In This Section:

Policy & Regulations

Have Questions?

David L. Wagger
Director of Environmental Management
(202) 662-8533


Scrap recycling is a sustainable industry that promotes economic growth while preserving the environment and natural resources. Like any manufacturer, recycling facilities are subject to a number of regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA; also known as “Superfund”). However, because the industry produces specification-grade scrap commodities from unprocessed scrap and other scrap materials, some regulatory requirements are unique to the industry.  Environmental regulations of particular relevance to the industry are reviewed below.

Definition of Solid Waste (DSW)

Definition of Solid WasteThe Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) is extremely important and relevant to the industry. DSW is the basis for RCRA regulations, and RCRA has the potential to regulate inbound material that members purchase for feedstock (e.g., unprocessed scrap), recycling processes, and manufactured products (e.g., specification-grade scrap commodities). Materials outside DSW are unregulated and may move freely.
On July 13, 2015, a new set of regulations comes into effect defining what is “legitimate” recycling and therefore not regulated under the hazardous waste provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), all as part of EPA’s new “definition of solid waste” (DSW) rule.
ISRI has created a compliance guidance document for members to assist in documenting that you are a legitimate recycler of scrap metal.  In addition, please find further helpful resources from the EPA and other sources.

Learn More

Appliance Recycling

Appliance Recycle Since 1993, the recycling of appliances and motor-vehicle air conditioners (MVACs) has been subject to Federal CAA regulations. Foremost under these regulations, it is illegal knowingly to release, or to cause to be released, refrigerants (e.g., R-12, a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), and R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)) into the atmosphere. This “venting prohibition”, as it is known, also applies to substitutes for CFCs and HCFCs (e.g., R-134a and R-410a). Recyclers that accept appliances and MVACs for recycling must either (1) remove remaining refrigerant from delivered appliances and MVACs or (2) ensure that refrigerant was removed from them prior to delivery. Both options have very specific practices and documentation requirements.  These and more are discussed in ISRI’s Guidelines for Appliance Recycling.


ISRI's Guidelines


StormwaterStormwater management is one of the most important operational and regulatory issues for the recycling industry because recycling operations are typically outdoors and exposed to precipitation that may flow off-site. Stormwater permits typically affect every aspect of facility operations. Historically, ISRI has developed and provided information to members on stormwater management and compliance and has been an advocate for the industry during the development and renewal of state general permits and the Federal Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP). In most cases, members apply for coverage to discharge stormwater under their state general permit; however, members in DC, ID, MA, NH, NM, and US territories apply for coverage under the Federal MSGP. Most state general permits resemble to varying degrees (some exactly) the Federal MSGP, but there still is significant variation in requirements across state general permits. For this reason, members should consult ISRI’s list of state stormwater general permits to find their applicable general permit (state or Federal) and associated information.

State General Permits

Chemical Data Reporting (CDR)

Chemical Data Reporting

While Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) has been a TSCA regulation for decades (formerly known as, Inventory Update Reporting), CDR’s potential applicability to recycling operations is relatively new (and accidental in ISRI’s view). CDR applies to recyclers if they import 25,000 pounds or more (yes, pounds) of scrap metal (by element; alloys are considered elemental mixtures) to any one US facility during a calendar year. Typical recycling activities, such as shearing, chopping, baling, and shredding, do not trigger CDR requirements; neither does melting one metal from another (e.g., a sweat furnace). However, CDR requirements are triggered if 25,000 pounds or more of a metal oxide are reduced to metal at a US facility during a calendar year. More information about CDR is available in ISRI’s CDR Issue Updates.

Issue Update, 7/14/17