Category: Hazardous Waste

How to Properly Dispose of Oil Absorbents

How to Properly Dispose of Oil Absorbents

Oil-soaked absorbent material is a common waste stream in nearly all industrial settings, and proper disposal depends on several factors, including whether it constitutes a hazardous waste, whether it will be recycled or discarded, and in which state you’re located.

Follow these general federal guidelines to dispose of oil absorbents:

1. Prior to disposal of any waste stream, you must determine if it constitutes a hazardous waste. Used absorbents may be a hazardous waste based on the absorbed liquid or other contaminants. Any absorbents that may be contaminated with a hazardous waste MUST be characterized by the generator prior to disposal. Details on the waste characterization process are outlined by EPA. Once you are certain the absorbents only contain used oil, you must then determine if they contain free liquid.

2. If the absorbent contains free liquid oil, it must be handled following the used oil management standards. Free liquids cannot be disposed to a solid waste landfill, unless specifically exempted. To determine whether the free liquids are present, the “paint filter” test (USEPA test method 9095B) is used. This test involves placing 100 ml of the absorbent in a conical paint filter (fine mesh #60 +/- 5%) for 5 minutes. Absorbent materials may need to be cut up or crumbled to fit well in the filter. If any liquid seeps through the filter and drips, free liquids are deemed to be present. Do you need to perform this test for all oil absorbent you generate? No, but you do have to ensure waste sent to the landfill would not fail this test somehow. For absorbents, that often involves a degree of estimation. Absorbents that are dripping or that drip when squeezed by hand, likely will fail the paint filter test.

3. If you intend to reuse the absorbent, you can simply store it for future use or remove oil from the absorbent (for example, wringing or squeezing) before storage. Reusing absorbents when possible is both a cost-saving and pollution prevention measure.

Generally, materials containing or otherwise contaminated with used oil are regulated as used oil. Many states have promulgated regulations for disposing oil absorbents, so you must check your state’s regulations when determining a management strategy for your oil absorbents. In every state, you must first complete a hazardous waste determination on used absorbents; hazardous waste-contaminated absorbents must be handled as hazardous waste.

Following are examples of selected state requirements for non-hazardous used oil absorbents:

Arizona: Landfills will typically not accept used absorbent. Oil-soaked absorbents are managed in the same manner as used oil. Both on-spec and off-spec used oil must be recycled. If not recycled, it is considered hazardous waste. While in storage, you must follow the federal used oil regulations.

California: Oil-soaked absorbents are managed in the same manner as used oil. Used oil is a state-designated hazardous waste, meaning it has a state-only waste code for manifests. Businesses generating used oil are required to meet most of the hazardous waste generator requirements (Health and Safety Code section 25250.11). Containers of used oil must be labeled as both used oil and hazardous waste, as well as have the initial date of accumulation.

New York: Oily absorbents should be treated as hazardous waste unless they are recycled. Store absorbents in separate metal containers with lids, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Pollution Prevention Unit. Label them “Oily Waste Absorbents Only.”

Pennsylvania: Store oily absorbent in a leak-proof container, ensuring no free-standing liquid is present, and dispose of it as a municipal waste. Absorbents that have any sign of free-flowing oil are managed as used oil. If the absorbent is a rag, recycle it through an approved laundry or vendor service.

Texas: Absorbents that have any sign of free-flowing oil are managed as used oil, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). When there is no free-flowing oil on absorbents, they aren’t regulated as used oil unless they are burned for energy recovery.

Wisconsin: Oil absorbents can be disposed of in a landfill when waste oil has been drained, so there are no visible signs of free-flowing oil remaining on the absorbent materials, and the oil absorbent materials are non-hazardous waste as defined in 289.01(12), Wis. Stats, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR’s preferred method for handling absorbents is through recycling or reuse.

Establishing a compliant oil absorbent management strategy will provide clarity for this very common waste stream. Please be sure to check your state regulations and consider contacting your landfill to discuss any special restrictions or procedures.



This post is for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Aarcher, Inc. makes no warranties, expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the date, information, and guidance contained herein, and assumes no liability associated with the use of such data. Any use of this information by a party shall be at their sole risk.

7 Important Highlights From the Proposed Photovoltaic Modules Regulations

5 Important Highlights From the Proposed Photovoltaic Modules RegulationsThe Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) held a public informational seminar on March 25, 2019 to present draft regulations that would revise California’s Universal Waste Program to include waste photovoltaic modules (PV modules), commonly known as solar panels. The informational session offered the opportunity for public discussion prior to the beginning of the formal rulemaking process.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, California is the largest consumer of PV modules in the United States. With the increase in demand for renewable energy sources over the past 10 years has come the increase in PV module wastes generated. The manufacture of new PV modules and generation of waste modules is expected to continue increasing. State incentives and mandates for renewable energy use are planned to roll out through 2030. Some PV modules are hazardous since they contain heavy metals, like cadmium, lead, and arsenic, that are above toxicity threshold concentrations.

On October 1, 2015, SB 489 (Monning, Chapter 419) was enacted to add section 25259 to Health and Safety Code, Division 20, Chapter 6.5, Article 17, which allows the DTSC to adopt rules to designate end-of-life photovoltaic modules that are identified as hazardous waste as a universal waste and subject those modules to universal waste management.

Highlights from the Proposed PV Module Rules:

  • DTSC plans to offer alternative management strategies for hazardous waste solar panels by including them in the Universal Waste regulations.
  • Clearly label each PV module or container of PV modules with the phrase: “Universal Waste PV Module(s).”
  • Handlers of universal waste PV modules are prohibited from disposing of PV module waste. They can send them to the waste destination facility.
  • Handlers of universal waste PV modules are prohibited from diluting or treating PV modules except when they’re responding to accidental releases or conducting treatment, which is specified in chapter 23.
  • Handlers who accept and accumulate PV modules must notify the DTSC by writing 30 days prior to accepting the waste.
  • Handlers who generate more than 5,000 kg or accept more than 100 kg of waste PV modules must report it in writing to the DTSC by February 1 of the following year.
  • Waste transporters are prohibited from moving more than 100 kg of PV modules unless they are contained to prevent releases.

The DTSC plans to issue a public notice on the rulemaking package on April 19, which will start the formal rulemaking process. A public hearing will be held in June, and the final regulations will be prepared in October.

Adapted from:

Photovoltaic Modules (PV modules)-Universal Waste Management Regulations, California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Informational Seminar for Proposed Photovoltaic Modules Regulations, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Chosu Khin, Ph.D.


Julia NorrisJulia Norris is a California-based Certified Hazardous Material Manager, Certified Professional Environmental Auditor, and senior environmental protection specialist with 19 years of professional experience. She has expertise in a wide range of technical areas, including regulatory compliance auditing, air emissions inventories, SPCC Plans, drinking water sampling plans, SWPPPs, wastewater pretreatment programs, solid waste characterization studies, pollution prevention planning, hazardous material/waste management, storage tank management, and NEPA analysis.

New Rule for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals

New Rule for Hazardous Waste PharmaceuticalsOnce upon a time, EPA attempted to make pharmaceutical waste a universal waste. This proposal and draft rule (which attempted to make management of pharmaceutical waste less onerous for healthcare facilities) died on the vine and will likely never be finalized by EPA. Just in time for the holidays, however, EPA changed its strategy and published the final “Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendment to the P075 Listing for Nicotine” on December 11, 2018. According to the EPA press release, “This final rule establishes cost-saving, streamlined standards for handling hazardous waste pharmaceuticals to better fit the operations of the healthcare sector while maintaining protection of human health and the environment.”

If you represent a healthcare facility, you already understand why pharmaceutical waste management is high on your environmental liabilities list. There are approximately 30 commercial chemical products listed on the RCRA P and U hazardous waste lists that have pharmaceutical uses. Generation of even a small amount of P-listed waste (1 kg or 2.2 lbs) requires operation as a large quantity generator. Additionally, the use of popular “reverse distributors” (companies that take unused pharmaceuticals back to manufacturers for credit) has been murky at best. Ask many nurses what they do with unused or dropped medication, and the answer is frequently to flush it or put it in the sharps container (we know, we have asked many). Pharmaceutical technicians are charged with rotating stock, removing expired medications, and then figuring out what to do with expired medication. It can all be a lot for a healthcare facility to handle, especially with rules that were never written with the healthcare facilities in mind.

