The EPA’s new wiper rule can provide significant annual savings and simplify wiper disposal for your facility.
As of January 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has excluded solvent-contaminated spill response and wiping products like mats, socks, pads and wipes from a number of hazardous waste regulations. This means you won’t need to handle, process or dispose of solvent-contaminated wipes as regulated hazardous waste.
Exclusions from Original Regs
Disposable wipers and absorbents and reusable laundered wipes are excluded as long as they meet the criteria listed in the regulation:
“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]
A Good Change
EPA testing shows that wipes, absorbent mats and spill response products contaminated with common industrial solvents pose no significant risks to human health or the environment because they amount to only a small fraction of the total volume of solvent waste. So now you can dispose of them in municipal landfills as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Disposing of hazardous waste is expensive, heavily regulated and time consuming. In fact, EPA estimates annual savings from this rule change of $30,400 if your facility is a large quantity generator (LQG) and $4,200 if you’re a small quantity generator (SQG).Here are four ways the rule change can benefit your facility:
- It’s easier to manage your disposable wipe waste stream because you don’t have to deal with the obligations and restrictions of hazardous waste procedures.
- You don’t need to use a laundry service to handle solvent-contaminated wipes because you can now use disposables and manage them yourself at a lower cost.
- You can stop sending solvent-contaminated wipes to a designated hazardous landfill and use lower-cost municipal solid waste landfills.
- You may be able to improve your status as a waste generator depending on how many solvent-contaminated wipes you generate.
Improving your status means reduced reporting across your operation as well as helping you meet the general RCRA requirement to reduce hazardous wastes. If you are ISO 14001 certified this may also have a positive effect on your ISO plans, audits and reviews.
Other Points to Know
The EPA’s new wiper rule became final in 2013, but when the Waste Minimization Forum surveyed nearly 500 top plants in the US, they found that very few were aware of the rule change and what it could mean to their facility. Part of the problem lies in the complexity of environmental regulations. Since the EPA’s rule is at the federal level, individual states are not required to adopt it, so you may not hear about it from your state or local officials.
To find out if your state has adopted the new rule check the EPA’s state–level adoption status map.
Wipes Eligible for Exclusion