What Do We Mean by “No More Direct-to-Scrap”?


Thousands of companies throughout the United States regularly purchase products that are transported in industrial containers, such steel and plastic drums, as well as intermediate bulk containers.  A significant percentage of these containers carry chemicals and other materials regulated as hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency and/or the Department of Transportation. 

After the regulated material in these containers has been used for production purposes, a small amount of residue inevitably remains in the container.  For example, imagine you are drinking a chocolate milk shake: When you finish, a small amount of residue always remains on the side and bottom of the soda glass.  This is exactly what happens when drums and IBCs are emptied in production processes, particularly if the material being emptied is viscous, like paint or ink.

Often, company managers do not understand that even small amounts of regulated residues must be managed in accordance with several federal laws and regulations designed to prevent environmental contamination and protect worker health and safety.  Some of these companies crush or shred their residue containers and send them to scrap processing facilities. 

These company managers may think they are doing the right thing by recycling, but in fact they may be putting their companies in serious legal jeopardy for failing to comply with environmental laws and regulations, including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA).  [Go here for a full discussion of these issues.]

Importantly, scrapping industrial containers before the end of their useful life actually harms the environment by preventing reuse.  Several studies have shown that industrial container reuse saves hundreds of millions of pounds of carbon emissions (CO2е) every year! [Go HERE to see these reports.]

What Should Your Company Do?

Companies should send all their empty residue containers to a reconditioner that is a member of the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA).  RIPA members abide by a comprehensive Code of Operating Practice that ensures your empty containers are transported, stored, cleaned and reconditioned in a manner that complies with applicable laws and regulations.  Importantly, reconditioners strive to reuse all industrial containers after reconditioning.  Reuse is far more environmentally beneficial that scraping or disposal.   Containers that can’t be reused are cleaned and only then sent to a licensed scrap processor.

More Information

RIPA has developed information in several formats that will help companies understand their legal responsibilities related to the management of empty residue containers.  RIPA encourages companies to use these materials freely and, as such, has put no restrictions on their use.

Article: Discussion of the Federal EPA Empty Container Rule: Purpose and Application

Description: This is a technical article describing the federal empty container rule that appeared in March/April 2019 edition of The Journal of HazMat Transportation.  This article has been copyrighted by PRI International, Inc.  A similar non-copyrighted version of the article appears below.

Document: Discussion of the Federal EPA Empty Container Rule

Description:  This is a technical summary of the federal empty container rule, including information about related regulations arising from federal transportation and disposal laws.

Slide Show: The Case for Reconditioning Industrial Shipping Containers

Description:  This PowerPoint presentation provides insight into the many reasons why emptied industrial containers that retain even small amounts of regulated residue should never be sent directly to a scrap yard.  Corporations that do engage in this practice may be violating numerous federal anti-pollution and transportation regulations. (May take several seconds to download.)

Video: “No More Direct-to-Scrap” Animated Video

Description:  This brief and engaging animated video (~ 3 minutes) provides an easy-to-understand explanation of the many reasons why corporations should not send industrial containers holding small amounts of regulated material to a scrap yard.

Sample Empty Residue Container Management Policies for Businesses

Description: RIPA has developed sample empty container policies that can be utilized by companies to develop their own, comprehensive policies that will help ensure company-wide compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing the management of emptied containers.