Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
The “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act” (RCRA) was passed in 1976 as an amendment to the “Solid Waste Disposal Act” of 1965 to ensure that solid wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.
The current goals for RCRA are:
- To protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal.
- To conserve energy and natural resources.
- To reduce the amount of waste generated.
- To ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.
- Prevent future problems caused by irresponsible waste management.
- Clean up releases of hazardous waste in a timely, flexible, and protective manner.
To achieve these goals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will rely heavily on three programs:
- The current regulatory framework already in place.
- Collaborative partnerships with stakeholders, such as those developed under the Resource Conservation Challenge.
- The RCRA corrective action program.
There are several components of RCRA:
- The Act–The law that describes the kind of waste management program that Congress wants to establish. The Act also provides the Administrator of EPA with the authority to implement the Act.
- Regulations–The legal mechanism that establishes standards or imposes requirements as mandated by the Act. RCRA regulations are promulgated by EPA, published in the Federal Register, and codified in the CFR.
- Guidance–Documents developed and issued by EPA to provide instructions on how to implement requirements of either the Act or regulations.
- Policy–Statements developed by EPA outlining a position on a topic or giving instructions on how a procedure should be conducted.
RCRA continues to change with amendments to the Statute. HSWA significantly expanded both the scope and detailed requirements of the Act, especially in the context of the land disposal of hazardous wastes.
Municipal solid waste is defined as durable goods (e.g., appliances, tires, batteries), nondurable goods (e.g., newspapers, books, magazines), containers and packaging, food waste, yard trimmings, and miscellaneous organic wastes from residential, commercial, and industrial non-process sources.
Municipal solid waste generation has grown steadily over the past 49 years from 88 million tons per year (2.7 pounds per person per day) in 1960, to 243 million tons per year (4.3 pounds per person per day) in 2009. Recycling has increased from 7% to 33.8% in the same time period.
To address the increasing quantities of MSW, the EPA recommends that communities adopt an “integrated waste management” system containing some or all of the following elements: source reduction, recycling (including composting), waste combustion for energy recovery, and/or disposal by landfilling.