is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.



ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS & REGULATIONS ...with emphasis on THE SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL ACT OF 1976 (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act - RCRA)

 General Information  Environmental protection is guaranteed under law. Laws are made from common, case, and legislative law. It is important for ordinary citizens to have access to and understand our complex and confusing array of laws and regulations. Often citizens demand more laws, when the laws they demand already exist. At times, the laws are in conflict with each other or regulations or policy. A chronic problem in the United States is that our environmental laws are often not enforced by both federal and state government authorities. The prevailing law should be the one at the top of the food chain.


  • COMMON LAW - Based on tradition, accepted practices, and/or court decisions
  • CASE LAW - Based on decisions rendered only in the court system (see Law Cases)
  • LEGISLATIVE LAW (see below) - Based on laws passed by elected representatives (see below)

Legislative Law -

1. PUBLIC LAWS are acts passed into law by Congress and should be a mirror version of the U.S. Code (only the numbers and letters should differ). For those interested in the history of a federal law (i.e., the name of the act or acts that became Public Law), that information is located in publications of the Public Law. Many laws are not available online.

  • Search: 'THOMAS' for current waste or other federal environmental legislation (under "search by word or phrase"). Call 'Congress Desk' for copies of acts (bills passed by Congress) before 1989, or otherwise unavailable: (202) 512-1808.
  • The Congressional Record: A record of all statements made on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

2. U.S. CODE (see below) are statutes (i.e., the codification of Public Laws) written by Congress and should be a mirror version of Public Laws (only the numbers and letters should differ). The online versions may not be up-to-date. Titles 1 through 26 (U.S. Code) of databases below are currently up-to-date through January 6, 1997. Titles 27 through 50 are currently up-to-date through January 16, 1996. The U.S. Code database constitutes the 1994 Edition of the U.S. Code, plus Supplement I and the contents of the most recent edition of the Law Revision Counsel's U.S. Code Classification Table. The U.S. Code Classification Table covers Public Laws 104-1 through 105-174 (enacted May 1, 1998). The text of recently adopted public laws is separately available through the University of California's GPO Gate. Or use "Update" option on Cornell's navigation bar. Order The U.S. CODE / Search The U.S. CODE through the U.S. Gov't Printing Office, or contact: http://www.westgroup.com.

3. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS-CFRs (see below) are regulations written by the Executive Branch to support specific statutes in the law. CRFs cannot conflict with those statutes or go beyond the purpose of the statutes. If they do conflict, then the U.S. Code prevails. Search: CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS-CFRs.


  • Always check that the laws and regulations you are reviewing are current. To order the print version of many of the documents listed below, contact: http://www.westgroup.com (all material updated annually) or Gov't Printing Office, (202)512-1800.
  • The U.S. Code (i.e. statutes), always supersedes CRFs: The Code of Federal Regulations (i.e., regulations) if there is a conflict between them. 
  • More regulations are listed under the Landfill, Incinerator, and other ZWA pages.


U.S. CODE- courtesy Cornell University (much easier to use than House of Representatives webpage - see U.S. Code

  • Title 42: Public Health and Welfare: (Includes most environmental statutes)
    • Chapter 82: Solid Waste Disposal The Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S. Code 6901-6992k) consists of Title II of Public Law 89-272 and the amendments made by subsequent enactments. This Act is popularly referred to as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, after the short title of the law that amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act in its entirely in 1976 (Public Law 94-580) 

      EPA webpage: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 42 U.S.C. s/s 6901 et seq. (1976)  RCRA (pronounced "rick-rah") gave EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from the "cradle-to-grave." This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA also set forth a framework for the management of non-hazardous wastes. 

      The 1986 amendments to RCRA enabled EPA to address environmental problems that could result from underground tanks storing petroleum and other hazardous substances. RCRA focuses only on active and future facilities and does not address abandoned or historical sites (see CERCLA).

      HSWA (pronounced "hiss-wa")—The Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments are the 1984 amendments to RCRA that required phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste. Some of the other mandates of this strict law include increased enforcement authority for EPA, more stringent hazardous waste management standards, and a comprehensive underground storage tank program.

    • Chapter 55: National Environmental Policy
    • Chapter 103: Superfund-CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability-CRCLA)
    • Chapter 133: Pollution Prevention Act

EPA's Laws and Regulations Webpage: More than a dozen major statutes or laws form the legal basis for the programs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). See list - http://www.epa.gov/epahome/laws.htm

Enviro Law websites:

General Information Sources:

Check Out - CONSUMER LAW PAGE: Articles, information, and referrals for individuals, injured workers, consumers and owners of small businesses who have suffered personal injuries, property damage or financial losses caused by negligent misconduct, toxic chemicals, defective products, or fraud.


  • Environmental Law, Volumes I & II Call the Government Printing Office at (202)512-1808 to order a 'Compilation' of environmental law. Volume II includes the Solid Waste Disposal Act, Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (Superfund/CERCLA), Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), and others.
  • Environmental Law and Policy: Nature, Law, and Society by Zygmunt J.B. Plater, Robert H. Abrams, and William Goldfarb.
  • Environment and the Law - A Dictionary (Contemporary Legal Issues) by Vicki R. Patton-Hulce. A comprehensive alphabetical reference (acid rain to wetland) that examines antipollution law, including statutes and court cases, legal terms and concepts, key regulatory figures and agencies, and environmental issues and organizations. Includes an introduction; tables of cases, statutes, and regulations; a bibliography; and an general subject index. For high school and college students. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.