EPA is proposing to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to those “universal wastes” regulated under title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 273. This change in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations, once finalized, will reduce regulatory costs of a wide variety of establishments generating and managing aerosol cans, including the retail sector, by providing a clear, practical system for handling discarded aerosol cans.

How Is Aerosol Can Disposal Currently Regulated?

Aerosol cans frequently contain flammable propellants such as propane or butane which can cause the aerosol can to demonstrate the hazardous characteristic for ignitability. In addition, the aerosol can may also be a hazardous waste if they contain materials that exhibit hazardous characteristics. Similarly, a discarded aerosol can may also be a P or U-listed hazardous waste if it contains a commercial chemical product. Therefore, for several reasons, spent aerosol cans could be a regulated hazardous waste.

RCRA Audit Finds Improper Flammable Hazardous Waste Storage And Labeling

Waste Audit Finds Improper Flammable Waste Storage And Labeling

How Are Spent Aerosols Containing Pesticides Regulated?

Hazardous waste aerosol cans that contain pesticides are also subject to the requirements of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), including compliance with the instructions on the label. In general, the statement on aerosol pesticide product FIFRA labels prohibits the puncturing of the cans. However, in April 2004, EPA issued a determination that puncturing aerosol pesticide containers is consistent with the purposes of FIFRA and is therefore lawful pursuant to FIFRA section 2(ee)(6) provided that the following conditions are met:

  • The puncturing of the container is performed by a person who, as a general part of his or her profession, performs recycling and/or disposal activities;
  • The puncturing is conducted using a device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the residual contents and any emissions thereof; and
  • The puncturing, waste collection, and disposal, are conducted in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local waste (solid and hazardous waste) and occupational safety and health laws and regulations.

EPA anticipates that this 2004 FIFRA determination would not be affected by the proposed addition of hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste rules.

Does The Proposed Rule On Aerosol Can Disposal Affect State Rules?

If approved, States with approved RCRA programs would need to made revisions to State rules.

Four states, California, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, already have universal waste aerosol can programs in place, and two more states, Ohio and Minnesota, have proposed to add aerosol cans to their universal waste regulations.

Spent Aerosol Cans Being Handled As Universal Waste

Spent Aerosol Cans Being Handled As Universal Waste

Are Any Containers Excluded From the Proposed Rule?

EPA intends the rule to be limited to sealed containers whose intended use is to dispense a material by means of a propellant or compressed gas.  Other types of containers, including compressed gas canisters and propane cylinders, present a greater risk than aerosol cans and would not be included.

EPA specifically excludes aerosol cans that have been emptied of their contents (both propellant and product). Once the contents of a universal waste aerosol can have been removed, the emptied can is considered a new point of generation and is subject to a hazardous waste determination.. An aerosol can that meets the definition of empty container is not subject to hazardous waste regulation, and may be recycled as scrap metal.

The proposed rule also excludes aerosol cans that show evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably foreseeable conditions. Through this exclusion, EPA intends that hazardous waste aerosol cans that are not intact continue to be subject to the full hazardous waste standards.

Aerosol cans can be regulated as a hazardous waste unless emptied completely

Aerosol Cans Being Stored For Disposal or Recycling

What Handling Requirements Are Proposed?

Under this proposed rule, the existing universal waste requirements currently applicable to small quantity handlers of universal waste (SQHUWs) and large quantity handlers of universal waste (LQHUWs) would also be applicable to handlers of discarded aerosol cans. For both SQHUWs and LQHUWs, these requirements include:

  • waste management standards,
  • labeling and marking,
  • accumulation time limits,
  • employee training,
  • response to releases,
  • requirements related to off-site shipments, and
  • export requirements.

For the labeling requirement, EPA is proposing that either each aerosol can, or a container in which the aerosol cans are contained, must be labeled or marked clearly with any of the following phrases: “Universal Waste—Aerosol Can(s),” “Waste Aerosol Can(s)”, or “Used Aerosol Can(s)”.

In addition, EPA is proposing that small and large quantity universal waste handlers must follow certain specific management standards while handling their aerosol cans. Under this proposal, all handlers must manage their universal waste aerosol cans in a manner designed to prevent releases to the environment. This includes accumulating universal waste aerosol cans in containers that are structurally sound and compatible with the contents of the can, and show no evidence of leaks, spills, or damage that could cause leaks under reasonably foreseeable conditions. Handlers may sort aerosol cans by type and consolidate intact aerosol cans in larger containers, remove actuators to reduce the risk of accidental release, and under certain conditions, may puncture and drain aerosol cans that are being recycled..

Future of Aerosol Can Puncturing Under Proposed EPA Rule


expert consulting support of EH&S program development, compliance management, auditing, environmental management system, and safety management system.

Caltha LLP | Your EH&S Compliance, Auditing and EMS/SMS Partner

%d bloggers like this: