has significant time, financial, and bureaucratic costs attached, which are a nontrivial barrier to reuse of industrial waste materials (Scrap Processing and Recycling, 1994).
A characteristic tale from industry is illustrative of the problems facing those firms that attempt to use materials more efficiently. The corrosion coating of auto bodies is accomplished by passing the cars through a zinc phosphate bath. After a period of use, the bottom of the bath contains a slurry rich in zinc. At one plant, this slurry was for many years removed periodically when the tanks were cleaned and then sent to a zinc smelter, which processed it and put the resulting zinc metal back into the industry supply stream. In the course of regulatory actions not aimed at this material, the slurry became classified as a hazardous waste. When the smelter became acquainted with the regulations that would now apply, it refused to accept the material any longer. At the time this anecdote was told, the slurry was being sent to a landfill.
Such problems are frequently solved by getting waivers or exceptions to cover the particular case, but the process is very cumbersome. The details of such problems may differ from state to state, and state regulations can be even more restrictive than federal regulations.
Waste is regulated separately from new materials. The system for control of virgin toxic materials is not nearly as cumbersome as that for waste materials. It is difficult, for example, to dispose of waste cyanide or send it for reuse, but it is easy to purchase new cyanide from a chemical manufacturer. Such regulations were intended to encourage environmentally cleaner technology by making disposal difficult and expensive. Although it makes good sense to control through reuse and recycling hazardous waste materials, in practice the system inadvertently encourages the use of new materials and the disposal of old materials.
A recent initiative by the EPA administrator seeks to change the regulatory system toward coordinated regulation of an industry rather than regulation determined simply by the material or medium in question. Such a system, it is hoped, would cope better with the realities of manufacturing and industrial life (Environmental Protection Agency, 1994).
Under current legal practice, liability considerations for a hazardous material often favor its disposal over its sale or transfer for reuse. Liability is often targeted at the original seller of any material used in a product implicated in a damage suit, even if the material has been reused and remanufactured by several parties en route to that ultimate product. The trail of potential liability can be so long and so unpredictable as to be thoroughly unpalatable. Furthermore, under the current practice of "joint and several" liability, damages in a lawsuit may be distributed according to the depths of the pockets of the various parties rather than their responsibility for the harm.