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About EPA

EPA History: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act — commonly referred to as RCRA — is our nation’s primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste. Congress passed RCRA on October 21, 1976 to address the increasing problems the nation faced from our growing volume of municipal and industrial waste. RCRA, which amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, set national goals for:

  • Protecting human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal.
  • Conserving energy and natural resources.
  • Reducing the amount of waste generated.
  • Ensuring that wastes are managed in an environmentally-sound manner.

To achieve these goals, RCRA established three distinct, yet interrelated, programs:

  • The solid waste program, under RCRA Subtitle D, encourages states to develop comprehensive plans to manage nonhazardous industrial solid waste and municipal solid waste, sets criteria for municipal solid waste landfills and other solid waste disposal facilities, and prohibits the open dumping of solid waste.
  • The hazardous waste program, under RCRA Subtitle C, establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal — in effect, from “cradle to grave.”
  • The underground storage tank (UST) program, under RCRA Subtitle I, regulates underground storage tanks containing hazardous substances and petroleum products.

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