Collection: Development of Waste – Development as Waste


Shifting Definitions of Hazardous Wastes



This paper addresses the emergence of concern with hazardous wastes and the legal liabilities attached to them long before the first federal legislation in the U.S. explicitly using the term; a simultaneous search for marketable by-products during the first three quarters of the twentieth century as a means to decrease the volume of wastes while also diminishing the perceived threat; and the eventual adoption of a legal tactic that asserted absence of liability before formal federal definitions of hazardous wastes. Based on a review of industry and waste management literature, it exposes deliberate efforts on the part of major industry trade organizations to dampen public calls for litigation by making the case that wastes were manageable, recoverable, and non-threatening. These steps sought to offset potential disruptions to their operations by imposing additional costs on waste treatment. When federal legislation became a reality in the 1970s, defenders of industrial practices that created hundreds of hazardous waste sites made the arguments that hazardous properties of wastes were unknown at the time of their disposal. The litigation that swirled around the federal laws proved disruptive and reflect a issue delayed not eliminated.


hazardous wastelegal liabilityUSA
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 3 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 5
  • DOI: 10.5334/wwwj.36
  • Submitted on 10 Jun 2019
  • Accepted on 18 Jul 2020
  • Published on 21 Aug 2020
  • Peer Reviewed