Expert Opinion: Three Waste Regulations Making Big Impact in 2020

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Expert Opinion: Three Waste Regulations Making Big Impact in 2020

By Wade Scheel - 12/17/2019
Wade Scheel

From a single store to a large brand with a national presence, retailers face many unique challenges.

Few of these challenges, however, have as much potential impact to a retailer’s brand and financial status as environmental and waste regulations. The increasing focus on regulations and enforcement can result in fines and violations that are both costly and detrimental to retail brands. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to crack down on compliance; one major retailer was recently fined nearly $4 million for non-compliant disposal of electronic waste, batteries and more.

There are several key regulations that will impact all industries that generate waste in 2020, including the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule, varied electronic waste policies and further implementation of the e-Manifest system.

Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Final Rule

As of December 2019, there are 25 states pending adoption of the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. The rest of the states are anticipated to complete the rule-making process in 2020 or 2021.

Once this rule is updated by each state, it will make other rules easier to understand and facilities more compliant. It will also provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed and close important gaps in existing regulations.

Two key provisions where the EPA is finalizing flexibility are:

  1. Allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste provided the episodic waste is properly managed.
  2. Allowing a very small quantity generator (VSQG) to send hazardous waste to a large quantity generator (LQG) under control of the same person.

Additionally, the most recent anticipated schedule of states and territories adopting the rule is outlined below.

  • Where the Rule is in Effect: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
  • Anticipated Rulemaking in 2020, 2021: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin.

It is crucial for retailers to be aware of changes in states they operate in, as rules differ state to state.


Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is expected to grow by 17% in the next couple years. With devices such as laptops, hearing aids, cell phones and even vape pens using lithium batteries for their powerful punch, the industry must be proactive with implementing battery safety policies – including plans for recycling – to avoid fire damage, worker injuries and avoid improper disposal.

Retailers can also expect more options to fill the gap for environmentally friendly disposal of electronics in 2020. Today’s leading organizations know that sustainable business practices are no longer a trend – it is an imperative.

Consumers are focusing more and more on sustainability and environmental responsibility to help them form opinions of, and relationships with, brands of all types. To protect consumers, the environment and overall brand health, all procedures and operations must be managed with a commitment to conserving energy and achieving a higher level of sustainability through waste recycling, recovery, reuse programming and minimization. This allows all industries to achieve measurable, net-positive results at a reasonable cost when optimizing e-waste disposal.


Last year, the EPA established the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act, or e-Manifest, as a system to track hazardous waste shipments electronically in an effort to improve visibility to manifest data and minimize environmental impact.

The EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) continue to have conversations about moving toward a paperless future. The EPA estimates the transition from a paper-intensive process to an electronic system will reduce the burden associated with preparing shipping manifests by between 300,000 and 700,000 hours, saving state and industry leaders more than $75 to $95 million annually.

A few months ago, the EPA announced that e-Manifest submission fees were going up substantially for Fiscal Year 2020/2021. The user fees are changing due to various factors, including changes in projected manifest usage rates as well as program costs during this period. Though changes in e-Manifest rates were meant to incentivize a full move to electronic submissions, within the past year, only 0.2% of manifests submitted were electronic manifests.

The following user fees will be effective through Sept. 30, 2021.

  • $8 per manifest (previously $5): Electronic manifest, both fully electric and hybrid.
  • $14 per manifest (previously $6.50): Data and image upload.
  • $20 per manifest (previously $10): Scanned image upload.
  • $25 per manifest (previously $15): Mailed-in paper manifest.

Based on the slow adoption and increasing fees, the industry should continue to see more industry providers for retail businesses making the switch to fully electronic manifests or seeking alternative and cost saving methods on shipping regulated waste in 2020.

In addition to these three hot topics, there are many other regulations retail leaders should keep their eyes on next year. Above all, retailers must find a way to properly adhere to these new policies and systems in order to remain compliant and penalty fee in the future.

Wade Scheel is the Director of Governmental Affairs for Stericycle Environmental Solutions, which assists numerous Fortune 500 retailers with regulatory compliance, hazardous waste transportation and disposal, industrial cleanup, site restoration, emergency response and more.

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