Our generators purchase chemicals which they use in their process; such as solvents, acids, or catalysts. After using these materials in their processes, they often ship the used chemicals back to the supplier for recycling, or more often…they use the empty container (which previously held the virgin material) as the accumulation drum for its subsequent waste product.
Normally, when you want to reuse a packaging for hazmat, you must follow steps to make sure that the package is basically “as good as new.” Among other things, this requires you to inspect the package before reuse for any reduction in integrity, such as:

• Incompatible residues, or
• Any ruptures or other damage.
• For drums, the outer layer must meet minimum thickness requirements.

If the drum does not pass inspection, you must recondition and apply a new specification marking to it before reuse.

Additionally, for a non-bulk package intended for liquid, the shipper must perform a leakproofness test. [49 CFR 173.28]. Needless to say, not many facilities have access to pressure-testing equipment, or are equipped and certified to recondition drums.

Knowing that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has strict rules on “approved packaging” and required tests to obtain approval, is this reuse without being tested compliant with the regulations? The answer is yes, provided certain conditions are met.

Since reusing drums for hazardous waste shipments is a common practice, the DOT provided an alternative set of rules for reusing packages to ship waste materials.

In order to qualify for this relief, one must follow 5 steps as identified by 49 CFR 173.12(c):

1. Must still be an authorized packaging under 49 CFR 173 packing regulations
2. Transport by HIGHWAY ONLY
3. Must be inspected for leaks prior to transport, 24 hrs. after it has been
filled and closed
4. Must be loaded, unloaded, and transported by shipper, consignee, private, or
contract carrier.
5. The package may only be transported using this relief once.

In short, you get a one-time relief from leak-testing to ship your used material back out as a waste material; if the hazards of the material have not changed, you let it sit for 24 hours after filling, and then you transport it only by truck, using an appropriate carrier.

Reference:
Lion Technologies Blog “DOT Rules for Reusing Drums for Shipping Hazardous Waste“07/19/2011

NOTE: This information is for general guidance only and must not be used to determine compliance with 49CFR.