Hazardous Waste Management, Q&A

A Question on Hazardous Waste, GHS Labeling, and Accumulation

Experts at Enviro.BLR.com® were recently asked, “If the hazardous waste is unused and unopened and has GHS labeling on the container from the manufacturer, can you just write hazardous waste on there with the accumulation date and be compliant?” Read on to learn their answer.

We assume that your reference to a container of “hazardous waste [that] is unused and unopened” is really a reference to a container of a product that has yet to be opened or used given the fact that “hazardous waste” must be, by definition, both a waste (which an unused product is not) and, after use, determined to be hazardous. Consequently, this answer will address whether the container of a product with the manufacturer’s GHS labeling may, once emptied of a product, be utilized to accumulate the same product that has been used and determined by the generator to be both a waste and hazardous.

The container you describe can be utilized to accumulate its now used and hazardous product provided certain RCRA standards are met. First, it must meet the numerous regulatory standards for a hazardous waste container including whether the waste being put in the container is compatible with the container and whether the container is in good condition. For a review of the other applicable RCRA container standards, go to enviro.blr.com and choose the topic “Hazardous Waste Storage.”

As you note, labeling the container is another compliance requirement. You are correct that the container must be marked with the words “Hazardous Waste” along with the accumulation start date. This date must be “clearly visible for inspection on each container.” The question is whether the “GHS labeling” meets the third hazardous waste labeling requirement which is to mark or label the container with “an indication of the hazards of the contents.” EPA allows this information to be conveyed by marking or labeling the container with:

  • The applicable hazardous waste characteristics such as “ignitable,” “corrosive,” reactive,” “toxic;”
  • Hazard communication consistent with the DOT labeling requirements at 49 CFR part 172 subpart E (labeling) or subpart F (placarding);
  • A chemical hazard label consistent with the National Fire Protection Association code 704); or
  • A hazard statement or pictogram consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard at 29 CFR 1920.1200.

Because the fourth example of how to indicate the hazards of the container is information that would already be on a GHS-compliant label, the third RCRA labeling requirement would seem to be satisfied. However, you must also determine whether there are now hazards associated with the waste that are in addition to the hazards associated with the virgin product. If so, those too would need to be indicated on the container.

Finally, it is a concern as to whether all the information originally on the container plus the RCRA information that must be added makes the container difficult to read. While there is no regulation that specifies that the information on the hazardous waste container must be presented clearly (other than the requirement that the accumulation date must be “clearly visible”) it would be prudent to have all required information clearly presented. Because it is very possible that a regulatory inspector, as well as employees and emergency responders might find the abundance of information confusing and because the container must also meet specific RCRA standards, the minuses of using a former product container to accumulate hazardous waste may outweigh the pluses.

Note: This question was answered by experts at Enviro.BLR.com®. Not an Enviro.BLR.com subscriber? Visit the site today and take advantage of all that it has to offer!