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It’s time to get rid of the “Land Disposal Restriction” form

I may have ranted about this a few times in the past 25 years or so… but why give up now? It is time to get rid of the Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) form.

A little history: Back in 1984, when the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was reauthorized, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the land disposal of hazardous waste and created one of the most useless government-bureaucracy-wasteful forms ever in the process. Generators of hazardous waste, including laboratories, were required to complete a “notification” to their disposal facility telling them what kinds of waste they were providing and what could be done with it according to RCRA. A “one time only” notification is required for each waste stream; but for laboratories that means that each and every lab pack–a drum packed with smaller containers of chemicals–offered for disposal requires the completion of a non-standardized form which runs about 3 to 5 pages in length. Although the disposal facility’s permit already specifies what it is allowed to do, a waste generator still has to tell the facility how to handle the waste. Okay, maybe this form was useful for a year or two… I’ll give EPA 1984 and 1985.

Now all the LDR notification does is waste money. Lots of it. If you assume, conservatively, that one million lab packs are shipped in the U.S. annually (the laboratory I handle has 25 employees and generates about 50 lab packs each year), and the completion of the form for each takes 5 minutes, that’s more than 83,000 manhours a year. With an average billing of a lab pack team (all sitting there either completing the forms or waiting for someone doing it) at about $100/hour, that’s more than $8 million annually that U.S. labs are spending to comply with LDR.

I’ve been trying to get rid of this requirement since 1990, 22 years ago. To take my math a step further, it’s quite likely that U.S. labs have spent well over $100 million complying with this law since 1990. Efforts (not just my own) to implore EPA to get rid of LDR have included repeated petitioning, complaints at EPA public hearings, and meetings with EPA and congressional staff.

So why doesn’t EPA get rid of the forms?  Probably because EPA thinks it has bigger fish to fry. EPA estimated in the early 1990s that laboratory waste represents less than 1 tenth of 1 percent of all hazardous waste, so pretty much any regulatory effort that comes along is going to be aimed at the other 99.9%.

If you agree with me, say so. If you can find any reasonable justification for keeping LDR, I’d love to hear from you.

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