Are You Using this $25 Million RCRA Exclusion?
After years of development, in 2013 the EPA modified its hazardous waste regulations pertaining to the management of solvent-contaminated wipes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This post focuses on two specific exclusions for managing solvent-contaminated wipes under the solid waste and hazardous waste regulations that EPA estimates will save hazardous waste facilities $20 to $30 million per year.
Let’s start with the first of two ways that solvent-contaminated wipes can be excluded from the EPA’s recently updated Definition of Solid Waste (DSW). Wipes that are sent for cleaning (either on site or off site) and reuse are not considered solid wastes from the point of generation, provided the following conditions are met:
Solvent-contaminated Wipes Being Laundered or Reused
- Wipes are accumulated, stored, and transported in non-leaking, closed containers;
- Containers are labeled with the words “Excluded Solvent-contaminated Wipes”;
- Generators accumulate wipes for up to 180 days;
- Wipes do not contain any free liquids when they are sent for cleaning; and
- Documentation is maintained on site. [40 CFR 261.4(a)(26)]
Now for the “part two” of the new RCRA contaminated wipes exclusion: If a facility chooses to dispose of their solvent-contaminated wipes, as opposed to cleaning and reusing them, the wipes will be considered solid waste under RCRA.
Solvent Wipes Being Discarded
That said, these solvent-contaminated wipes may still qualify for exclusion under the hazardous waste regulations. In most cases, solvent-contaminated wipes that are sent for disposal are not considered hazardous wastes, provided certain conditions are met—the same conditions listed above, with one extra requirement. In addition to the five conditions listed above, EPA also requires the wipes to be sent for disposal to certain types of regulated landfills or combustion facilities only (see 40 CFR 261.4(b)(18).
Now that we’ve outlined the terms of the new RCRA exclusions for solvent-contaminated wipes, let’s make sure we know exactly what the phrase “solvent-contaminated wipe” means under RCRA.
What Is a “Wipe” Under RCRA?
According to the RCRA regulations, a wipe is a woven or non-woven shop towel, rag, pad, or swab made of wood pulp, fabric, cotton, polyester blends, or other material. [40 CFR 260.10] This definition even includes common everyday items like paper towels.
The term wipe does not include mops, floor mats, or any form of personal protective equipment. In addition, the new exclusions for solvent-contaminated wipes do not cover unused consumer products like alcohol swabs or nail-polish remover pads.
As you might expect, EPA imposes some other restrictions on the use of the “contaminated wipe” exclusions. When discussing “solvent contaminated wipe,” US EPA refers to two distinct scenarios:
1. Wipes that have been used as part of “normal course” and, as a result of such use, have contacted solvent. They key here is management of the wipes “after use.”
2. Wipes that have come in contact with solvents as a result of being used for spill clean-up. Again, the fact that they have been “used” is important.
The exclusion in 40 CFR 261.4 for solvent-contaminated wipes applies to the wipes used in both of the above scenarios.
Wipes that meet the criteria above that are contaminated with (or exhibit) the following solvents may be excluded from the definition of solid or hazardous waste under the new exclusion: One or more F001 through F005 solvents listed in 40 CFR 261.31 or the corresponding P- or U-listed solvents found in 40 CFR 261.33, including:
Which Solvents Qualify for the New RCRA Exclusion?
- Ethyl acetate
- Ethyl benzene
- Isobutyl alcohol
- Methyl ethyl ketone
- Methyl isobutyl ketone
- Methylene chloride
- Trichloroethylene (reusable wipes only)
- Xylenes; or
- A hazardous characteristic found in 40 CFR 261, Subpart C when that characteristic results from a solvent listed in 40 CFR 261; or
- Only the hazardous waste characteristic of ignitability found in 40 CFR 261.21 due to the presence of one or more solvents that are not listed in 40 CFR 261
Solvent-contaminated wipes that contain listed hazardous waste other than solvents, or exhibit the characteristic of toxicity, corrosivity, or reactivity due to contaminants other than solvents, are NOT eligible for the wipe rule exclusions at 40 CFR 261.4(a)(26) and 261.4(b)(18).
Solvent-contaminated Wipes That Are NOT Excluded
For more information on what does or does not qualify for the new RCRA exclusion, check out EPA’s Frequently Asked Questions page here.
Start Saving Now! Live Training on July 20
Start using this new RCRA exclusion now to save your site money on disposal fees and compliance costs. Find out how to identify the wipes at your facility that qualify for exclusion and how to capitalize on the new exclusion.On July 20, join us for a live, expert-led training that covers the ins and outs of the new exclusion, including specific management standards that must be met to stay in compliance, marking and labeling your wipes containers, preparing off-site shipments, and how to find a facility that can accept your wipes for laundering or disposal. Sign up and start saving money now.
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