As retailers work through the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, many questions may arise about best practices and thoughtfully conducting business and associated compliance activities. These FAQs are intended to help you think through some issues and considerations during these changing times. As conditions change, topics will be updated and/or new topics will be added to provide information, best practices and suggestions in this unprecedented time.
The questions in this section explore some considerations on hazardous waste compliance with new situations that may arise as retailers cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I contact my hazardous waste vendor about how they plan to manage the challenges of COVID-19?
- What questions should I ask the waste vendor?
- What should be considered if a decision is made to close some or all of our stores?
- When preparing stores for temporary shutdown, what actions should stores take to ensure hazardous waste is properly managed during the shutdown?
- Can we cancel or postpone hazardous waste pick-ups?
- How can we demonstrate our good faith efforts to have locations serviced in a timely manner?
- Does USEPA have information related to COVID-19?
Should I contact my hazardous waste vendor about how they plan to manage the challenges of COVID-19?
It would be wise to understand your vendor’s business continuity plans as it applies to services that they provide you. It’s important to know how prepared they are to handle service disruptions due to illness or other disruptions in the service chain.
What questions should I ask the waste vendor?Try to gain an understanding into:
- How will service events will be triaged in the event of waste transporter staff shortages?
- What happens if TSDF facilities close; what alternatives are available?
- How will mailing and uploading manifests to various agencies be handled if short staffed?
- What provisions are being taken by the waste hauler’s technician to guard against the spread of the virus?
- How will they notify you if they cannot meet your schedule, transportation of waste to final disposal facility, return of manifests, or complete other compliance activities they perform for you, such as routine reporting?
- Will they notify state and federal agencies when noncompliance is unavoidable due to impact from the COVID -19 response?
- What can we do to help?
When temporarily closing a location due to COVID-19 concerns, consider developing an internal checklist or other communication to ensure consistency of actions across multiple locations. This will also help you demonstrate good faith compliance efforts down the road. Whether you decide to ship accumulated hazardous waste prior to shutdown of operations or leave the waste on-site, a written communication will help facility employees know what is expected of them during this time of unprecedented actions.
When preparing stores for temporary shutdown, what actions should stores take to ensure hazardous waste is properly managed during the shutdown?The following action steps will help ensure hazardous waste is properly managed:
- Process all damaged and defective items into the proper waste containers, so you don’t have a cart or tote of damages that could interact and cause an adverse reaction, such as giving off noxious or poisonous fumes or even start a fire.
- Make sure that all waste containers are closed, upright, secure, and appropriately labeled.
- Make sure that the Hazardous Waste Accumulation Area is organized and secured for the duration of the temporary shutdown.
- Before the store closes, make sure to perform a final inspection of the Hazardous Waste Accumulation Area and document the inspection in writing, including documenting that waste containers are in good condition and closed and that other requirements are met.
Can we cancel or postpone hazardous waste pick-ups?
Unless the state or US EPA issues emergency waivers or guidance on compliance leniency during this crisis, it appears that you need to continue to comply with the 90-day (LQG) and 180-day (SGQ) waste accumulation limits as well as the 1-year universal waste accumulation limits. VSQG accumulation requirements are more flexible as discussed below. You should take the following actions:
- Review the existing service schedule. Can you triage your pickup priorities? Are there states where your program schedule exceeds requirements? Where do you have flexibility? Keep in mind that under the federal program, VSQGs are limited by the quantity that can be accumulated (up to 2,200 pounds), not a specific timeframe. Some states have stricter accumulation limits. Be sure to review each jurisdiction’s requirements. The RCC has some useful resources on variations and reporting by state.
- Communicate to your waste vendor any changes in store hours that may restrict their service window.
- Provide your waste vendor with a list of stores that will be affected by the closures or schedule changes to help the vendor determine best logistical routing and minimize costs.
It is important to repeatedly coordinate with store operations to confirm store hours and/or shutdown timeframes, which may be rapidly changing. Among other benefits, this will help to ensure store personnel can meet the waste vendor to complete pickup.
How can we demonstrate our good faith efforts to have locations serviced in a timely manner?Some ideas for documenting good-faith compliance efforts:
- Maintain an email folder to capture conversations regarding COVID-19 and impact on waste service events or other compliance activities. Consider archiving or otherwise saving the folder and/or emails for systems that do not retain emails after a certain time or have limits on storage.
- Retain all published communications from waste vendors regarding COVID-19, electronic and hardcopy.
- Request that vendors provide documentation regarding challenges relative to their ability to service your locations.
If questions come up in the future, 6 month to a year from now about compliance, you will be thankful that you can easily find the documentation that you need rather than trying to recreate documents that may be long gone.
Does USEPA have information related to COVID-19?US EPA's Coronavirus (COVID-19) website provides key EPA resources and links to additional information about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Read the most up-to-date information from EPA about coronavirus (COVID-19) at https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus.
This content is provided by Pat Perry and John Storlie. Pat and John are consultants specializing in environmental compliance for retailers. John is a Principal Scientist at Retail Environmental SolutionsTM, a Division of The OS Group, LLC. Pat is a Principal Scientist at Oak Creek Associates.
John Storlie, PG | The OS Group, LLC │ Direct: 608 433 9389 | john.storlie@theOSgrp.com │ www.theOSgrp.com
Pat Perry | Oak Creek Associates | Direct: 612.210.7176 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Date Last Updated: March 24th, 2020
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