Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste in the United States

Hazardous Waste in Environmental Law

A hazardous substance regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Under that law, waste must be solid waste, but that term includes not only solids, but semisolids, liquids, and contained gases.

One definition of hazardous waste is a solid waste that may cause or significantly contribute to mortality or serious illness because of its concentration, quantity, physical or chemical characteristics. Hazardous waste is also solid waste that can cause a substantial hazard to health or the environment if it is improperly stored, treated, transported, disposed of, or managed.

The term hazardous waste does not include useful substances that have not been discarded or abandoned, even though they are hazardous. However, a substance does not have to be thrown away or burned before it is considered waste; its useful life must be over. It may also remain at the place it was created and still be a hazardous waste.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act exempts some materials from its definition, even though they might otherwise qualify as hazardous wastes. For example, household waste, agricultural wastes returned to the ground, mining overburden returned to the site, and utility wastes from coal burning are all excluded.

Wastes may be hazardous either because the specific substance is listed as hazardous by the EPA, or simply because it has characteristics, such as corrosivity, ignitability, reactivity, or toxicity, that make it hazardous. Therefore, a person can find out whether a waste is subject to the hazardous waste regulations by checking the lists and testing the substance for the four characteristics of hazardous wastes. See characteristic waste; listed waste.

The requirements for dealing with hazardous waste are extensive. If certain materials are recycled, they may not be subject to all of the regulations. For example, spent lead acid batteries, scrap metal, used oil, and precious metals are exempt from many requirements if they are recycled. Since the recycling process for hazardous wastes may also generate hazardous waste, the recycler will be subject to the hazardous waste regulations.
Based on “Environment and the Law. A Dictionary”.

Hazardous Waste in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Hazardous Waste (State statute topic)

The purpose of Hazardous Waste is to provide a broad appreciation of the Hazardous Waste legal topic. Select from the list of U.S. legal topics for information (other than Hazardous Waste).


Further Reading

Hazardous Waste: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Hazardous Waste. This part provides references, in relation to Hazardous Waste, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Hazardous Waste by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Hazardous Waste and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Hazardous Waste or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Hazardous Waste and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Hazardous Waste. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Hazardous Waste should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Hazardous Waste when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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