As of January 31, 2014 it happened! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) modified the hazardous waste management regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes from hazardous waste regulations provided that businesses clean or dispose of them properly. The rule is based on EPA’s final risk analysis that concluded wipes contaminated with certain hazardous solvents do not pose significant risk to human health and the environment when managed properly.
There is a bit of a twist on the Federal modification to RCRA since it is considered a “deregulatory action”; states with RCRA implementation authority (meaning the state implements and enforces its own hazardous waste program) do not have to adopt the rule changes.
What are “wipes”?
The EPA defines wipes as a woven or non-woven shop towel, rag, pad, or swab made of wood pulp, fabric, cotton, polyester blends or other material. Many facilities in a wide range of industries use these wipes for cleaning with solvents, spill cleanups, etc.
Which “wipes” are excluded from the hazardous waste regulations?
The final rule excludes wipes contaminated with solvents that would otherwise be listed as hazardous wastes under RCRA if they are cleaned or disposed of properly. This includes wipes that:
- Contain one or more of the F001 through F005 list solvents or the corresponding P- or U-listed solvents;
- Exhibit a hazardous characteristic when that characteristic results from a solvent listed in 40 CFR part 261; and/or
- Exhibit only the hazardous waste characteristic of ignitability due to the presence of one or more solvents that are not a listed waste.
To be excluded, solvent-contaminated wipes must be collected in non-leaking, sealed containers and labeled “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes”. The containers cannot contain free liquids when sent for cleaning or disposal.
Are there any accumulation limits for these used wipes?
Yes. Generators may accumulate their disposable and/or reusable wipes for up to 180 days prior to sending the wipes for disposal or cleaning. The 180-day clock begins the day the first solvent-contaminated wipe is placed in the container.
What recordkeeping is required by the exclusion?
- Handling Facility Information
- The name and address of the landfill or combustor that is receiving the disposable wipes; or
- The name and address of the laundry or dry cleaner that is receiving the reusable wipes
- Documentation that the 180-day accumulation time limit is being met; and
- A description of the process the generator is using to meet the ‘‘no free liquids’’ condition.
The news on savings and reduced effort is positive—the EPA estimates that the final rule will result in a net savings of $18 million per year in avoided regulatory costs and between $3.7 million and $9.9 million per year in other expected benefits, including pollution prevention, waste minimization and fire prevention benefits. The total estimated net savings is between $21.7 million and $27.8 million per year.
For more information on the final rule visit the USEPA Solvent-Contaminated Wipes Web Page