Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) Rule
On July 22, 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed changes to the Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule. The DSW rule was finalized in 2008 but soon thereafter several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit against EPA claiming the rule was harmful to human health and the environment.
On June 5, 2012, IPC members met with senior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff on the proposed 2011 DSW rule. The members advocated for regulatory relief from onerous Resource Conservation and Recovery (RCRA) regulations, the recycling of wastewater treatment sludges from electroplating operations (F006), pointing out that F006 contains a large concentration of valuable metals. EPA is inhibiting recycling by imposing unnecessary burdens through proposed changes to the Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule. IPC followed up with EPA senior staff in an effort to further advocate our position.
The proposed rule discourages recycling by making it more cost effective to landfill materials rather than send them for recycling. The 2011 proposed revisions would reverse parts of the 2008 DSW rule that would have provided regulatory relief to a wide variety of manufacturers, including electronics manufacturers. The 2011 proposed revisions significantly narrows a provision that would have excluded materials from RCRA regulations if recycled according to certain specifications. The proposed revision allows the exclusion only if recycling takes places on-site. While some materials can be recycled on-site, it is clearly impractical to build a metals smelter at every printed circuit board facility to recycle F006. The 2011 proposed rule denies manufacturers that send their wastes for recycling the opportunity to qualify for regulatory relief, instead requiring them to comply with all RCRA waste regulations.
EPA held two public meetings on their proposed changes to the DSW rule. IPC attended and testified during the September 12, 2011 public meeting encouraging the Agency not to adopt the 2011 proposed revisions and to reinstate the transfer-based exclusion for secondary materials sent off site for recycling.
IPC submitted comments on the proposed rule on October 20, 2011.
As a tangible result from IPC’s 2013 Capitol Hill event and through education, outreach and grassroots efforts a letter was signed by 16 Members of Congress to the new EPA Administrator on the proposed changes to the DSW rule. This was a complex issue that Members of Congress and their staff had no knowledge of but took the time to listen to IPC and its members and act on our recommendations.
The 2008 final DSW rule removed regulatory barriers that inhibited the recycling of manufacturing wastes. The DSW rule had the potential to save industry including electronics manufacturers approximately $95 million dollars per year while simultaneously providing an environmental benefit by reducing waste. Due to the lawsuit from environmental groups, the decades of effort put into finalizing the DSW rule by both EPA staff and industry is now a colossal waste of time, effort, and money.
EPA also conducted an environmental justice study as part of the revisions to the DSW rule to assess any adverse impacts to low-income and minority populations. The study found that the 2008 rule could pose harm to human health and the environment. However, the justification for this claim is based on faulty assumptions and misrepresentative data.
Electroplating Sludge (F006)