Enacted in 1976, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (1992, 42 USC §§6901-6991i) regulates the transportation, handling, storage, and disposal of solid and hazardous waste. The RCRA was amended in 1984 by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments. Originally conceived as a law to control the disposal of solid waste and encourage recycling, the RCRA's emphasis is the regulation of hazardous waste.

The central mechanism in the RCRA is the manifest system which creates documentation on hazardous waste and monitors the movement of hazardous waste. The RCRA also establishes standards for treatment, storage and disposal facilities, and state hazardous waste programs.

The general objective of the RCRA (§1003[a], 42 USC §6902[a]) is "to promote the protection of health and the environment and [the conservation of] valuable material and energy resources. ..." This objective should be achieved through the development of solid waste management plans and hazardous waste management practices. The RCRA also sets forth a national waste management policy: "wherever feasible, the generation of hazardous waste is to be reduced or eliminated as expe-ditiously as possible. Waste that is nevertheless generated should be treated, stored, or disposed of so as to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment" (RCRA §1001[b], 42 USC §6902[b]).

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