On November 28, 2016, US EPA published its Final Rule revising the requirements applicable to the export and import of hazardous wastes to and from the United States.  The changes enacted by US EPA make three significant revisions to existing regulations by:

  1. Aligning existing export and import related requirements with the current import-export requirements for shipments between members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD);
  1. Doing away with paper submittals of all export and import related documents to EPA by mandating that such documents be submitted electronically through EPA’s Waste Import Export Tracking System (WIETS); and
  1. Enabling the electronic validation of consents in the Automated Export System (AES) for export shipments subject to RCRA export consent requirements prior to exit.

This Final Rule applies to those persons who (1) export or import hazardous waste for recycling or disposal, including all persons who arrange for the export or import of hazardous waste, (2) all facilities that receive imports of hazardous waste for recycling or disposal, (3) all persons who export — or arrange to export — conditionally excluded cathode ray tubes being shipped for recycling; and (4) all persons who transport these export or import shipments.

Under the new OECD-based procedures, hazardous waste exports and imports will occur under contracts or equivalent agreements between exporters and receiving facilities. However, prior written approval from the country of import is required before hazardous waste can be shipped. This allows the country that controls the shipment to review the proposed import or export for compliance with domestic laws and regulations prior to shipment. For example, US EPA must now review all imports of hazardous waste into the US and, if it consents, US EPA will send a letter acknowledging consent before the movement of hazardous waste can occur.

The OECD-based rules also require the tracking of international hazardous waste shipments from start to finish and mandate that receiving facilities document the initial receipt of hazardous waste shipments, as well as the date when management of the hazardous waste is completed. Receiving facilities must then confirm receipt of initial delivery within three days and confirm the date of recovery or disposal within thirty days after disposal is accomplished. Moreover, the new procedures require that receiving facilities complete management of the hazardous waste within one year after it was received.

In order to facilitate the transition to the new OECD-based procedures, the Final Rule includes a requirement that exporters and importers establish or amend contracts to comply with the new OECD-based procedures.

By doing away with paper submittals of all export and import related documents, persons affected by this Final Rule will soon be required to submit import and export related documents to US EPA using an electronic Waste Import Export Tracking System (WIETS). This means that recognized traders who arrange for the export of hazardous waste, along with all importers of hazardous waste, will be required to register with EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) and obtain EPA ID numbers before submitting documents electronically. This Final Rule also requires the submission of certain information, including consents, through an Automated Export System (AES). The new mandatory electronic document submission requirements, however, do not take effect on December 31. US EPA has elected to phase in the mandatory compliance dates for submitting documents electronically. The Agency will announce the compliance dates for mandatory electronic submission using WIETS and AES in separate notices in the Federal Register.

Although this Final Rule is effective December 31, 2016, existing export and import shipments occurring under the terms of a consent issued by US EPA prior to December 31 can continue to operate under the old requirements for the duration of the consent. But anyone applying for a new consent — or attempting to amend an existing consent after December 31 — must comply with these new requirements.

Additional information regarding the Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions is available on EPA’s website.