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EPA Issues Final Rule to Provide Conditional Exclusions under RCRA for Solvent-Contaminated Wipes

09.25.2013

By Kate E. Beatty, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP

On July 31, 2013, EPA published a final rule providing conditional exclusions for certain solvent-contaminated wipes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  78 Fed. Reg. 46448.  A solvent-contaminated wipe is a wipe (e.g., paper towel, cloth rag, shop towel, gloves, cotton swabs) that after it is used to clean up a spill or used for cleaning machinery, equipment, or parts contains a solvent that is considered to be a hazardous waste under RCRA.  This final rule conditionally excludes from the definition of solid waste solvent-contaminated wipes that are cleaned and reused (“reusable wipes”) and excludes from the definition of hazardous waste solvent-contaminated wipes that are disposed (“disposable wipes”).  EPA estimates that this final rule could affect over 90,000 facilities that generate and handle approximately 2 billion solvent-contaminating wipes, including, but not limited to, printing, publishing, business services, chemical and allied product manufacturing, plastics and rubber, fabricated metal products, industrial machinery and equipment, and furniture and fixtures.

In order to qualify for the reusable or disposable wipe exclusion, the facility must manage the solvent-contaminated wipes in accordance with certain conditions.  These conditions include: (i) container standards and labeling requirements; (ii) accumulation time limits; (iii) a “No Free Liquids” requirement; (iv) recordkeeping requirements; and (v) handling facility requirements.

Three main differences separate the specific conditions applied to reusable and disposable wipes.  The first important difference between the two wipes is that reusable wipes are not solid wastes and, thus, not hazardous wastes; however, disposable wipes are solid wastes, but not hazardous waste.  Additionally, disposable wipes that are considered hazardous waste due to the presence of trichloroethylene (TCE) are not eligible for this exclusion.  Lastly, the handling facility requirements for reusable or disposable wipes differ based on the type of facility receiving the used wipes (e.g., drycleaner, combustor, or landfill).

This rule will become effective January 1, 2014; however, it will not become effective in states that have final authorization of the RCRA program unless the state adopts the equivalent to the federal requirements.  Nevertheless, if a state program has less stringent guidelines or if it has only clarified the program for reusable wipes in guidance documents or interpretive letters, it must promulgate enforceable regulations at least as stringent as the federal rules.  Currently, IDEM has not issued any notice in the Indiana Register regarding proposed rule revisions to address this final rule.  Kentucky’s regulations may not be more stringent than the federal rules; therefore, Kentucky’s regulatory authority will ultimately adopt these conditional exclusions.


To view a complete PDF of the July/August 2013 issue of the Environmental Letter, click HERE.

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