Large vs. Small Hazardous Waste Generators- Which One Are You?

How much hazardous waste you generate as a company plays a crucial role in how you must manage and dispose of that waste.

And, while it’s important for your workers to understand and follow any federal guidelines that have been put into place, keep in mind that state regulatory requirements for generators may be more stringent. 

As a company or individual, you may be wondering the following:

  • How do I know if I am legally a hazardous waste generator?
  • If so, am I a large or small hazardous waste generator?
  • How does this classification impact my operations?

Below, we’ll answer these questions, as well as provide a source of help that can assist you with ensuring all regulations are met.


Who Is A Generator?


Before you know whether you are a large or small hazardous waste generator, you must know large vs small hazardous  waste generatorswhether you are considered a generator at all. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines hazardous waste generators as “any person or site whose processes and actions create hazardous waste.” 

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control adds that a generator “is any person, by site, whose act or process produces hazardous waste identified or listed in Chapter 11 of the hazardous waste regulations or whose act first causes a hazardous waste to become subject to regulation.”

If your company is based in California, there are three important areas to consider when determining whether you are a generator, according to the DTSC

  • Person, which includes any entity involved in the process of producing hazardous waste (which can include an individual, firm, corporation, city or county, for example).
  • The site, or where the hazardous waste is generated (which must be evaluated collectively on a contiguous piece of property).
  • Act, which clarifies that a person does not necessarily have to produce the hazardous waste to be classified as a generator (such as a cleaning service that removes residues from a storage tank, though the owner would also be considered a generator).

Once an individual or company determines it is a generator and whether its waste is defined as a hazardous waste, the next step is to determine what regulations apply based on the volume of hazardous waste generated.


How To Determine If You Are A Small Or Large Hazardous Waste Generator


Most businesses create waste in one form or another. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to understand the different classifications that the EPA and state governing agencies place on businesses and institutions, and their requirements. 

The EPA, for example, divides waste generators into three main classifications based upon the quantity of hazardous waste that is produced:

  • Very Small Quantity Generators generate 100 kilograms or less per month of hazardous waste or 1 kilogram or less per month of acutely hazardous waste. 
  • Small Quantity Generators generate more than 100 kilograms, but less than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste per month. 
  • Large Quantity Generators generate 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste, or more than 1 kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste. 

In California, however, generators are divided into two categories:

  • Large Quantity Generators generate 1,000 kilograms or more of hazardous waste per month, excluding universal wastes, and/or more than 1 kilogram of acutely or extremely hazardous waste per month.
  • Small Quantity Generators generate less than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste per month, excluding universal wastes, and/or 1 kilogram or less of acutely or extremely hazardous waste per month.

As you can see, both the EPA and state of California have similar regulations in place as far as defining the quantity of hazardous waste an entity produces.

However, it’s important to note that California does not have a conditional exemption for small quantity generators that generate 100 kilograms or less of hazardous waste. 


How Size Impacts Your Company


If you are a hazardous waste generator, you are responsible for meeting cradle to grave large vs small hazardous waste generatorsrequirements. This means you are responsible for the hazardous waste you generate from its initial generation, through its transportation and to its final disposal. 

Beyond this, each classification outlined above comes with its own set of regulations and processes. In general, the more waste that is produced, the more stringent the requirements.

Generally, most hazardous wastes count toward this total, though according to the DTSC, some wastes such as universal wastes do not. 

Depending on the amount of hazardous waste you produce, these areas may differ in regulation, among others:

  • Whether an EPA number is required
  • Amount of hazardous waste generators are allowed to accumulate on-site without a permit
  • Amount of time hazardous waste is allowed to accumulate on-site
  • Requirements in how hazardous waste is managed on-site as far as technical standards
  • Level of training required for personnel
  • Level of contingency plan required in the event of a spill or emergency
  • Amount of air emissions from tanks and containers allowed
  • Number of land disposal restrictions, such as certifications and notifications
  • What steps are taken to reduce or eliminate hazardous waste generation

As mentioned above, California regulations may differ from federal regulations and do not offer exemptions for small quantity generators that generate 100 kilograms or less of hazardous waste. So, if your company generates hazardous waste in California, it’s crucial you are aware of state regulations as well.


How Help Is Available


Yes, and it’s more important than ever to ensure proper compliance with state and EPA regulations.

Hazardous waste management can be a difficult process for many companies. Organizations can realize great savings by looking at workflows, hazardous waste production cycles, and by managing their waste streams effectively. This cuts down on costs and steers your company clear of fines.

A qualified waste management company can be of great assistance.

This is especially important because complicating the designation process is the fact that waste generator status is measured on a monthly basis, and companies can change the category from month to month based upon workflow and changes in production. 

One of our clients experienced this exact scenario. The client came to us classified as a large hazardous waste generator, and after looking at the company and the waste that they generated, we realized the company was in fact misclassified and was actually a small waste generator. 

This classification mistake on the company’s part resulted in wasted money spent to meet more stringent large generator requirements. On the other end, a company classifying itself as a small hazardous waste generator, when in fact is a large generator, could face steep fines for not meeting the appropriate regulations.

Because hazardous waste management companies are used to working with a variety of hazardous materials in different industries and quantities, they have a handle on how to effectively manage proper classification and waste stream management.

Properly licensed and experienced companies will help you stay current on ever-changing guidelines, making sure your hazardous waste is being disposed of properly and that your requirements are being satisfied.

This will help you save time and money, and spare you from the aggravation of regulatory penalties.


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