Pace Logo

Solid Waste

Solid Waste Testing Services

Solid waste sample matrices can be challenging due to the classification of solid waste facilities, including municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, industrial waste, and radioactive waste. The Pace® national network of labs can meet the needs of any solid waste project, from routine waste classifications, to complex TCLP tests, to large toxicity determinations.


Solid Waste FAQs

Every year, the United States generates more than 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). That waste can be characterized in multiple ways.

What Is Solid Waste?

RCRA defines solid waste as any garbage, refuse, or sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility as well as any other discarded material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, agricultural operations, or community activities. This can include household trash, industrial waste, construction debris, agricultural byproducts, and more. Under RCRA, the definition of solid waste is not limited to wastes that are physically solid. Solid wastes can be liquid, semi-solid, or contain gaseous material.

What Is Hazardous Waste?

The EPA, which regulates hazardous waste under RCRA Subtitle C, considers waste hazardous waste if it is dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. Hazardous waste can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges and can be discarded by household, industrial, or commercial products such as oil, paints, certain electronics waste, cleaning fluids or pesticides, or the by-products of manufacturing processes. Only materials that meet the definition of solid waste under RCRA can be classified as hazardous wastes, which are subject to additional regulation.

person in hazmat suit working with blue barrel of hazardous chemical. Hazardous waste, Solid Waste, TCLP test, Hazardous Waste characterization, Waste Characterization, RCRA waste characterization

RCRA Three Hazardous Waste Handler Classifications

RCRA is considered a “cradle to grave” system because it regulates the handling of hazardous waste from creation to disposal. This ensures that hazardous waste is handled properly and does not contaminate the environment. There are three hazardous waste handler classifications:

How Is Solid Waste Regulated?

In the United States, all levels of government – federal, state, and local – are involved in regulating solid waste. RCRA acts as the framework with three comprehensive programs.

Hazardous Waste

RCRA Subtitle C establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from generation through disposal ("cradle-to-grave"). This program delineates the criteria used to determine hazardous waste and establishes requirements for producers, transporters, and disposal facilities. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is responsible for regulating the transport of hazardous materials.

Non-Hazardous Solid Waste

RCRA Subtitle D establishes a system for controlling primarily non-hazardous solid waste, such as household waste. The program provides the states and local governments with guidance, policy, and regulations for the efficient waste management.

Underground Storage Tanks

RCRA Subtitle I regulates toxic substances and petroleum products stored in underground storage tanks (UST). The program establishes requirements for the design and operation of USTs aimed at preventing accidental spills.

gavel on top of book. soil testing, soil testing services, soil contamination, environmental site assessment, soil management, soil characterization
stack of hazardous waste barrels in different colors. Hazardous waste, Solid Waste, TCLP test, Hazardous Waste characterization, Waste Characterization, RCRA waste characterization

Handling Hazardous Solid Waste

RCRA places the responsibility on waste generators to perform hazardous waste analysis. The requirements are determined by the waste generator category, which is defined by the volume of hazardous waste generated. If deemed hazardous, waste must be treated as such at every point in its lifecycle. Noncompliance can result in steep state and/or federal penalties.

The waste generator category and waste characterization determines:

Waste Generator Categories

The EPA classifies solid waste generators into three categories based on the quantity of waste generated.

Large Quantity Generators (LQG)

Large quantity generators generate more than 1000 kilograms (kg) of hazardous waste/month or more than 1 kg of acutely hazardous waste (P-waste code) per month. LQGs are fully regulated and must comply with all generator requirements indicated.

Small Quantity Generators (SQG)

Small quantity generators (SQG) generate between 100 and 1,000 kg/month of hazardous waste and accumulate no more than 6,000 kg of hazardous waste on-site at any one time.

Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQG)

Conditionally exempt small quantity generators generate less than 100 kg/month non-acute hazardous waste per calendar month or less than 1 kg/month of acutely hazardous waste. CESQGs can never accumulate more than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste or greater than 1 kg of acutely hazardous waste at any time.

refinery at night. Hazardous waste, Solid Waste, TCLP test, Hazardous Waste characterization, Waste Characterization, RCRA waste characterization

How Is Hazardous Waste Characterized?

A solid waste not specifically listed as hazardous waste from non-specific or specific sources or otherwise excluded by statute is considered hazardous if it meets one or more of the following characteristics as defined in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart C.

row of test tubes with blue liquid. Biological Tissue Analysis (BIOTA), Pace Biota laboratories
Toxicity Characteristics

When extracted according to procedures defined in EPA SW-846, the waste produces an extract that contains listed contaminants above the Regulatory Level cited in the regulation.

Ignitability Characteristics
  • A defined liquid with a flash point <60oC
  • A non-liquid that burns when ignited as defined
  • An ignitable compressed gas as defined
Corrosivity Characteristics
  • Aqueous with a pH <2 or >12.5
  • Liquid that corrodes steel at >6.35mm/y
Reactivity Characteristics
  • Unstable and readily undergoes violent change without detonating
  • Reacts violently with water
  • Generates toxic gases when mixed with water
  • A cyanide or sulfide waste that on exposure to pH conditions between 2 and 12.5 can generate toxic gases
  • Is capable of detonation or explosive reaction if subjected to a strong initiating source or if heated under confinement
  • Is readily capable of detonation, explosive decomposition or reaction at standard temperature and pressure

What Is Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP)

The Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is a soil sample extraction method for chemical analysis used to determine whether a material is characteristically hazardous (D-List). It is employed as an analytical method to simulate the process of leaching through a landfill. While it is one of the more common hazardous waste tests, TCLP is not a simple process.

beakers and petri dishes in a laboratory containing soil and sediment for testing. Hazardous waste, Solid Waste, TCLP test, Hazardous Waste characterization, Waste Characterization, RCRA waste characterization
TCLP Center of Excellence

Pace® TCLP Center Of Excellence

The world generates about 400 million tons of hazardous waste annually. Responsible businesses are concerned with adhering to regulatory standards and laws to avoid stiff penalties and fines, not to mention degradation of the environment. In-depth knowledge of the chemical components within contaminated sludge and solid waste is necessary for appropriate remedial action to minimize health risks and environmental pollution.

Regulations require facilities producing this waste to know its composition and manage it properly to protect the health of their employees, the environment, and the public. RCRA specifically requires that industrial and other waste be characterized following testing protocols published by the EPA. Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure, also known as TCLP, is one of these tests, and it is not a simple process. In this blog learn why Pace® dedicated a lab to this procedure.

Why Select Pace®

Pace® has provided solid waste testing for more than three decades and has deep experience gained from years of working with landfills and waste management organizations.
Our solid waste team combines experts in a wide array of contaminants to offer industry-leading capabilities and services.
Waiting for lab results can cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars a day. Our national network offers fast results so you can make quick decisions.
With our advanced sampling equipment, testing, and analytical capabilities, you can have confidence in both your sample collection and data quality.

Additional Resources

Need to find a lab that can handle your unique requirements?
Contact us directly or download our list of environmental certifications across our network.


When disaster strikes, the Pace® Environmental Emergency Response Team is here to help you act fast.