The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made it easier for facilities to manage spent wipes that are contaminated with certain solvents. As of January 31, 2014, these wipes may be exempted from either solid or hazardous waste regulations when they are properly managed.
Solvent-Contaminated Wipes, Defined
As part of the new regulation, EPA clarifies what types of products are “wipes” as well as the limitations of the exemption. The definition is fairly broad, and may surprise a few people. Wipes can be made of natural or synthetic materials, and are in the form of wipers, shop towels, rags, pads, or swabs.
Under this new definition, absorbent mat pads meet the definition of “pads.” So if they are saturated with any of the solvents listed in the exemption, they may be managed according to the provisions of the regulation.
Wipes need to meet the following criteria to qualify for the exemption. EPA offers the following definition:
“A solvent-contaminated wipe is a wipe (i.e.,a shop towel, rag, pad, or swab made of wood pulp, fabric, cotton, polyester blends, or other material) that after use or after cleaning up a spill, contains a solvent that would be considered hazardous waste either because it is listed in the hazardous waste regulations, or because it exhibits the characteristic of ignitability. Solvent-contaminated wipes do not include wipes contaminated with hazardous waste other than solvents, or that exhibit the characteristic of toxicity, corrosivity, or reactivity due to contaminants other than solvents” [40 CFR 260.10].
Specifically, the following wipes can be exempted from full regulation when managed under the new criteria:
- Wipes containing F001–F005-listed solvents [40 CFR 261.31] or corresponding P-or U-listed solvents [40 CFR 261.33] including:
- Ethyl acetate
- Ethyl benzene
- Isobutyl alcohol
- Methyl ethyl ketone
- Methyl isobutyl ketone
- Methylene chloride
- Trichloroethylene (reusable wipes only)
- Wipes that exhibit a hazardous characteristic resulting from a solvent listed in 40 CFR 261
- Wipes that exhibit only the hazardous characteristic of ignitability when containing one or more non-listed solvents
The EPA also provides definitions for reusable and disposable wipes. A reusable wipe is one that will be sent for cleaning and reuse, whereas a disposable wipe is one that will be sent for incineration or landfilling after its use.
To be eligible for exemption, both reusable and disposable wipes must be managed properly while they are onsite at facilities, during transportation, and when they are laundered, dry cleaned, incinerated or land disposed. The management practices outlined in the exemption are designed to minimize health and environmental impact.
Industry groups have been petitioning the EPA to exempt solvent-contaminated wipes since the 1980s. This rule reduces costs for thousands of businesses. It is anticipated that this exemption will save facilities more than $20 million annually.
You tell us: Does this help to better define what the EPA is talking about around solvent-contaminated wipes? Are you still confused about parts of the new rule? Let us know in the comments section below.