Household hazardous waste (HHW) is hazardous waste generated by households that is ignitable, toxic, reactive, corrosive, or otherwise poses a threat to human health or the environment. Examples of HHW include:
- spent lead-acid auto batteries;
- certain unused pesticide products;
- mercury-containing products (e.g., thermostats, lamps);
- used motor oil, antifreeze, and oil filters;
- old paint, stains, and varnish; and
- electronic equipment.
Proper management of HHW is important because careless management—such as pouring it down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or putting it out with the regular trash—can create significant environmental and public health hazards.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Hazardous waste is regulated under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Subtitle C regulations set criteria for hazardous waste generators; transporters; and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. It established a system for controlling hazardous waste from the moment it is generated until its final disposal (i.e., “cradle to grave”). U.S. EPA has authorized IDEM to implement key provisions of hazardous waste requirements in RCRA. Indiana hazardous waste regulations that are consistent with the requirements of RCRA are set forth in 329 IAC 3.1 . RCRA requirements for hazardous waste management vary depending on whether the waste is generated by a household, or the quantity of waste generated by a facility.
Hazardous waste from households is not regulated as hazardous waste under federal and Indiana laws and rules, but it is regulated as a solid waste. Despite its name, solid waste can be a solid, semisolid, liquid, or a contained gas. Citizens are responsible for properly disposing of their solid waste in a state-permitted storage, treatment or disposal facility, or recycling center. It is illegal to open dump or open burn solid waste in Indiana. Environmentally friendly alternatives to open dumping and open burning are available. To find a collection program where HHW will be properly managed, disposed of, recycled, and/or reused, contact the local solid waste management district (listed on the Association of Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts’ site) and/or local government agency (listed a MyLocal.IN.gov).
The hazardous waste exemption for households applies to HHW through its entire management cycle. Household hazardous waste that has been collected, transported, stored, treated, disposed, recovered, or reused is not a regulated hazardous waste under RCRA (40 CFR 261.4 (b)(1)). Programs that collect HHW (e.g., drop-off sites, tox-away days) do not need a RCRA Subtitle C permit or U.S. EPA identification number.
Some HHW programs provide disposal services for very small quantity generators (VSQGs). VSQGs are exempt from most hazardous waste requirements because they generate 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) or less per month of hazardous waste or one kilogram or less per month of acutely hazardous waste. Requirements for VSQGs include:
- Identify all the hazardous waste generated.
- Do not accumulate more than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste at any time.
- Ensure that hazardous waste is delivered to a person or facility who is authorized to manage it (i.e., a recycling facility, a hazardous waste facility, or a facility that is permitted, licensed, or registered by IDEM to manage municipal or industrial solid waste).
Generators that commonly meet the VSQG criteria are schools, small businesses, farms, government agencies, and other commercial and institutional hazardous waste generators.
Universal Waste Rule
Indiana’s Universal Waste rule (329 IAC 3.1-16) incorporates the federal universal waste regulations (40 CFR 273), with some exceptions and additions (329 IAC 3.1-16-2). The rule reduces the regulatory requirements that apply to the handling of four categories of widely generated (i.e., universal) hazardous waste:
- waste batteries;
- certain recalled, obsolete, or unused pesticide products;
- discarded mercury-containing thermostats; and
- waste mercury-containing lamps.
The rule provides uniform criteria for managing universal wastes irrespective of their source. HHW programs can offer universal waste disposal services to regulated businesses and mix the waste with wastes from households and VSQGs as long as it is managed according to universal waste guidelines. The reduction in regulatory requirements is meant to promote the collection and recycling of universal waste and to encourage the development of programs that reduce the quantity of these wastes going to landfills or incinerators.
Used Oil Management Rule
Indiana’s Used Oil Management rule (329 IAC 13) incorporates the federal standards for the management of used oil (40 CFR 279). The rule does not allow the mixing of hazardous waste with used oil and prohibits the use of used oil as a dust suppressant. Under the rule, HHW programs may accept used oil from homeowners. HHW collection centers and service stations that accept used oil from do-it-yourself oil changers are considered to be generators. Management requirements for generators include labeling and environmental release cleanup. Tracking, record keeping, notification, and obtaining a U.S. EPA identification number are not required for generators.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, 42 U.S. Code, Section 9601) addresses the cleanup of inactive or abandoned sites. If cleanup of a hazardous waste disposal site is necessary, all sources of the waste, as well as the owner or operator of the site, might be potentially responsible parties who are liable for the entire cleanup cost for the site. CERCLA does not exclude HHW from liability, nor does it allow any exemption based on the amount of waste generated. If HHW contains a substance defined as hazardous under CERCLA, potential liability exists. While CERCLA does not exempt HHW collection programs from liability, the potential for liability may be greater if a community takes no action to ensure proper disposal of HHW. The safeguards provided by HHW collection can reduce the likelihood of environmental and human health impacts, and potential CERCLA liability.
Facilities may be subject to Occupational Safety and Health Act, U.S. Department of Transportation, Indiana Building Code, and Indiana Fire Prevention Code regulations as summarized on the Community Environmental Health HHW Regulations page.
- Community Environmental Health: Household Hazardous Wastes
- Indiana Community Recycling Grant Program (includes grants for HHW collection and disposal)
- Household Hazardous Waste fact sheet (available on the IDEM Fact Sheets page)
- U.S. EPA: