in.), equivalent to 2.5 centimeters, of residue remains on the bottom of the container or inner liner (commonly referred to as the “1-inch rule”); or
  • No more than 3% by weight of total capacity of the container remains in the container or inner liner if the container is less than or equal to 119 gal in size; or
  • No more than 0.3% by weight of the total capacity of the container remains in the container or inner liner if the container is greater than 119 gal in size.