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Defining Wisconsin’s Solid Waste Rule

When defining Wisconsin’s solid waste rule (NR 661.002), what does the WI Department of Natural Resources consider a solid waste?

Broadly speaking, an item is a solid waste if it is no longer being used for its originally intended purpose. It is being discarded because it is being:

Items that are excluded are found in NR 661.04.  Items for donation, reclamation or recycling are also omitted if following NR 660.30. 

Solid waste can be either a solid, liquid or gas. It is not your typical trash, which can go as garbage to a regular landfill for disposal.

Waste going to a solid waste landfill must meet criteria for that landfill. No liquids or hazardous material may go there. Hazardous waste is sent to a hazardous waste treatment facility before it is disposed as a hazardous waste.

There is documentation involved.

Disposing Solid Waste

Solid wastes, trash and recyclables are the most common types of waste in the healthcare industry. These include things like non-contaminated PPE, which end up in a landfill, or packaging materials, which often end up at a recycling facility.

You should work closely with your waste hauler and disposal facility to determine how to evaluate, profile and deliver solid waste generated at your facility.

What’s Not a Solid Waste

Infectious, radiological, hazardous or universal wastes are not classified as solid wastes. They must first be sent to licensed facilities for treatment before disposal.

The WI DNR recommends that nonhazardous pharmaceuticals should be disposed of by appropriately authorized incineration. This is regardless of their classification as hazardous or solid waste.

Deciphering your Waste

Is the waste generated at your facility a solid waste? Biohazard or infectious waste? Hazardous waste? Your facility must determine its waste classification before disposal.

How do you know what is a hazardous waste? One way to tell is to look at the product label. If it warns of hazardous properties, then the container should be disposed of as hazardous waste if there is still material inside of it.

This would include anything that has aquatic toxicity, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic properties. When disposing, this material should be sent to a hazardous waste, medical waste or solid waste incinerator approved to take the waste.

If not sure, treat the material as a hazardous waste. Non-hazardous waste in a hazardous waste container is no problem. However, having hazardous waste in a non-hazardous container is!

Donating Means Your Waste is No Longer a Waste

Let’s apply this rule to the disposal to an aerosol paint can with toluene solvent.  The label reads that it contains a highly flammable hydrocarbon propellant.

If it is empty and it is a metal can, currently in Wisconsin you can place it in either recycling or trash.  As many states are now adopting the new EPA’s new universal waste restrictions around the disposal of empty aerosols, double check before disposing.

If the aerosol can is half-full and being discarded, it must be disposed of as hazardous waste, due to the highly flammable hydrocarbon propellant.

However, if that same half-full aerosol paint can is being donated to an organization to be legitimately used before it expires, it is no longer a hazardous waste or a solid waste, but simply a product.

A bottle of hand sanitizer, due to expire soon and destined for disposal, falls under that same rule. Rather than dispose of it as hazardous waste, consider donating it to an organization that will be able to use it. That way, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of hazardous waste being disposed at your facility, and supply someone with a needed product.

It is always a good idea to keep track of all items that are donated, in case you are asked during an audit.

Document If Legitimately Recycling Hazardous Materials

Many generators legitimately recycle hazardous materials, like solvents or oil-based stains, to other companies that can use it.

In doing so, a generator must maintain records to support the decision of why and how it is being legitimately reused, rather than disposing of it as a hazardous waste.

The DNR recommends gathering the following documentation for all legitimately recycled hazardous items:

  • Name, location and address of the recycling facility (or person receiving the material)
  • Description of the waste, hazardous waste number and waste quantity
  • Detailed description of the recycling process and how the waste is used as an ingredient
  • A demonstration that there is a market or disposition of the waste
  • Documentation that the recycling facility has the necessary equipment to conduct the recycling.
Happy to Help

As always, we are here for any questions or concerns you have about your hazardous waste. Also, we are happy to partner with you for hazardous waste disposal! Contact us at or call 608-257-7652.