EPA Takes Steps Towards Saving Retailers Millions

What do aerosol deodorants, air fresheners and hairstyling products have in common with industrial waste? If you guessed not much, you’re right! The latest news from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates they will issue a proposal in April 2018 to allow aerosol cans to be treated as “universal waste” – a long encouraged move that will distinguish common consumer product aerosol wastes at greater than 100,000 retail establishments from wastes produced by heavy industry. A move that just makes sense.
Products sold in aerosol cans are carried by virtually all retailers, from pharmacies to supermarkets, and general merchandise to convenience and department stores. Given the broad array and number of products, even the small percentage that are deemed unsalable due to damage, expiry or customer return, presents major challenges for a broad cross-section of the retail industry. In fact, aerosol cans represent the single biggest waste stream generated by retailers, frequently accounting for 50% (by weight) or more of all potentially hazardous unsold/returned products. 

Imagine having to go through a series of complex questions to determine how to dispose or recycle a can of air freshener. Would you be more or less likely to recycle that product knowing there are potentially heavy fines for an improperly classified product? As a result, some retailers may over-classify their unsold/returned aerosol cans as hazardous wastes. Being able to classify aerosol wastes as “universal wastes,” will reduce the complexities of properly handling aerosols under the current hazardous waste regulations, and facilitate the diversion of aerosol cans from landfills into environmentally sound recycling systems. 

Although EPA will not begin the formal government process to classify aerosol waste as “universal waste” until 2018, EPA’s recent announcement is encouraging and will help retailers continue to increase their recycling — benefiting both consumers and the environment.

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