Aerosols: A Universal Waste?

by Jake Thorson, CHMM, CHESS Inc.

Do you spray aerosols at your facility? Brake cleaner? Paint? Lubricants? If you do, how do you dispose of them?

If you are at a facility in Minnesota and puncture your aerosol cans to dispose of them as scrap metal, you will no longer be allowed to puncture the aerosol cans after January 1, 2018 (the MPCA just extended the deadline a year. It had been 2017). The new policy reflects a decision by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to reverse a previously allowed practice. Puncturing aerosol cans has never been a technically legal method of disposal for aerosol cans, but it was permissible – again, that is changing.

Instead companies will be permitted to treat aerosol cans as a universal waste. The cans will have to be collected for disposal in a vented drum with either their caps in place or the can’s pin removed (to prevent leaks and pressure buildup in the drums). The aerosol cans can then be shipped off as a universal waste (if your waste company allows), using a shipping paper or DOT bill of lading. The aerosol cans will not have to be recorded on your annual waste reports, and you won’t have to include a hazardous waste manifest.

Sounds easier, right? Well, not quite… The MPCA has not yet made aerosol cans a universal waste by rule. Instead, they are rolling out the policy until the rule is officially promulgated in the spring of 2017 (hopefully).

What does that mean?

If you are a large quantity generator, the rule may not be in place in time for the first of your twice annual waste reports to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Until the aerosols are classified as  universal wastes by rule, any aerosol cans must be shipped and manifested as hazardous waste. The EPA will identify any aerosols shipped as a universal waste as done in error.

The same will apply for all generators big and small if the rule is not passed by the end of 2017.

If you have a facility in the one of the MPCA-delegated jurisdiction seven metro counties (Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Carver, Dakota, Washington, and Anoka) the county must adopt the new MPCA rule for you to handle the spent aerosols as a universal waste.

So what can you do?

Stop puncturing aerosols as of January 1st. We recommend storing and labeling all spent aerosols as “Hazardous Waste: Spent Aerosols.” The aerosol cans should be shipped as a hazardous waste until the rule is finalized (and adopted, if in the seven-county metro area).

Even when the rule is finalized, if you ship the spent aerosols outside Minnesota for disposal, the waste will need to be identified and manifested as “hazardous waste,” as that is the federal requirement – and that is not changing.

Post note: The MPCA has a new fact sheet on aerosol cans.



This entry was posted in Environmental issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *