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Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA): Overview

Legal research guide for information relating to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act passed in 1976, 42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on October 21, 1976. The law was passed in response to the growing problem of municipal and industrial waste. The slip law was PL 94-580 and the session law was 90 Stat. 2795. The provisions of RCRA were codified in Title 42 of the United States Code. It amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act, which was passed in 1965 (PL 89-272, 79 Stat. 992).

Congress found that there was an increase in waste as a result of many factors and that the country needed to reduce the amount of waste it was producing and provide for proper disposal of waste to prevent harm to the public and the environment. There was particular concern about the harms that could result from not regulating and controlling how hazardous waste was disposed of. There was also a recognition that space for landfills was not infinite and therefore we needed solutions to reduce the amount of waste disposed of and increase recovery and reuse of materials that could still be utilized. Congress also believed that we could be creating and generating energy from some of the waste that was being disposed.

For over 40 years, RCRA has been the primary law governing solid and hazardous waste. Today, the program encourages environmental stewardship, cleanups of improperly disposed materials, and sustainable materials management.

The resources in this guide should be a starting point in your research. There are other materials available on your topic and this guide is intended to provide you with a good foundation for continuing your research into RCRA.

Formerly known as the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), the Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) provides policy and guidance for the EPA's waste programs. The Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) and the Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) are included under the umbrella of OLEM. ORCR is responsible for implementing RCRA. The OUST manages the regulatory program for underground storage tank systems that store petroleum and other hazardous substances.

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