EPA Proposes Adding Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste Regulations

On March 16, 2018, EPA published a proposed rule (83 FR 11654-11667) that would add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste program under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations.


Aerosol cans are widely used for dispensing a broad range of products including paints, solvents, pesticides, food and personal care products. The Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) estimates that 3.8 billion aerosol cans were filled in the United States in 2015 for use by commercial and industrial facilities along with households.

Aerosol cans frequently contain flammable propellants such as propane or butane which can cause the aerosol can to demonstrate the hazardous characteristic for ignitability. In addition, the aerosol may also be a hazardous waste when discarded because the aerosol can may contain materials that exhibit hazardous waste characteristics or contain a commercial chemical product found in the P or U hazardous waste lists.


EPA believes that the management of hazardous waste aerosol cans can best be implemented through a universal waste approach where handlers operate within a streamlined management system with regulatory oversight. EPA also believes that the universal waste program addresses the environmental concerns regarding the management of hazardous waste containing aerosol cans. Following are some of the requirements in the proposed rule:

  1. The proposed definition: “Aerosol can means an intact container in which gas under pressure is used to aerate and dispense any material through a valve in the form of a spray or foam.”
  2. A used aerosol can becomes a waste on the date it is discarded and an unused aerosol can becomes a waste on the date the handler decides to discard it.
  3. Aerosol cans that have been emptied of their contents (both propellant and product) are excluded from these regulations.
  4. Aerosol cans that show evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonably expected conditions must be managed under the full RCRA hazardous waste regulations (cannot be managed as universal wastes).
  5. The existing universal waste requirements currently applicable to small quantity and large quantity handlers of universal waste would be applicable to handlers of discarded aerosol cans. These requirements include:

             a. Labeling and marking (Universal Waste Aerosol Can(s), Waste Aerosol Can(s), or Used Aerosol Can(s))
             b. Management standards (managed in a manner to prevent releases to the environment)
             c. Accumulation time limits
             d. Employee training
             e. Response to releases
             f. Requirements for off-site shipments
             g. Export requirements

EPA is also proposing management standards for the puncturing and draining of aerosol cans by universal waste handlers. These standards include:

  1. The puncturing and draining must be conducted by a commercial device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans while containing the residual contents and any emissions.
  2. The handler will be required to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. The handler must develop written procedures outlining how to safely puncture and drain universal waste aerosol cans.
  4. Operators must be trained.
  5. The puncturing and draining must be conducted in a manner designed to prevent fires and the release of the contents of the aerosol cans to the environment.
  6. A written spill response plan must be in place.
  7. A spill clean-up kit must be on-site.
  8. A hazardous waste determination must be made on the contents removed from the aerosol cans.
  9. The handler becomes a generator of the waste removed from the aerosol cans and these wastes must be managed in accordance with applicable RCRA regulations.
  10. The handler is responsible for ensuring that the puncturing device is properly draining the contents of the aerosol cans and that breakthrough of air emissions is not occurring.

Comments Due

Comments on this proposed rule must be submitted to EPA on or before May 15, 2018.


The link below will allow you to view/print this final rule.