“Non-regulated” waste refers to materials that don’t meet the criteria for solid waste, hazardous waste, recyclable waste, or universal waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

While these materials might not be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, proper disposal of these materials is still essential in order to protect human and environmental health.

The EPA’s Criteria for Defining Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed detailed criteria for what constitutes “solid waste,” and materials that meet these criteria can further be classified as universal waste, recyclables, or hazardous materials:

Universal Waste

  • Batteries
  • Aerosol Cans
  • Pesticides
  • Lamps
  • Mercury-Containing Equipment


  • Plastic
  • Aluminum
  • Cans
  • Glass
  • Paper
  • Cardboard

Hazardous Materials

  • Flammable
  • Reactive
  • Corrosive
  • Toxic
  • Radioactive

Some materials that would usually meet the criteria for solid waste or hazardous waste are intentionally excluded from RCRA regulation. These are often materials—while potentially hazardous—that can be recycled or are covered by a different statute.

What Are the Implications of Non-Regulated Waste for Businesses?

For businesses, the main difference between regulated waste classes and non-RCRA hazardous wastes is that you don’t need to label them according to the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard when sending these materials to the appropriate disposal facility.

However, many non-regulated waste materials can still cause adverse health effects and should be treated with care. Moreover, diverting non-regulated waste from landfills through source reduction, reuse, and recycling shows your customers that your industry is environmentally responsible.

Common Kinds of Non-Regulated Waste and How to Dispose of Them Properly

The kinds of non-regulated waste that business owners are most likely to encounter depends on their field of work. They will also depend on your location, as many states regulate types of wastes that are not regulated at the federal level.

Organic Waste From Cannabis Businesses

Pruning, crop residue, and landscaping materials are not regulated as hazardous waste and can generally be treated onsite through burning or composting or taken to a composting facility for treatment. However, the marijuana plant (defined as Cannabis sativa that has a concentration of THC above 0.3% by dry weight) is a controlled substance at the federal level and can be subject to cannabis regulatory requirements and treated as “special regulated waste.”

In California, cannabis growers, processors, and nurseries can compost their organic cannabis waste on-site or have it hauled to an appropriate solid waste facility as part of their cannabis waste management plan. Cannabis product manufacturers, laboratories, and retail stores have to render their cannabis waste “unusable and unrecognizable” before it leaves the premises.

Waste Ponds, Lagoons, Ditches, and Pipelines

Water does not qualify as a solid waste under the definition from the EPA and thus is a non-RCRA waste product. Rather than being regulated by the RCRA, waste discharge from industry is instead regulated by the water boards or environmental quality departments of each state.

In California, waste discharge from food processors and industry are not subject to California Code of Regulations (CCR) requirements and are issued waste discharge requirements (WDRs) under the Waste Discharge Requirements program. For other states, search the term “waste water disposal in [state]” to find out the relevant requirements.

Construction and Demolition Refuse

Refuse from building and demolition that doesn’t contain hazardous chemicals is classified as non-RCRA regulated waste. If you are building or demolishing a greenhouse or growing facility, many of the materials can be recovered and recycled, including:

  • Bricks
  • Metal
  • Wood
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Drywall
  • Concrete

Remember that soil that is contaminated with paint, drywall, or other building materials cannot be added to compost and should be taken to a waste disposal facility or landfill. The disposal of pesticides, paint, varnish, solvents, chemicals,and aerosol cans must comply with the regulations for hazardous waste.

Non-RCRA Regulated Chemicals

There are some chemicals that fall under the definition of non-regulated waste but that can still pose a threat to human health. One of the most well-known examples is ethidium bromide (used in molecular biology labs), which is not an RCRA-regulated chemical but can still pose a threat to human health and shouldn’t be collected in a septic tank.

Other examples are formalin 10% (a 10% formaldehyde solution), silica gel, antifreeze, motor oil, and diesel. If in doubt, always direct non-regulated chemicals and oils to a chemical waste program or have them collected by environmental health services (EHS) personnel.

Proper Disposal Matters for Non-Regulated Waste

At the end of the day, there are very few items that should be placed in the regular trash. Many non-regulated waste materials can be recovered and recycled and others require special treatment (like non-RCRA chemicals) due to their dangerous nature or toxicity levels.

With a proper waste management plan, you can reduce your contribution to landfills, ensure that you remain compliant with all of the relevant laws, and protect the health of people and the planet.