The Basics of Hazardous Waste

In 1976, legislation called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed in the United States. It set up the framework for proper waste management. RCRA’s goal is to ensure that wastes, particularly those with hazardous constituents, are managed in an environmentally sound manner. Below, we give you an overview of hazardous waste determination used by the RCRA to regulate hazardous waste management.

What is Hazardous Waste?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines hazardous waste as “waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of hurting human health or the environment.” The Agency breaks down hazardous waste into four characteristic categories – ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic. Suppose you determine that a waste meets one or more characteristics of a hazardous substance. In that case, a qualified hazardous waste management company must dispose of it, and cannot be thrown away like regular municipal trash. 

Hazardous Waste Identification

Chemicals regulated as hazardous waste fall into one of the four categories listed above and must meet certain parameters within those categories to be considered hazardous. Listed below are the parameters that must be met to be considered hazardous. Some wastes may meet one or more of the specifications.


  • Liquids with a flashpoint less than 60o C or 141o F
  • Solids that burn so vigorously under normal handling conditions that it creates a hazardous environment
  • A liquid or solid that, when burned, readily gives up oxygen molecules and accelerates burning 
  • Gases which readily burn in the presence of an open flame 


  • Acids with a pH less than or equal to 2
  • Bases with a pH greater than or equal to 12.5 
  • Liquids that can corrode steel at a rate of 6.3 mm or ¼ inch per year at 55o C or 130o


  • A substance is unstable or undergoes violent change without detonation or heat or can become explosive under standard temperature and pressure
  • A material that reacts violently, becomes explosive, or releases toxic vapors, fumes or gases when it comes in contact with water 


  • Determined by a testing procedure called Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) and can be found in 40 CFR § 261.24.

Managing Your Waste

Do you have hazardous waste? If you are struggling with hazardous waste determination, wondering if your waste is hazardous or what to do with it, contact the professionals at Maine Labpack, Inc. We are a licensed hazardous waste transporter and offer customizable solutions for your disposal needs. 

Contact us to learn more about disposal options, management, and recycling.