EPA is seeking with these new management standards to correct some of that confusion. Some facts about the new management standards:

  • The final standards apply to healthcare facilities and reverse distributors that generate and manage hazardous waste pharmaceuticals. This rule also applies to anyone who generates or manages discarded FDA-approved over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies (i.e., patches, gums and lozenges).
  • The final standards do not apply to pharmaceutical manufacturers (unless they act as reverse distributors), production facilities or other generators of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals.
  • Under the final standards, generators of hazardous pharmaceutical wastes will manage their hazardous waste pharmaceuticals under subpart P of part 266 in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), instead of the standard RCRA generator regulations found in part 262.
  • The final standards are tailored to how reverse distributors operate and will replace the standard generator regulations for the accumulation and management of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals at reverse distributors.
  • The final standards exempt FDA-approved over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies from regulation as a RCRA hazardous waste.
  • This final rule will be effective at the federal level six months after the rule is published in the Federal Register. Authorized states are required to adopt this final rule and to modify their RCRA programs in order to retain their authorized status because this rule is more stringent than current RCRA generator regulations.

View a summary of the final rule.

View a pre-publication version of the final rule.

EPA is holding three webinars to discuss the contents of the final rule (they are all the same, just on different days). The webinars, which are free and open to the public, are scheduled for February 14, March 4 and March 14. Visit the EPA website to register to attend one of the webinars.


Julia NorrisJulia Norris is a California-based Certified Hazardous Material Manager, Certified Professional Environmental Auditor, and senior environmental protection specialist with 19 years of professional experience. She has expertise in a wide range of technical areas, including regulatory compliance auditing, air emissions inventories, SPCC Plans, drinking water sampling plans, SWPPPs, wastewater pretreatment programs, solid waste characterization studies, pollution prevention planning, hazardous material/waste management, storage tank management, and NEPA analysis.

Goodbye, paper manifests!

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) hazardous waste manifest system is designed to track hazardous waste from the time it leaves the generator facility where it was produced, until it reaches the off-site waste management facility that will store, treat or dispose of the hazardous waste. In 2014, the EPA established a national system for tracking hazardous waste shipments electronically. This system, known as “e-Manifest,” is intended to modernize the nation’s cradle-to-grave hazardous waste tracking process while saving valuable time, resources, and dollars for industry and states. EPA launched e-Manifest on June 30, 2018, along with user fees to offset the cost of the EPA developing the electronic manifest.

There are a few changes in the way that electronic manifests are prepared from the traditional paper manifest system.  Let’s review some of the updates.

  1. e-Manifests may now be prepared by the Treatment, Storage or Disposal Facility (TSDF). Under the RCRA Regulations (40 CFR 172.205(b) the generator of the hazardous waste is required to prepare the manifest.  Now, the TSDF can initiate the process using the e-Manifest.  In practicality, the TSDF (or a hazardous waste broker) prepared the paper manifest.
  2. The paper manifest is now only 5 pages, instead of 6. (I remember the original manifests were 8 pages, with carbon paper). 6 copies were necessary so that all parties (generator, transporter and TSDF) involved in the transaction received a copy.  Additionally, both the generator and TSDF sent a copy to the generator’s state environmental agency (if required), and the TSDF mailed a copy back to the generator.  This was changed by the EPA to reflect the new requirement that manifest is now only sent to the EPA.  The EPA will electronically distribute the manifest to the state agency.
  3. If a paper manifest is used, the receiving facility must submit the manifest to EPA within 30 days of receipt. Receiving facilities have several options for submitting paper manifests to EPA, including mailing in paper manifests, sending a scanned image of a paper manifest or submission of image and data files via e-Manifest. The generator will no longer receive a copy from the TSDF.
  4. EPA will charge receiving facilities a fee for each manifest submitted. Fees are differentiated based on how the manifest is submitted. These fees range from $5 for an e-Manifest to $15 for a paper manifest mailed to the EPA.
  5. Generators of hazardous waste will need a Generator ID Number, even Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG).

