Waste Management Introduction & Compliance Workshop at Kentucky EPA: A Brief History of Waste Regulations in the United States 1965 – 2002

May 23, 2018, I had an opportunity to attend a workshop organized by the Division of Compliance Assistance (DCA) of Department for Environmental Protection (DEP), Kentucky.

The workshop provided brief introductory workshop on waste management and compliances to help participants understand new amendments of regulations governing hazardous waste, and how to comply with them.

Participants were facility managers, health and safety professionals, representative of facilities and companies which work with aerosol cans, solvents, paint, pesticides, light bulbs and ballasts and lawn care chemicals on premises.

Thank to my host community – Frankfort City Hall for assisting me to register for this workshop.


Figure 1: Agenda of the Workshop

The workshop stressed concerns over waste management due to increasing solid waste generation, shrinking disposal capacity, rising disposal costs, and limited space for creating new disposal facilities.
I was interested to learn about history and progress of regulations. It allows us to see what challenge policy tries to address. It gave us idea to identify which policy appropriated for our country context.

Timeline of Solid Waste Regulations.jpg

Figure 2: Timeline of waste regulations 1965 - 2002

The following is a brief history of waste management regulations presented by the DCA.

Beginning of Solid Waste Regulations

In US, waste management began in 1960s.

The Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) enacted in 1965, to try to address growing waste amounts and ensure proper management. It was the beginning where solid waste management was defined as local responsibility. In order word, local government is responsible for managing waste. While, federal government provided funding.

Five years later, the Resource Recovery Act was enacted by amendment of the SWDA to push for recycling activities. Then in 1976, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed by the congress. The RCRA banned open dumps, set criteria for landfills, and discussed waste reduction.

Birth of Hazardous Waste Regulations

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is national primary law regulating hazardous waste. Whilst, the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) was amendment to the RCRA and passed in 1976. The Act was employed proactive program focusing on preventing problem. However, it did not include contamination at inactive or abandoned site.


Figure 3: RCRA’s programs (credit to DCA)

Meanwhile, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was also passed in 1976, which allowed the EPA authority to control on toxic chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk of injury. It included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, radon, and lead-based paint.

In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund was passed the congress. It provides a federal trust fund to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous-waste sites, as well as accidents, spills and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants into the environment.

In 1980, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) amended the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The RCRA was amended in 1984 by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments, which focused on waste minimization and phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste, as well as corrective action for releases.


Figure 4: SARA’s important features (credit to DCA)

In 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was enacted in order to prevent accidental risk posted by storage and handling of toxic chemicals and help increase public knowledge and access to information on chemical at their facilities, their uses, and releases.

In order to utilize or repurpose used properties that were at risk for contamination by hazardous substances, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was amended in 2002 by the Brownfileds Law. And that was the birth of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act that provided access to public and private sector to funds for clean-up brownfield site, and to promote sustainable clean-up and reuse.

Flow of concept on waste management.png

Figure 5: Flow of concept on waste management

Starting from 1965 to 2002, waste management began from managing disposal, to reducing amount of waste through recycling, to control hazardous waste, to decentralized authority, to prevent accidental risk, to educate user, and to reuse contaminated site. By viewing the timeline, we could see “flow” of policy changes in order to address challenges in community.

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