Used Hazardous Material Containers: When are they empty and how long can you keep them?

Used hazardous material containers cause substantial confusion for organizations that handle hazardous materials in California. The confusion arises out of what constitutes an empty hazardous material container and how long it can be kept.

Complyrs Empty Label

California empty:

Under federal law (40 CFR section 261.7) a container that once held hazardous materials is considered empty if it has less than 1 inch of residual material or 3% of the original product weight. In California, a used hazardous material container is still a hazardous waste unless it conforms with the empty container standards set forth in Title 22, California Code of Regulations, section 66261.7

Containers are “California empty” when:

  • Hazardous liquid: no liquid can pour
  • Solid or non-pourable hazardous material: must be completely scraped out
  • Aerosol cans: contents and pressure are completely dispensed
  • Compressed gas cylinders: inside pressure ≈ atmospheric

The important thing to remember is that if a container does not fulfill the California standard, it must be managed as hazardous waste, including the labeling, storage, retention and disposal requirements.

If a container meets the California empty standard, the container may be managed as follows:

  • Retained on site for up to one year. Provided that it is:
  • Marked as “Empty”
  • Labeled with the date the “empty” determination was assigned.

During this period, the container can be repurposed and is then exempt from hazardous material and hazardous waste regulations, provided the repurposed container does is not used to store hazardous waste or materials. Containers that are not repurposed must be managed as follows:

  • California empty containers < 5 gallons may be disposed in a non-hazardous landfill. Optionally, they may be reconditioned, remanufactured, refilled or reclaimed.
  • California empty containers > 5 gallons must be reclaimed for scrap value, reconditioned, remanufactured or refilled. They cannot be disposed of as solid waste (in a landfill).

If you need more help complying with environmental regulations, contact us at or call me at 619-379-1457.

Standard disclaimer:

This blog / website is made available by the environmental professionals Complyrs, LLP for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and understanding of various environmental regulatory requirements. This blog article should not be considered as a professional service or legal advice. By using this blog / website you acknowledge it does not constitute a professional service. This blog / website should not be used as a substitute for competent professional services.

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