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RCRA’s Reach to Retail and Consumer Products

Environmental regulators have increased their focus on businesses that handle household, consumer, and personal care products, particularly returned, damaged, off-spec, and obsolete products.

A variety of household and consumer chemical and personal care products, such as kitchen and bathroom cleaners, nail polish, hand sanitizer, aerosol disinfectants, medicines/pharmaceuticals and the like may actually be regulated “hazardous wastes” after a decision is made to discard them. And although these products seem relatively benign – in the sense that we encounter them in our daily lives and they are routinely used in our homes and businesses – a number of companies have faced significant civil, and in some cases criminal, penalties for improper management and disposal of such products.

In addition to product management, warehouses and retail stores may have other environmental, safety, and health issues that are easy to overlook: refrigerant and cooling system leaks, used oil/fluids and batteries from forklifts, spent fluorescent bulbs, and stormwater and wastewater discharges to sanitary sewers.

Combine this mix of factors with the fact that companies frequently rely upon offsite locations, contractors, third-party vendors, and temporary staff to manage these operations – where the lines of responsibility and authority may not always be clear – and this creates a scenario ripe for EPA enforcement.

A copy of Mr. Brought’s presentation can be downloaded here.