Waste and the Circular Economy


Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP counsels clients in matters involving solid and hazardous waste facilities, transportation, storage and disposal, reuse, recycling and reclamation within federal, state and international legal frameworks—including on “circular economy” concepts, trends and questions associated with product design sustainability and strategic thinking. For example, our team advises on the practical implications and opportunities associated with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) in the context of corporate product stewardship objectives.

Our experience includes navigating waste-focused legal frameworks (e.g., the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the European Union (EU) Waste Framework Directive) and corresponding subnational programs (e.g., the California Department of Toxic Substances Control programs, state extended producer responsibility laws). Our clients rely on our counsel regarding export and cross-border waste shipment requirements, including obligations associated with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Control System, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention), and the Harmonized OECD-Basel Protocol Guidelines, as well as environmental provisions in multi-party and bilateral trade agreements. We also have experience directing consultants on waste characterization and other technical matters that are highly relevant to the applicable rules and control procedures.

Below are select illustrations of our experience on waste-related matters:

  • Defend multiple clients in response to the US Department of Justice, US Environmental Protection Agency, state agency investigations, and administrative and civil enforcement actions associated with alleged noncompliance with RCRA and analogous state laws.
  • Represented a global manufacturing client relating to its transition to a circular economy model for its operations to meet corporate sustainability goals and emerging regulatory obligations. The scope of work included advising on waste reduction and end-of-life solutions, including emerging issues associated with the implementation of the European Green Deal, e.g., the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.
  • Defend industrial sector clients in the context of third-party citizen suits alleging 1) noncompliance with regulations implemented under RCRA, including imminent and substantial endangerment suits and 2) violations of the Clean Water Act resulting from waste management and disposal practices.
  • Counsel a global automotive manufacturer regarding vehicle components, assembly and distribution, including domestic and cross-border supply chain and waste management issues. Representative issues evaluated include appropriate management of new, used, damaged and recalled components (e.g., lithium-ion batteries, airbags and tailpipe emission control devices)—including distribution, storage, transportation, recycling and disposal of those components. The scope of work for this client includes advising on management of vehicle components and wastes domestically across all 50 states and cross-border shipment of such materials for re-use, reclamation and disposal in foreign jurisdictions including Canada, the EU, Latin America and South Korea, under regulatory requirements of RCRA, the Basel Convention and OECD Council Acts cross-border waste shipment standards.
  • Conducted comprehensive audit of a global manufacturer’s reverse supply chain logistics practices for non-compliance vulnerabilities for products flowing in reverse supply through a complex, international supply chain and presented recommendations for multiple business units to implement improved compliance controls.
  • Evaluate disposal and reclamation options in the US, Japan and South Korea respecting end-of-life energy storage system battery packs for an electric utility client as part of its energy transition plan. The work entails analysis of waste characterization, transportation, disposal and recycling regulatory standards under RCRA and Japan and South Korea law, and relevant international frameworks including OECD and Basel Convention protocols, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the UN Hague-Visby Rules and Hamburg Rules (e., Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea or COGSA).



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