EPA Updates Recycling Exemption
What’s new. In May, 2023, EPA redefined the recycling exemption for unused industrial ethyl alcohol, which previously applied to only spent products. The EPA is now allowing both spent and unused industrial ethyl-alcohol products, including hand sanitizer, to quality for the recycling exemption (40 CFR 261.6 (a)(3)(i)). The exemption only applies if:
- it is not burned for energy recovery,
- it is not used in a manner constituting disposal, or
- if reclaimed at a facility without a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to produce alcohol, it is neither burned for energy recovering, nor used in a manner constituting disposal.
If unused hand sanitizer is sent for reclamation following these criteria, it is not considered a solid and hazardous waste and is exempt from RCRA Subtitle C if the recycling is legitimate per 40 CFR Section 260.43.
Why it matters. Many companies purchased large quantities of hand sanitizer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the hand sanitizer purchased during this time was produced under temporary FDA guidance and is off-brand or lower quality. Hand sanitizer typically has a shelf-life of three to five years, which means much of the hand sanitizer purchased at the height of the pandemic is reaching its expiration date.
- Check hand sanitizer for the expiration date. If no expiration date is listed, call the manufacturer, and provide the lot number to identify if it is expired. If the manufacturer cannot provide an expiration date, it is recommended to not utilize the hand sanitizer because: 1) it was most likely made under FDA’s temporary guidance and may not have the chemical or packaging stability necessary for long term storage, and 2) the active ingredients may not be as effective as when purchased.
- If the hand sanitizer is expired, review recycling options to identify if it can be recycled with EPA’s recycling exemption.
- If a recycling option is not available, the hand sanitizer is considered a solid and hazardous waste and must be handled accordingly. Do not dispose of excess or expired hand sanitizer in municipal waste.
Our team can help if your company needs support with managing waste. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your support needs.