At long last – the Solvent Wipes Rule!

Nearly 10 years (!) after its initial proposal, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has (finally) finalized a rule to exclude certain solvent-contaminated wipes from regulation as hazardous wastes. Published in the July 31 Federal Register, the rule becomes effective on January 31, 2014. (Can we emphasize “finally!” one more time?)

The rule excludes from hazardous waste regulations both reusable (e.g., cloth) and disposable wipes, provided that they are properly cleaned or disposed, and that facilities manage the contaminated wipes in closed, labeled containers. Wipes cannot contain “free liquids” when sent for cleaning or disposal. Certain record-keeping requirements will apply, and the solvent-contaminated wipes cannot be accumulated on-site for longer than 180 days.

“Wipes” as defined in this rule-making include woven or non-woven shop towels, rags, pads, or swabs made of wood pulp, fabric, cotton, polyester blends, or other material. Wipes covered by this exclusion include those contaminated by the following F001 to F005 listed solvents, or the corresponding “U” or “P” listed solvents:

– Acetone
– Isobutyl alcohol
– Benzene
– Methanol
– n-Butanol
– Methyl ethyl ketone
– Chlorobenzene
– Methyl isobutyl ketone
– Creosols
– Methylene chloride
– Cyclohexanone
– Tetrachloroethylene
– 1,2-Dichlorobenzene
– Toluene
– Ethyl acetate
– 1,1,2-Trichloroethane
– Ethyl benzene
– Trichloroethylene (*For reusable wipes only)
– 2-Ethoxyethanol
– Xylenes

Wipes that exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic caused by one or more of the listed solvents also are covered, as are wipes that exhibit the characteristic of ignitability, only, due to the presence of any other solvent not on the list (e.g., mineral spirits or petroleum distillates).

Wipes subject to this exclusion must be accumulated in non-leaking, closed containers that can contain free liquids, if any may be present, and are labeled “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes.” Free liquids may be accumulated in the same container, but must be removed from it prior to shipment of the wipes in the container for cleaning or disposal. The free liquids removed from the container or from the wipes must then be managed as hazardous wastes, as applicable.

A reusable wipe can be sent for proper cleaning to an industrial laundry or dry cleaner, provided that the wastewater discharge from the receiving facility, if any, is regulated under the Clean Water Act. “Proper disposal” of wipes means delivery to a municipal solid waste landfill, solid waste incinerator or combustion facility, as well as to a facility permitted to manage hazardous wastes.

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