Hazardous Waste Generation and Management Summary
Each year, Illinois hazardous-waste generators tell the Illinois EPA
the amounts and kinds of hazardous waste they produced during the
previous year. Generators indicate by code the types of wastes
produced and the steps they took to manage these wastes. If some or all
of these wastes were sent to commercial treatment, storage,
and disposal facilities (TSDFs), that information and the identity
of each receiving facility also are submitted.
Illinois TSDFs likewise report the types and quantities of wastes received
from in-state and out-of-state generators; they also report the procedures
they used to manage these wastes.
This publication summarizes waste generator and management data reported by
generators and TSDFs for the years 1987-2011. The information has been
presented graphically rather than in tabular format in order to better
show trends. A PDF version of this report is
The data reveals, for example, that most Illinois generated hazardous waste
at the site of generation.
Hazardous Waste Generation and Management
This material is intended to help the general public better understand
certain aspects of hazardous waste. It is not intended as a comprehensive
review nor is it a substitute for the statute or its implementing regulations.
It cannot impose any legally binding requirements on the Illinois EPA, the
US EPA, or the regulated community. It is not intended to modify or affect
in any way existing statutory or regulatory requirements or Agency policies.
What are Hazardous Wastes?
Congress has determined that certain wastes by their nature pose a threat to
human health and the environment and has passed several statutes aimed at
identifying and safely managing these wastes.
One of these statutes and its subsequent amendments is known as the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”), which establishes a management system
to regulate certain wastes from the moment of generation until ultimate disposal,
or from cradle to grave. There are ten subtitles, and this report concerns waste regulations known as Subtitle C, regarding the generation, transportation, and treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes.
RCRA has four broad goals:
- to protect human health and the environment from hazards posed by waste
- to conserve energy and natural resources through waste recycling and recovery;
- to reduce or eliminate the amount of waste generated, including hazardous waste; and
- to ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally safe manner.
The generator or producer of the wastes must determine if the waste is a
hazardous waste. The first step is to determine if the waste meets the
definition of a “solid waste,” which is any discarded material, which
may be discarded by being disposed of, burned or incinerated, applied
to the land, burned for energy recovery, reclaimed, or accumulated
speculatively, or a material that is inherently waste-like. Note
that this definition may be somewhat misleading as a liquid or sludge
may meet the legal definition and be considered a solid waste. The
generator then determines if any specific exclusion applies to the waste.
One of the exclusions is for households or residences.
After determining a waste is a solid waste and is not excluded, the generator
must then determine if it is a hazardous waste. Several hundred discarded
commercial chemicals are listed as hazardous wastes, and the generator
determines if the waste is one of those listed. Additional wastes from
about 80 specific and nonspecific common industrial and manufacturing
processes are also listed.
Additionally the generator must determine if the waste exhibits certain
characteristics. This determination is usually made through specific
chemical and physical tests in a laboratory. These characteristics include
ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.
Wastes that are both listed and characteristic may have more extensive
restrictions than those that are only listed or only characteristic.
Illinois' companies that intend to manage discarded materials by
disposing, burning or incinerating, applying to the land, burning for
energy recovery, reclaiming, or accumulating speculatively a hazardous
waste must receive a permit from the Illinois EPA or the US EPA before
conducting these activities. Companies who have received permits to
conduct these activities are known as Treatment, Storage, or Disposal
Facilities (TSDF). These permits may be written so the company may manage
the waste it generates at its location, and usually only companies with
large amounts of waste attempt to be permitted. These companies are often
referred to as on-site generators, meaning generators who manage their own
waste on the site of generation. Permits may also be written so the
company may manage wastes generated by other companies, and these
companies are known as commercial facilities or commercial
Both generators and facilities have certain requirements to report their
waste activity. Generators are required to report if in any month they
generate 1000 kilograms (2200 pounds) or more of hazardous waste and must
report where they have shipped the waste; generators of this quantity of
waste are considered Large Quantity Generators (LQG). On-site generators
who manage their own waste must also report. Facilities who manage the
waste from other companies must report all waste received.
The specific companies that must report change yearly, as some businesses
close or discontinue certain practices and other businesses open or add
certain practices. Companies that were previously regulated report as
nonregulated generators, and then do not continue to report. The number of
regulated companies is on a downward trend. This is believed to be at least
partially the result of successful waste minimization efforts.
Waste generated in Illinois is managed both at the site of
generation and at commercial facilities located both within Illinois
and outside the state. The following graph shows the total generation
In order to make other yearly fluctuations more apparent,
one waste stream was removed from the above graph. This waste stream is generated by oil refineries, mostly at one site. This waste stream is wastewater containing benzene. It had been generated for a long period of time but was not regulated as a hazardous waste until September 1990, when regulatory changes were enacted making it a RCRA hazardous waste. After this change, the refineries installed new equipment and received permits that caused it to be regulated under the Clean Water Act. The waste is still being generated but is no longer reported or regulated as a RCRA waste. The following graph shows this single large waste stream.
When this oil refinery waste is removed from the generation amounts, the resulting graph is depicted below.
The following graph shows waste that was managed on the site of
generation. A significant portion of the waste in every year is
managed by a few companies who inject their wastes into deep wells.
The next largest management method is treatment and recycling of
wastes; however, most wastes managed in this manner are exempt from RCRA regulations and reporting. These wastes are instead managed under
other regulations such as the Clean Water Act. The amounts
incinerated on site are so small they do not show up on the
Also of significance is the decreased volume being stored more than 90 days at
the end of the year. Most of this is the result of one company closing.
The following graph shows the amounts of hazardous waste reported by LQG who have shipped waste off-site, and whether it was managed within
Illinois or in another state.
In each year, 40-50% of the waste shipments are from 10-15 companies
that have shipped over 5000 tons. Some of these result from clean-ups
of contaminated sites, or remediations. Others result from process or
production problems and from regular on-going processes.
years covered by this report, 87 companies shipped over 5000 tons in
one or more years but only one company shipped these amounts in every
year. This company is a commercial facility, and their waste is the
residual from the treatment of wastes received from many companies.
For this chart, companies whose volume exceeded 5000 tons in any year were
checked for several years before and after the large volume, and that volume was
also included if it was close to the 5000 ton amount.
For the past seven years, the amounts shipped by generators of less than 5000
tons have steadily decreased.
Commercial Waste Management
Illinois has several commercial management companies, who
manage waste from numerous generators. Generators in Illinois may
send their waste outside of Illinois for management, while generators
in other states may send their waste to Illinois for management.
Imports have exceeded exports in every year, although the difference
is not significant.
How is the waste at Illinois commercial facilities managed? The largest portion
of the waste is managed at treatment and recycling facilities, while
incineration is the smallest management method.
The number of Illinois companies who manage waste from other companies
has decreased from 51 in 1987 to 15 in 2011. Of these 15, 8 managed
5000 or more tons in 2011, or 99% of the hazardous waste managed by
commercial facilities in Illinois.