EPA Solid Waste Rule – Burning Fat as a Boiler Fuel

On March 21, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized and published in the Federal Register what is known as the “solid waste definition” rule. This rule provides the basis for exempting certain materials from the definition of solid waste and thereby avoiding the more onerous restrictions on burning solid wastes as compared to burning conventional fuels.

The National Renderers Association (NRA) submitted comments to the draft regulations in an effort to have rendered fat categorized as a “traditional fuel” under the regulation rather than as a secondary material. EPA did not accept NRA’s position, but instead indicated that processed fats are categorized as non-waste fuel. Under this interpretation, each user of saleable fat will need to develop documentation that the fat is not a waste based on its characteristics and how it is handled and treated.

Renderers who burn fat in their boilers or sell fat to customers to burn in the customer’s boilers should be aware of this rule. At a minimum, the rule will require certain documentation to show that the fat meets the criteria as a non-waste material and may require adoption of certain practices in how the fat is handled by the customer to avoid characterization as a waste material. There is also a mechanism in the rule for petitioning the EPA for a case-by-case non-waste determination on the use of rendered fat as a fuel.

The text of the rule can be found at www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-RCRA-2008-0329-1734, with the discussion on processed fats beginning on page 15515. Below is EPA’s direct response in the rule.

“We disagree that process fats are a traditional fuel. Process fats are secondary materials as they are produced from inedible parts of animals that were primarily butchered for meat, not for use as a fuel. We recognize, however, that these nonhazardous secondary materials contain lower concentrations of contaminants than traditional fuels and, as such, are being encouraged for use instead of fossil fuels. In addition, since the fats are managed the same way that traditional oil is, it is evident that the material is handled as a valuable commodity, meeting that legitimacy criterion.

“Additionally, the material meets the legitimacy criterion for a meaningful heating value. Since these materials are sometimes not managed within the control of the generator (i.e., the butcher, the restaurant, etc.), questions could be raised as to whether they are discarded if not burned in a combustion unit within the control of the generator. However, we would note that the rendering process ‘‘sufficiently processes’’ the material into a non-waste fuel that meets the legitimacy criteria, as we note above. Thus, the commenters concern that non-waste determination petitions would need to be submitted on a case-by-case basis, and would have a chilling effect on the development of new customers and markets for processed fats, is not the case. Thus, the final rule establishes these nonhazardous secondary materials, after being processed, as a non-waste fuel.”

June 2011 RENDER | back