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What Is Residual Waste?

Residual waste is nonhazardous industrial waste. It includes waste material (solid, liquid or gas) produced by industrial, mining and agricultural operations. It excludes certain coal mining wastes and wastes from normal farming activities.

How Much Do We Produce?

Pennsylvania businesses and industries generate at least 20 million tons of solid residual waste each year. A larger amount is generated in liquid or semi-liquid form. The amount of residual waste produced is almost twice the combined total of the state's municipal (11.7 million tons per year) and hazardous (.4 million tons) wastes. The largest residual waste generators are electric utilities, paper mills, foundries, printing and ink operations, and the iron/steel industry.

What Are Some Examples Of Residual Waste?

Residual waste is composed of a wide variety of materials. Pennsylvania's residual waste stream is predominantly ash (about 40 percent) generated by coal-burning plants and residual waste incinerators.

Other residual wastes include contaminated soil, ceramics, gypsum board, linoleum, leather, rubber, textiles, glass, industrial equipment, electronics, pumps, piping, storage tanks, filters, fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceutical waste, detergents and cleaners, photographic film and paper; wastes that contain asbestos, oil and PCBs; metal-containing wastes such as foundry sands, slags, grindings and shavings; and residues such as sludge from the treatment of public water supplies, emission control, lime-stabilized pickle liquor, paints, electroplating, and waste from the manufacture of lime and cement.

Is Residual Waste Dangerous?

As the examples indicate, residual waste is highly diversified, both in type and in its potential to harm public health and the environment when improperly managed. Some residual waste components, such as food processing wastes, present relatively little risk. Others, such as some metal-containing wastes, present a high degree of risk.

Residual waste does not include materials defined by law as hazardous. However, it does include "near hazardous" wastes that are not covered by hazardous waste regulations. If not processed and/or disposed of properly, these wastes can cause significant environmental harm and health problems, including chemical burns and cancer.

How Is It Disposed?

Over 900 facilities in Pennsylvania have DEP permits to process, beneficially use, or dispose residual wastes. These include: 452 beneficial use applications, 314 processing facilities, 71 residual waste landfills, 24 land application facilities (excluding beneficial use) , 34 incinerators, 32 impoundments, and 2 composting facilities. In addition, almost all municipal waste landfills and resource recovery facilities accept residual waste. About one quarter of the state's hazardous waste capacity is used to process or dispose of residual waste.

Most residual waste is processed and/or disposed on the site where it is generated. Just as commercial facilities are required to have permits to ensure compliance with laws and regulations, these company-owned facilities also must be permitted.

How Is It Regulated?

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Waste Management, is authorized to enforce compliance with state laws and regulations that pertain to the handling of waste. DEP does this through issuing permits to waste handlers, requiring them to submit reports and analyses, performing on-site investigations, investigating complaints, and prosecuting violators.​