On March 5, 2018, the EPA Administrator signed a proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register to increase metals recycling by placing used aerosol cans into the Universal Waste category as opposed to being hazardous waste in many cases. EPA will be seeking comments for 60 days once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.
EPA estimates that facilities (mainly in the retail and manufacturing sectors) would save between $3 - $63 million in annual costs as a result of this proposed change. EPA also has data to indicate that a large number of used aerosol cans would be diverted from municipal waste landfills and properly recycled by this action.
Aerosol cans meet the preponderance of the eight requirements for listing as universal waste according to an EPA analysis that was completed and published in December 2017. Four states currently treat used aerosol cans as universal waste (California, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado) and two additional states have proposed similar changes (Minnesota and Ohio).
The definition of used aerosol cans being proposed will include most common aerosol cans, but specifically exclude other compressed gas canisters and propane cylinders due to their increased hazards in handling and transportation. Damaged and leaking cans would also be excluded.
Facilities would be able to accumulate used aerosol cans for up to one year as is currently the case for other universal waste materials including lamps and mercury-containing devices. Labeling would follow similar patterns to the current system as well. EPA has proposed three potential options for labeling containers of used aerosol cans; “Universal Waste – Aerosol Cans”, “Waste Aerosol Cans” and “Used Aerosol Cans” would all be acceptable labels.
Should the EPA proposal for reclassifying used aerosol cans as universal waste become a final rule, facilities should check with their current waste vendors to determine the best way to implement the change in their facilities. Facilities will also need to add a discussion of used aerosol cans to its universal waste training program.