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EPA waste management rules concern retailers

Retail groups are concerned about new waste management regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that could affect how stores dispose of unsold products and pharmaceuticals.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the Food Marketing Institute, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Grocers Association and the National Retail Federation claim these new rules could limit retailers’ ability to recycle or reuse products.

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The Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements rule proposed over the summer allows businesses that create small amounts of hazardous waste to avoid some stricter regulations as long as it is properly managed. And qualified "small quantity generators" will be allowed to send hazardous waste to a large quantity generator.

The Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals rule, also proposed in August, will create a set of regulations for how  healthcare facilities and pharmacies should handle hazardous waste pharmaceuticals.

“Although portions of the proposals may offer some relief, the suggested frameworks fall short of easing the burden on retailers who want to manage unsold products in a more sustainable fashion, rather than discarding potentially useful or recyclable items.” Sue Pifer, RILA’s vice president of compliance, said in a news release. “The Retail Associations again emphasize in their comments that most unsold consumer products and pharmaceuticals are not ‘wastes’, due to the fact that many are suitable for re-shelving, donation, recycling, liquidation or shipment back to vendors for credit."