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July 25, 2013
28 years after petition, wipes exclusion arrives

An effort that began in 1985 with a petition to simplify the handling of industrial wipes under RCRA has finally produced a positive response from the EPA.  In a final rule, the Agency is excluding both disposal and reusable industrial wipes from the federal definition of hazardous waste.  The exclusion is conditional on certain abbreviated management requirements being met.

Also, the action is deregulatory, which means that states with RCRA implementation authority are not compelled to adopt it.  Entities that can benefit from the EPA action must check with their state solid waste agencies to find out if the state has adopted the industrial wipes exclusion. 

Revised risk analysis

In 2003, the EPA issued a proposal to exclude industrial wipes from the definition of hazardous wastes.  But the risk analysis the Agency conducted to back up the proposal was heavily criticized, and the rulemaking was placed on hold.  In 2009, the EPA issued a revised risk analysis, which it followed in 2012 with “final” risk analysis that forms the basis for the current action. 

20 solvents

The final rule applies to wipes:

  1. Containing one or more of the 20 F001 through F005 solvents listed at 40 CFR 261.31 or the corresponding P- or U-listed solvents at 40 CFR 261.33;
  2. Exhibiting a hazardous waste characteristic resulting from the solvent; and/or (3) exhibiting only the hazardous waste characteristic of ignitability because of the presence of one or more solvents not listed in 40 CFR Part 261. 

Solvent-contaminated wipes that contain listed hazardous waste other than solvents or that exhibit the characteristic of toxicity, corrosivity, or reactivity due to contaminants other than listed solvents are not eligible for the exclusion. 

Free liquids, containers, labels

Also under the final rule:

  • Solvent-containing wipes transported for either cleaning or disposal must be placed in “nonleaking, closed containers.”
  • The containers must be labeled “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes.”
  • At the point of being transported for disposal, the solvent-contaminated wipes must contain no free liquids.
  • Free liquids removed from the solvent-contaminated wipes or from the container holding the wipes are subject to standard RCRA provisions for hazardous waste.
  • The solvent-contaminated wipes may be accumulated by the generator for up to 180 days from the start date of accumulation for each container before being sent for disposal.
  • Solvent-contaminated wipes intended for disposal must be sent to a municipal solid waste landfill that meets the design requirements of 40 CFR 258.40 (which includes provisions for composite lining), to a hazardous waste landfill, or to a municipal waste combustor or hazardous waste combustor, boiler, or industrial furnace.
  • Solvent-contaminated wipes intended for cleaning must be sent to a laundry or dry cleaner whose discharge, if any, is regulated under Sections 301 and 402 or Section 307 of the Clean Water Act.
  • Disposable wipes that are hazardous waste because of the presence of trichloroethylene are not entitled to the exclusion.  Reusable wipes contaminated with trichloroethylene are eligible for the exclusion.
  • Hazardous waste manifesting is not required for shipments of the conditionally excluded wipes.  However, generators must maintain information on-site, including name and address of the laundry or dry cleaner receiving the solvent-contaminated wipes; documentation that that 180-day accumulation time limit is being met; and a description of the process used to ensure that the wipes contain no free liquids.

2.2 billion wipes

The reach of this final rule is extensive.  The EPA estimates affected generators at 90,549 in 13 economic subsectors, including printing, publishing, business services, chemical and allied product manufacturing, plastics and rubber, fabricated metal products, industrial machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, auto dealers, military bases, electronics and computer manufacturing, transportation equipment, and auto repair and maintenance.  Also affected are an estimated 3,730 solid waste management facilities and 359 industrial laundries and dry cleaners.  The number of affected solvent-contaminated wipes is estimated by the Agency at 2.2 billion.  The monetary savings to industry as a result of the rule is estimated at $18 million annually, says the Agency. 

Click here for the final rule and additional information.

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