Federal (Superfund) and many state laws (Mini-Superfund laws) can hold companies, including scrap processors and brokers, who have shipped materials to consumers’ facilities liable for cleanup costs where the initial polluter is bankrupt or otherwise unable to pay for cleanup costs. Superfund sites, under federal law, are areas declared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being contaminated by hazardous waste. The cost to clean up these sites can easily reach into the millions of dollars.
Fortunately, under the Superfund Recycling Equity Act (SREA), by showing “reasonable care,” recyclers can employ a valid defense to a claim for Superfund liability. To comply with SREA and obtain such a defense, recyclers must demonstrate three (3) basic conditions:
- The materials shipped to the designated Superfund site meets the definition of a “recyclable material;”
- The transaction must meet the conditions for “Arranging for Recycling;” and
- For transactions taking place after February 27, 2000, “reasonable care” must have been taken to determine the environmental compliance status, as it applies to the recyclable material, of the facility to which the recyclable material was sent or delivered.
These conditions may vary depending as to when the transaction took place, the recyclable materials involved, and the Mini-Superfund laws that apply to your transactions (i.e., the state where the consuming facility resides as well as the home state of the recycler).