Is Recycling Hazardous?

Article From: Products Finishing, from Hixson Inc.

Posted on: 3/1/2002

Question: Due to the buildup of contaminants, we are looking at removing about one-half of our chrome plating bath and reconstitute it back to normal operating volume and strength.


Due to the buildup of contaminants, we are looking at removing about one-half of our chrome plating bath and reconstitute it back to normal operating volume and strength. Though the bath still plates well, we are doing this proactively so we head off any problems. This will leave us with several hundred gallons of used chrome plating solution. We have received two proposals for recycling of this material. However, one proposal says that the used chrome plating solution can be shipped to them as a DOT hazardous material with a bill of lading, while the other says that the material must be shipped to them as a hazardous waste with a manifest. Needless to say, shipping as a hazardous waste is much more expensive since we cannot use a common carrier. Who is right? R.P.


Would you believe that both could be right? The EPA and state regulations that govern the generation, transportation and recycling of hazardous wastes are complex, and while I can give you some direction, I strongly recommend that you obtain professional advice or contact your state EPA technical assistance office before proceeding with this project.

Under EPA RCRA hazardous waste regulation 40CFR260, Appendix I, Figure 3, a hazardous waste is not a RCRA hazardous waste if:

  1. It is “legitimately and beneficially used, re-used, recycled, or reclaimed”, AND
  2. It is NOT “a sludge or...listed in Part 261, Subpart D or...a mixture containing a waste listed in Part 261, Subpart D.”

Assuming that the proposed recycling is legitimate and beneficial and knowing that your chrome plating solution is not a sludge or listed RCRA waste, such as F006 - wastewater treatment sludges from electroplating operations except... and F007 - spent cyanide plating bath solutions from electroplating operations, it appears that the material could be shipped with a bill of lading along with the proper container labeling and transporter placarding. However, some states, especially those who have EPA approved hazardous waste programs, may have more stringent or different recycling exemptions from RCRA regulations. For example, our own Ohio EPA does not use the above EPA criteria to decide whether or not recycling is regulated under its hazardous waste regulations, but has developed its own criteria that is pretty much on a case-by-case basis. Some states, such as Ohio, also evaluate how recycling or reclamation is to be accomplished in their decision as to whether or not to grant an exemption. For example, one of our clients was able to receive an exemption by showing that the waste material would be used as received, as a feedstock into the process; in other words, the facility was not going to perform any “treatment” on the waste material in order that it would be acceptable into the process.

The reason for the two differing transportation modes may be determined by how the recycling activity is regulated by two different states. Hence, this is why you should investigate this issue further not only for your own state, but also the states where the recycling facilities are located, especially the facility that says the material can be shipped with a bill of lading.

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