The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added aerosol cans previously defined as hazardous waste to the Universal Waste program regulated under 40 CFR 273. The final rule was posted December 9, 2019 and effective February 7, 2020. This change will:

  • Ease regulatory burdens for persons who generate waste aerosol cans
  • Promote the collection and recycling of aerosol cans
  • Encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors

EPA has finalized that small and large quantity universal waste handlers follow specific universal waste requirements regarding waste management standards related to labeling and marking, accumulation time limits, employee training, response to releases, requirements related to off-site shipments, and export requirements. The proposed requirements for aerosol cans are similar to the existing universal waste requirements present in 40 CFR 273, including requirements for universal waste batteries, lamps, and mercury-containing equipment. EPA's proposed additional requirements to the Universal Waste Requirements are outlined below.

  • Accumulate waste aerosol cans in a container that is structurally sound, compatible with the contents of the aerosol cans, and lacks evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable conditions
  • Protect waste aerosol can containers from sources of heat
  • Waste aerosol cans that show evidence of leakage must be packaged in a separate closed container or overpacked with absorbents, or immediately punctured and drained in accordance with the aerosol can universal waste requirements
  • Label each waste aerosol can or the container holding waste aerosol cans one of the following:
    • Universal waste - aerosol can(s)
    • Waste aerosol can(s)
    • Used aerosol can(s)

The final rule also outlines requirements for aerosol can puncturing activities. These requirements include:

  • Conduct puncturing and draining activities using a commercial device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the contents and any emissions
  • Establish a written procedure detailing how to safely puncture and drain universal waste aerosol cans (including proper assembly, operation and maintenance of the unit; segregation of incompatible wastes; and proper waste management practices to prevent fires or releases)
  • Ensure employees operating the device are trained in the proper procedures
  • Maintain a copy of the manufacturer's specification and instruction onsite
  • Ensure that puncturing of the can is done in a manner designed to prevent fires and to prevent the release of any component of universal waste to the environment to minimize human exposure. This includes, locating the equipment on a solid, flat surface in a well-ventilated area
  • Conduct a hazardous waste determination on the contents of the emptied can per 40 CFR 262.11. Any hazardous waste generated as a result of puncturing and draining the aerosol can is subject to all applicable requirements. The handler is considered the generator of the hazardous waste and is subject to 40 CFR part 262. If the contents are determined to be nonhazardous, the handler may manage the waste in compliance with applicable state and federal requirements
  • Develop a written procedure for spills or releases and a spill clean-up kit must be provided. All spills or leaks of the contents of the aerosol cans must be cleaned up promptly

The full final rule outlining the requirements for aerosol cans handled under the universal waste rule can be found under 84FR67202.

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