RCRA defines a solid waste as something that has been abandoned. For a material to be abandoned, someone (a person) has to make a decision to discard it. Once the material is abandoned and if it exhibits one of more of the 4 characteristics (ignitability, corrosively, reactivity and toxicity), it is classified as a RCRA hazardous waste. If it has been listed as a listed waste (F,K,P or U), it is also classified as a hazardous waste.
The Point of Generation refers to the time when a material becomes a
waste. If you have a brew of corrosive material inside a manufacturing
vat, RCRA has NO jurisdiction over it because the material is in a
manufacturing process and no one has decided to discard it. Once someone
takes it out from the vat (remove it from the manufacturing process)
and decides to discard (then abandon) the corrosive material, it becomes
a solid waste and hazardous waste – in that order.
What if the manufacturing process stops, can the corrosive material
sits inside the vat indefinitely? The answer is NO. The reason is that
40 CFR 261.4(c) states that the material will be considered abandoned by
the operator after 90 days. This is to prevent people from storing
their wastes inside an idle manufacturing unit indefinitely.
you apply this principal to a clandestine drug bust, you get an
interesting story. The illegal drug (a hazardous material) is brewing
inside a vat when law enforcement (DEA) kicks down the door and arrests
the operator. Has the operator abandoned the hazardous material inside
the vat? No. Why would he? He would love to sell that drug on the
street. So why would he discard that material? In this scenario, it is
the DEA agents that make the decision to discard everything in the drug
lab as a matter of policy because it ASSUMES everything in the lab is
contaminated. The policy decision to discard ALL material is made to
protect the agents and the community at large.
Technically speaking, all that material sitting inside the vat is
hazardous material (not hazardous waste) for 90 days before it becomes
abandoned per 40 CFR 261.4 (c) or when someone decides to discard it –
whichever comes first. But in reality, they are hauled off and disposed
of as hazardous wastes (per DEA policy) by DEA – who will be the
generator of those wastes.
A generator is a person that FIRST causes a material to be abandoned.
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