These are just a few of the changes taking place as the EPA moves towards an electronic hazardous waste manifest system. Generators of hazardous waste should do the following as soon as practical:

  1. Generators must have an EPA ID number to use e-Manifest. Generators may submit EPA form 8700-12 to obtain an EPA ID Number from their RCRA-authorized state or EPA Region. The form can be found on RCRAInfo Web. In some states, generators may submit this form electronically.
  2. For generators who already have an EPA ID Number, your previously submitted information (e.g., contact information) needs to be up-to-date. Check your information on RCRAInfo.
  3. Register with e-Manifest instructions are be available at: Generators need to register with e-Manifest only if they will view, create, and/or sign manifests electronically or make corrections to manifests.

Some of the benefits to the e-Manifest system include:

  1. Higher quality and more timely data while saving time and resources for industry and states
  2. Cost savings
  3. Accurate and more timely information on waste handling
  4. Rapid notification of discrepancies or other problems related to a shipment
  5. One-stop reporting of data to EPA and the states through a single hub
  6. Increased effectiveness of monitoring of waste shipments by regulators
  7. Potential for integrating manifest reporting with other federal and state information systems


For more information on EPA’s e-Manifest Program and frequently asked questions go to

New Hazardous Waste Requirements, and Flexibility

One of the biggest environmental regulations that we deal with every day is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  Passed in 1976, RCRA is as a solid waste disposal law that addresses the management of both solid waste and hazardous waste. The implementing regulations took effect in 1980.  RCRA was intended to be implemented by the individual states. Every state but Alaska and Iowa have received authorization from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement RCRA (The EPA implements RCRA in AK and IA). When the EPA authorizes a state to implement RCRA, it means that the state-level agency enforces the state-level laws and regulations in the jurisdiction of that state, not the EPA.

Various amendments to the regulations have been made over the past 30 plus years; however, these amendments did not correct some deficiencies in the rule nor did they provide any flexibility for generators of hazardous waste.  This changed in 2015 when the EPA proposed revisions to the hazardous waste generator regulations by making them easier to understand and providing greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed to better fit today’s business operations.  These revisions are commonly referred to as the Generator Improvements Rule (GIR).  It was signed by the former EPA Administrator on October 28, 2016, published in the Federal Register on November 20, 2016 (81 FR 85808), and effective on May 30, 2017.

The GIR contains three kinds of rule changes:

  1. New reliefs, such as the new relief for episodic generation and others.
  2. New, more stringent requirements like those for Satellite Accumulation Areas, contingency planning, and container markings.
  3. Non-substantive and re-organization changes: Many of the provisions do not change the day-to-day requirements but do change where the rule is found in 40 CFR or how it is formatted.

The rule was effective immediately in Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico, and the US Territories (US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Marianas, Guam).  It also went into effect in New Jersey and Pennsylvania due to the way these states incorporate updates to the Federal RCRA rules into their State programs. The major changes in the Generator Improvements Rule will take effect immediately in those two states.

Authorized states will have to adopt the more stringent provisions, by July 1, 2018 (or July 1, 2019 if state law change is needed).  Currently (as of July 9, 2018) the rule has been adopted by the following additional states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

For more details about the rule, please visit the EPA’s Generator Improvements Rule page.

Robert A. (Bob) LaRosa, P.E. is an experienced environmental professional  with over  30 years’ experience in the EH&S field in various field level, supervisory, and management positions. As a consulting engineer he has worked with clients in the manufacturing, chemical, petroleum, transportation, telecommunication, food and pharmaceutical industries to improve their environmental, health and safety programs and performance.  He is a registered professional engineer in several states and serves as both an AARCHER consultant and instructor for the Aarcher Institute of Environmental Training.  He can be reached at [email protected].