RCRA Recent Changes or What’s New with Haz Waste

In 1976, the top single was Silly Love Songs by Paul McCartney and Wings, mood rings were serious jewelry and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was signed into law. A lot has changed since then. For RCRA, this includes some recent rule changes with major implications for retail. The RCC has information on these changes including a section on the Hot Topics Page with links to proposed and new rules, plus blog posts on the specific changes.

Major changes that will impact retail are listed below.

Ignitable liquids

On April 2, 2019, the EPA proposed numerous changes to the ignitability characteristic under RCRA. While mostly technical in nature, some aspects for the proposed rule could result in additional wastes to be classified as hazardous, which could increase hazardous waste volumes for some retailers (This article by Beveridge & Diamond has detailed information on the proposed changes). The Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores submitted comments on behalf of their members opposing proposed changes that increase the burden on retail but are not necessary to protect human health or the environment.

Pharm Rule

On August 21, 2019, the Pharmaceutical Waste rule (Pharm Rule) will set new federal standards for retailers and others defined as healthcare facilities to manage hazardous waste pharmaceuticals. Big news for retailers in the new rule is the exclusion of FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies (patches, gums, lozenges) from the P075 acute hazardous waste listing. Other changes that may impact retail include the prohibition on sewer disposal of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, and new rules around the management of waste pharmaceuticals. The sewer prohibition is effective across the country on August 21, 2019. The other elements are only effective in August for the states and territories where EPA manages the hazardous waste program – Iowa, Alaska, Indian Country, and US Territories (except Guam). For other states, the rules will be effective as the states adopt them and there could be variations from the federal rules. 

The RCC Blog has several articles with more information including Pharm Rule- Key Provisions for Retailers and Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals – Regulatory Amendment Update for Retailers. The RCC will also be posting information on the status of state implementation. Sign up for RCC Alerts to be notified when this new resource is launched.

Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

On October 28, 2016, the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule was finalized. According to EPA's fact sheet on the rule, these changes provide increased flexibility for some generators, such as very small quantity generators (VSQGs), improve environmental protection with changes to emergency planning and revised labeling requirements, and clarify inconsistent guidance. The rule also reorganizes the regulations to consolidate them in one place and replace cross reference lists.  

The RCC is tracking state adoption of this new rule on the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements State Tracking Matrix.


On March 16, 2018, the EPA proposed a rule to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to RCRA's universal waste program, which several state programs, such as California and Colorado, already allow. Once finalized, the hope is that this rule will provide establishments, including retail, with a clear, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans. A previous RCC article highlights why retailers have been supporting this rule adoption for years. The comment period closed on May 15th, and we should have a resolution on the immediate horizon.

To keep up with the latest news on the aerosol rule, visit the RCC hot topics page, which has a section about this proposed rule.

The RCC website has more information on these changes including a section on the Hot Topics Page with links to proposed and new rules, plus blog posts on specific changes. To stay up to date, sign up for RCC Alerts, our monthly email that touches on the latest topics in environmental compliance in retail.

Stay in the know

Subscribe to our newsletter