WW: What are the goals of NAHMMA?
MB: NAHMMA was formed to promote source reduction, recycling and the proper management of hazardous materials used and discarded by households and conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs). We would like to foster communication among government, business, nonprofit and community groups and, ideally, we want to encourage efforts that will reduce the toxicity of the MSW stream.
WW: How much hazardous waste do you estimate is generated by households and small businesses?
MB: Households and unregulated business sources contribute more than 2 million tons of hazardous waste into the MSW stream each year. While recent studies estimate that household hazardous waste (HHW) is less than 1 percent of MSW by weight, an additional two-thirds to 1 percent by weight is contributed by commercial sources, according to a 1985 study. Hazardous wastes also are disposed into wastewater treatment systems. As a result, unregulated business and household sources are largely responsible for the toxicity of MSW.
The average American household generates more than 20 pounds of HHW each year and stores up to 100 pounds, according to EPA. Paint, used motor oil and household batteries account for approximately 90 percent of HHW by weight (excluding car batteries).
Businesses generating less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste and 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste per month, and storing no more than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste, fall under the CESQG category of hazardous waste. The federal government permits these small generators to manage hazardous wastes under less stringent regulations however, many states have more stringent requirements for CESQGs. As a result, some CESQGs are managing their wastes as hazardous while others are disposing them into the MSW.
WW: What percentage of this estimate is being properly managed?
MB: Proper management of unregulated hazardous wastes follows the federal hierarchy of source reduction, reuse and recycling and then, treatment and disposal. It's important to note that source reduction includes both quantity reduction and toxicity reduction. In response to federal pollution prevention priorities, manufacturers have begun to reduce the toxicity of certain hazardous products while others are following the reuse, recycle and properly manage products and waste theory. Management data is limited, but information is increasing as initiatives grow.
The EPA estimated that only 10 percent of the do-it-yourself oil changers properly managed their oil in the 1980s. Now, according to the EPA's 1992 study, 32 percent of the oil from do-it-yourselfers is properly managed. Estimates also indicate that more than 80 percent of lead batteries are recycled.
WW: What are the NAHMMA's sources of revenue?
MB: NAHMMA will be supported by individual and corporation membership dues, donations and grants from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Laidlaw Environmental Services Inc. and Chem-Waste Management Inc. provided substantial seed funds that helped develop NAHMMA.
WW: Do you see either increased regulations or enforcement of the small quantity of hazardous waste generator regulations in the future?
MB: State landfill bans on used oil, lead acid batteries and certain types of household batteries, paints and mercury-containing wastes such as fluorescent lights are spreading rapidly. Many states and communities have begun to enact stricter regulations on small quantities of hazardous wastes. Other communities have opted to educate residents and to set up collection programs for the hazardous waste, instead of stricter enforcement.
Across the country, many permanent HHW collection programs are opening their doors to help manage CESQG wastes. These programs are cost-effective and educate small businesses.
EPA is considering a universal waste rule which would streamline federal regulations to encourage recycling and help to reduce the toxicity of MSW.