Ask the Expert, Hazardous and Solid Waste, Q&A, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Is Paint a Hazardous Waste?

Q. We spray paint small items such as pumps and motors and puncture the empty paint cans to capture the remaining teaspoon or so of paint that is placed in a drum. Is this remaining paint a hazardous material, and if so, how should we label the drum?

A. Paint can often be a hazardous waste as it contains chemicals such as solvents and metals that may either be hazardous due to the chemical being on the RCRA lists of hazardous waste (i.e. a listed waste) or because the waste exhibits hazardous characteristics, such as those of toxicity, ignitability, or corrosivity. All classes of generator must determine whether the waste they generate is hazardous.
You have not indicated what class hazardous waste generator you are, but if you are either a small quantity generator (SQG) or large quantity generator (LQG) and your analysis of the paint waste results in a hazardous waste determination, the paint remaining in the can would be a hazardous waste that would require a SQG or LQG of the hazardous waste to manage it in accordance with the RCRA hazardous waste rules at 40 CFR 262.34. (Conditionally exempt small quantity generators are exempt from this requirement.)
In terms of labeling the drum in which an SQG or LQG accumulates the hazardous waste, 40 CFR 262.34 requires that it must be marked with the date that the storage period began (the date the first quantity of hazardous waste was placed in the container). This marking must be clear and visible for inspection on each container. The container must also be labeled or marked clearly with the words “Hazardous Waste.”

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