Issue Date: October 8, 2008
Chemical manufacturers and other businesses will be able to sell or recycle some of the materials they currently must dispose of as hazardous waste, under a regulatory change EPA announced on Oct. 7.
This move, sought by the chemical industry for more than a decade, will save companies $95 million per year, the agency estimates.
EPA says the modification will encourage recycling while protecting health and the environment. The agency's action is part of a Bush Administration initiative launched in 2004 to reform regulation of the U.S. manufacturing sector.
The hazardous waste deregulation, according to EPA, is especially likely to increase the recycling of metals and solvents. This means, for example, that a company will be able to sell or recycle spent catalysts for recovery of the metals they contain. A business will also be allowed to use reprocessed solvents as long as those solvents don't contain levels of toxic contaminants at "significantly greater levels" than virgin materials, under the change. The deregulation does not apply to hazardous waste that is burned for energy.
The Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association strongly supports EPA's move, which will allow contract manufacturers of chemicals to reclaim materials they formerly had to pay to have treated as hazardous waste. Now, these companies will be able to use the materials in other products or recycle them, says William E. Allmond, director of government relations for SOCMA. Another chemical industry group, the American Chemistry Council, says it's still studying the details of the new rule.
Also poring over the fine points of the change before passing judgment on it is the Environmental Technology Council, a coalition of businesses that treat, recycle, and dispose of hazardous waste and companies that clean up contaminated sites. The technology council had opposed earlier proposed versions of the deregulation.
Ben Dunham, a policy analyst for the environmental group Earthjustice, says the deregulation removes safeguards to prevent hazardous waste spills, dumping, and poor management practices that lead to pollution. He calls for the next president to reverse EPA's action.
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