“RCRA’s Critical Mission & The Path Forward”

In June (2014) the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly published a study of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to discuss RCRA’s past successes, present importance and future vision (RCRA’s Mission, Transformational Results, and Today, Tomorrow and Beyond).

Over the past decade it seems as if EPA’s primary focus has been on Air Quality issues.  This report makes it clear that the EPA still considers RCRA to be an important piece of its environmental protection strategy, now and in the future.

“While the RCRA waste management, cleanup and resource conservation programs have established a solid foundation for protecting the nation’s health and the environment, their mission is far from complete. The EPA and its partner states, tribes and local governments face new challenges in protecting communities and the environment, cleaning up land and water, conserving resources, and innovating to be more effective. This document describes the RCRA program, its essential mission, challenges, and path forward.”

This study is a necessary read for those involved with hazardous waste management, resource conservation, waste management, and recycling/reuse.

EPA’s summary of the Report states:
“At its core, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is about protecting communities and resource conservation. To achieve this goal, EPA develops regulations, guidance and policies that ensure the safe management and cleanup of solid and hazardous waste, and programs that encourage source reduction and beneficial reuse. Enacted into law in 1976, the work of this national program remains critical to our environmental and economic future: there are wastes from new products and chemicals; emerging waste management technologies; unpredictable and unusual waste streams from an increasing number of natural and man-made disasters; and possible long-term legacy issues even when sites are “cleaned-up”. RCRA’s Critical Mission & the Path Forward (PDF) (26 pp, 3.20 Mb) details this important juncture in the RCRA program.”

The report stresses the positive accomplishments achieved by RCRA over its history, and makes a compelling case that RCRA is still important to environmental protection, and will continue to be important to the Agency and the country. The EPA’s description of RCRA’s future is:

“The vision for the RCRA program is to continue to safeguard communities and the environment; mitigate and clean up contamination; champion sustainable, lifecycle waste and material management approaches; and promote economic development (including job creation) and community well-being. RCRA’s vision is to fully embrace technological advances that will facilitate commerce and enhance stakeholders’ participation in the decisions affecting their communities.“

While the report is an interesting read for RCRA practitioners, one will discover that it does not include many specific details of exactly how EPA intends to achieve all the goals it anticipates accomplishing with RCRA in the future.

We agree with EPA that RCRA has been and will continue to be important to environmental protection in this country.  We encourage EPA to streamline many of the conflicting and confusing aspects of the hazardous waste management regulations, that make compliance at times difficult, and discourage beneficial reuse and recycling.  Legitimate reuse and recycling results in true Resource Conservation and Recovery, which was RCRA’s original stated purpose.

EPA Web page – RCRA: Critical Mission & the Path Forward

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