New EPA Regulations on Hazardous Waste Removal Has Retailers Upset

Utah FacilitySeveral retail trade associations say new hazardous waste rules proposed by the EPA will limit retailers’ ability to recycle or reuse unsold consumer products and pharmaceuticals and could cost retailers millions — if not billions — annually.

The EPA proposed the waste management regulations in September 2015 in an attempt to protect waterways and reduce burden on companies by providing greater flexibility in how facilities and employees manage hazardous waste, the agency says.

The Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements rule would allow businesses that produce small amounts of hazardous waste to consolidate these wastes from multiple locations at a “large quantity generator” site, thus avoiding strict rules and higher regulatory burdens that apply to businesses producing large amounts of hazardous waste.

The EPA’s second proposal, the Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals rule, sets regulations on how healthcare facilities, including retail stores and pharmacies, manage and dispose of pharmaceutical waste.

In comments submitted to the EPA about the proposed regulations, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the National Grocers Association (NGA), and the National Retail Federation (NRF) say the new rules may impact the handling of unsold consumer products and pharmaceuticals by retailers.

While the Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals would provide retailers well over $40 million per year in regulatory relief by classifying smoking cessation products, like low-concentration nicotine patches, gums and lozenges, as “acute” hazardous waste, the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements proposal would impose significant new costs, the retailers say.

They estimate this rule, which would require record-keeping for non-hazardous waste determinations, would cost be $26.4 million in the first year, and $2.64 million per year after on the low-end. The associations’ high-end estimates are$1.375 billion in the first year, and $344 million per year after.

Retailers view the reverse distribution of prescription pharmaceuticals and reverse logistics of OTCs and dietary supplements as essential business operations, not waste management activities.

For that reason, retailers request that the EPA clarify that pharmaceuticals are not solid wastes if they are destined for use, reuse, or reclamation.