One of the main compliance considerations for non-hazardous waste is to understand the local requirements where you operate. A good waste hauler can be a valuable partner in managing your waste, but don't forget that your facility is ultimately responsible for complying with the regulations.
State and local governments have the primary regulatory authority over non-hazardous
solid waste or trash from retail businesses. Many jurisdictions ban businesses from sending certain types of material to municipal solid waste landfills. The bans are often designed to encourage recycling as well as to keep hazardous material out of landfills. While hazardous wastes and universal wastes generally must be sent to permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal facilities, some municipal solid waste facilities are authorized to accept wastes from Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators, if allowed by state and local regulations (see the
CRC Hazardous Waste page).
Other types of material that may be subject to landfill bans and/or require special management in some jurisdictions include:
Many jurisdictions, including counties and cities, also have mandatory recycling laws. These laws may list materials that must be recycled as well as have requirements for containers, signage, recycling plans, and record keeping. Some states also have bottle return laws, which require a deposit at the time of purchase that is reimbursed when the consumer returns the empty bottle.
State and local jurisdictions also typically require waste haulers to be permitted, with additional permits required for some waste types, such as medical waste.
There are different requirements for different types of waste batteries, some of which are considered hazardous waste and regulated at the federal and state levels as universal waste. Many types of batteries can be recycled. State and local jurisdictions often have recycling requirements for batteries. Call2Recycle has more information about battery recycling.
Used vehicle lead-acid batteries are considered hazardous waste, but most states have streamlined requirements for generators who send these batteries for recycling and most states require used lead-acid battery recycling. The Battery Council International has a summary of state lead-acid battery laws.
There are usually state or local requirements for non-hazardous construction waste. Non-hazardous
construction and demolition (C&D) debris can be recycled or disposed of at municipal solid waste landfills, C&D only landfills, or incinerators, as allowed by state and local regulations. Most C&D waste such as asphalt, concrete, shingles, steel, and wood can be recycled.
EPA's Construction Initiative has more information and many states also have information. Envcap.org has
C&D information by state.
Some C&D waste is considered hazardous and subject to hazardous waste regulations or other special management requirements, such as lead paint, asbestos, asphalt waste, some adhesives, and waste from painting (e.g., acetone, paints with a low flash point). EPA has a
RCRA in Focus Guide for Construction Waste and the Construction Industry Compliance Assistance also has information on
hazardous waste from construction.
EPA and state and local governments also impose requirements on the removal of certain hazardous substances from buildings. Before demolishing a building or conducting a renovation, conduct a hazardous building materials investigation or survey to identify potentially hazardous materials. Common hazardous materials with special management requirements include
asbestos-containing materials (ACM),
mercury-containing equipment, and
Mold is another potential issue during building construction or demolition. The amount of hazardous materials discovered will impact costs and may trigger regulatory and abatement requirements.
Some electronics, such as cathode ray tube (CRT) computer monitors, are considered hazardous wastes. Some electronics containing mercury (e.g., thermostats, pressure gauges, and mercury switches) may qualify as universal waste. In addition, some electronic wastes being recycled may be exempt from hazardous waste regulations if they meet the criteria for exclusions or exemptions based on scrap metal, circuit boards, or precious metals content. EPA has more information on its recycling page.
A major environmental impact from food service is
food waste and food packaging, which are generally considered
municipal solid wastes. Food waste is generally regulated at state and local levels.
Some states and municipalities prohibit landfilling and require composting of organic food waste from large business and institutional generators
Food Waste Reduction Alliance provides a
toolkit outlining leading practices in reducing food waste). Some jurisdictions promote a "food recovery hierarchy" designed to reduce or divert waste for other uses such as food for animals. Jurisdictions with organic food waste regulations include: California, Massachusetts, New York City,
San Francisco, and
Find a Composter is a resource for locating composting facilities.
[In this context, the term "organic" refers to waste from plants and animals that is biodegradable such as fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, eggshells, bones, some paper, and flowers, and is not related to "organic food" that is produced without synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.]
A number of local jurisdictions ban or limit the use of polystyrene food packaging (usually for expanded polystyrene (EPS) or Styrofoam) because this material does not break down in nature, is not economical to recycle, and is expensive to clean up from water and land. Some regulations also require takeout food packaging to be compostable or recyclable. The Surfrider Foundation has a list of such
A common state and local waste management requirement is the weekly or twice-weekly emptying of compactors and dumpsters to control the spread of disease-carrying pests (vector control). Dumpsters with food waste, as at grocery stores and food service establishments, are often required to be emptied more frequently.
Medical waste such as bandages, medical gloves, instruments or lancets,
medical sharps (needles), and swabs may be subject to regulation as medical waste in many jurisdictions. Typically, facilities are required to have closed and marked "biohazard" red containers with a puncture resistant bag or lining for collection of medical waste onsite. Specific requirements typically apply for packaging, storing, and transporting medical waste. Some states require training, tracking, and recordkeeping. Certain types of medical waste may also be subject to federal requirements for transportation.
Many states and local jurisdictions have or are implementing regulations to reduce the use of plastic carry out bags in an effort to keep the bags out of landfills, from roadside litter, and out of streams, lakes and oceans. This legislation can include outright bans on plastic bags, require stores to establish at-store recycling programs for plastic bags, or establish a fee for bags at the cash register. The
CRC Consumer Bag Legislation matrix provides an overview of plastic bag related legislation at state and local levels
Scrap tires are regulated primarily at the state level. Programs typically include taxes or fees on automobiles or tires to fund the scrap tire program, scrap tire market development activities, licensing or registration requirements for scrap tire haulers or processors, manifests for scrap tire shipments, and tire pile elimination activities.
Some used oil may be hazardous waste. Certain types of used oil destined for recycling may be subject to streamlined requirements under the EPA hazardous waste regulations (40 CFR 279) and state analogs. Under the federal requirements, generators must follow good housekeeping practices such as labeling containers with "used oil," and keeping containers in good conditions and preventing leaks and spills. Used oil transporters must have an EPA ID number. EPA's
Managing Used Oil for Small Businesses factsheet has more details.
Most states also have used oil regulations, which may be more stringent than the federal requirements.
Used oil filters, when properly drained and recycled, are not considered hazardous waste. (This exemption does not apply to terne-plated oil filters, which are only used for some heavy duty applications.) States may have additional regulations for used oil filters and often provide guidance on handling and recycling.
Most wooden shipping pallets are recyclable, and some states have banned wooden pallets from landfills. Shipping companies may take back pallets, and there are also pallet recycling companies.
Following "reduce, reuse, recycle" can save companies time and money, and reduce environmental compliance requirements. Reducing the amount of waste and finding ways to reuse or recycle waste can save on waste hauler and disposal fees, save energy, reduce the use of raw materials, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.
The most effective approach is to take a systematic look at your waste stream and then set goals for reducing the amount and diverting what remains. Consider joining EPA's voluntary WasteWise program. Many states offer programs and guidance on waste reduction.
Some facilities, including distribution centers, are setting goals for zero waste – in other words not sending anything to the landfill. The Zero Waste Network provides resources to help companies move to zero waste. Earth911 has information on how to recycle different types of material.
Sustainable Packaging Coalition - industry working group focused on more sustainable packaging.
Food Waste Reduction Alliance - group representing food retailers and suppliers that provides retail-specific guidance on food waste reduction.
Look here for retail-specific information on environmental regulations by regulatory area. If you don’t know which areas apply, use the store department search function.