On December 9th 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final rule to re-classify hazardous aerosol cans waste as “universal wastes” under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste rules. 

The rule became effective on February 7, 2020. This action will increase the recovery and recycling of aerosol cans and encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors.

Description of Aerosol Cans; Under the final rule, “aerosol can” is defined as “a non-refillable receptacle containing a gas compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure, the sole purpose of which is to expel a liquid, paste, or powder and fitted with a self-closing release device allowing the contents to be ejected by the gas.”

Who will be affected? (Does this action apply to me?)

This final rule will affect persons who generate, transport, treat, recycle, or dispose of hazardous waste aerosol cans, including the retail sector, by providing a clear, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans.

There are management requirements for aerosol cans under this final rule; the existing universal waste requirements currently applicable to small quantity handlers of universal waste (SQHUW) and large quantity handlers of universal waste (LQHUW) are also applicable to handlers of discarded aerosol cans. This means, these requirements include waste management standards, labeling and marking, accumulation time limits, employee training, responses to releases, requirements related to off-site shipments, and export requirements.

In summary, EPA believes that management of hazardous waste aerosol cans will best be implemented through a universal waste approach where handlers are operating within a simple, streamlined management system. The universal waste program addresses the environmental concerns surrounding the management of such wastes, while at the same time putting into place a structure that will allow for and encourage increased collection of aerosol cans for recycling.