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Management of hazardous waste in Wisconsin

Hazardous waste is a subset of solid waste that must be managed to protect human health and the environment. Federal and state laws regulate how facilities such as businesses, institutions, governments and other nonhouseholds must manage hazardous waste.

These regulations do not cover most hazardous waste generated by households, but household hazardous waste should be managed to protect human health and the environment.

New rules effective Sept. 1

On Sept. 1, several changes to Wisconsin’s hazardous waste management rules took effect. The changes affect most businesses that generate or handle hazardous waste in the state and are intended to streamline aspects of the rules while making them more protective of public health and the environment. The rule revisions implemented three major federal initiatives:

  • Generator Improvement Rule;
  • Pharmaceutical Rule (Subpart P); and
  • Definition of Solid Waste Rule.

To the extent possible, the DNR adopted equivalent content and format of the federal regulations.

In Wisconsin, there are approximately 11,000 businesses, schools and government institutions that generate varying quantities and types of hazardous waste. The number of hazardous waste generators and the quantity of hazardous waste generated has declined in recent years, mostly due to successful waste minimization efforts and choosing less hazardous alternatives.

Determining if your facility generates hazardous waste

State and federal law require facilities to determine if their waste is hazardous. A facility can determine if it generates hazardous waste by carefully reviewing ch. NR 661, Wis. Adm. Code, and by answering the following questions.

  1. Is the material solid waste?
  2. Is it excluded from the hazardous waste rules?
  3. Is it a listed or characteristic hazardous waste?
  4. Is it a mixture containing hazardous waste, or is it derived from hazardous waste?

Waste Determinations and Recordkeeping (WA-1152) [PDF] can help you with the hazardous waste identification process. If your facility generates hazardous waste, you must determine the quantity you generate in any given month and establish your generator status.

Hazardous waste generator categories and requirements

Hazardous waste generator accumulation time extension

In response to COVID-19, the DNR has developed an online method for requesting an extension to generator storage accumulation time limits.

Wisconsin's hazardous waste regulations allow both large quantity generators and small quantity generators to request an accumulation (storage) time limit extension in the event of unforeseen, temporary or uncontrollable circumstances that prevent shipment of hazardous waste off-site within the 90-day timeframe (LQGs) and or 180-day timeframe (SQGs).

To request an extension, go to Notification of hazardous waste activities.

If your facility generates hazardous waste, you must comply with certain requirements, depending on the quantity of hazardous waste you generate during any given month. All hazardous waste generators must make a waste determination and properly dispose of their hazardous waste. Additional requirements apply based on the generator category.

There are three hazardous waste generator categories:

  1. very small quantity generators (VSQG);
  2. small quantity generators (SQG); and
  3. large quantity generators (LQG).

The table below lists generation and storage limits for each generator category. As a reference, 220 pounds equals approximately half of a 55-gallon drum.

Generation and storage limits for hazardous waste generator categories
  VSQG SQG LQG
Monthly generation limit of non-acute hazardous waste <220 pounds <2,205 pounds

No limit

Monthly generation limit of acute (P-listed) hazardous waste <2.2 pounds <2.2 pounds No limit
Onsite accumulation limit 2,205 pounds 13,230 pounds No limit

Ch. NR 662, Wis. Adm. Code [PDF exit DNR] has more information on the generator categories and the requirements that apply.

Regulatory requirements are based on the facility generator category. Quick Reference Guide: Hazardous Waste Generator Regulatory Requirements (WA1821) was developed to outline the major requirements.

DNR notification and obtaining an EPA identification number

Small and large quantity generators, licensed hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities and other waste facilities and operators must notify the DNR of their hazardous waste activity and obtain an EPA Identification number.

Hazardous waste annual report to the DNR

Small and large quantity generators and licensed treatment, storage and disposal facilities must file an annual report with the DNR. To prepare for your annual report and to ensure compliance with hazardous waste regulations, records of waste determinations, generation quantities, transport of waste and final disposal should be maintained.

Manifesting hazardous waste

Shipping hazardous waste requires a special form called the uniform hazardous waste manifest.

Transporting hazardous waste

Small and large quantity generators, and hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities must use a licensed hazardous waste transporter to move waste from generation to storage, treatment and disposal.  

Waste facility and transporter licenses has additional information on obtaining transporter licenses and lists of currently licensed hazardous waste transporters.

To transport hazardous waste in or through Wisconsin the transporter must have both a valid EPA ID number and a hazardous waste transportation service license issued by the DNR. A transporter is anyone who transports hazardous waste offsite by air, rail, highway or water. Hazardous waste transportation requirements are in ch. NR 663, Wis. Adm. Code.  A very small quantity generator can self-transport hazardous waste without a transportation license or a hazardous waste manifest.

Transporting of PCB-containing waste, including used oil containing PCBs, requires a hazardous waste/PCB transporter license or licensing as a full-service contractor for transportation, servicing and processing of PCBs or products containing PCBs for disposal as required in s. NR 157.04 or 157.05, Wis. Adm. Code.

Learn more about the waste activities that require a hazardous waste transportation license, along with information on the required fees, manifest requirements and additional transporter requirements.

Treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste

Facilities that treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste, known as TSDFs, must be licensed by the DNR, unless the activity is specifically exempt from the licensing requirement.

Commercial TSDFs manage hazardous waste generated by facilities in Wisconsin, as well as potentially from other states or foreign countries. Commercial TSDF hazardous waste management activities may include recycling/reclaiming solvents and mercury, fuel blending for energy recovery and treatment to facilitate disposal. There are no operating hazardous waste disposal facilities (landfills) in Wisconsin.

Hazardous wastes with reduced regulations

There are some waste streams regulated under the hazardous waste ch. NR 600, Wis. Adm. Code, series that have alternative management options. When these waste streams are managed in accordance with the outlined requirements, they are subject to reduced regulation.

Streamlined requirements for universal waste

To encourage and facilitate recycling, Wisconsin's universal waste regulations reduce the hazardous waste management standards for Wisconsin's designated universal waste, which includes hazardous waste batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, lamps and antifreeze.

The universal waste regulations govern the collection and management of these widely generated wastes and provide an alternative set of requirements that reduces the regulatory burden by allowing longer storage of these wastes and reduced recordkeeping.

Disposal options for used oil

Both state and federal agencies recognize the value of used oil for uses such as producing fuels and lubricants and also its potential threat to the environment if mismanaged. Wisconsin has banned used oil and oil filters from landfill disposal.

Businesses and institutions that are required to follow the used oil management standards in ch. NR 679, Wis. Adm. Code, include:

  • generators;
  • collection centers and aggregation points;
  • transporters and transfer facilities;
  • processors and re-refiners;
  • burners; and
  • fuel marketers.

The following guidance document has more information on the requirements:

The DNR recommends that household do-it-yourselfers and small farmers store used oil in closed containers that are in good condition and labeled “used oil,” and take their used oil to a used oil collection center, a community collection site or a retail store that accepts used oil.