EPA Finalizes Rule Excluding from RCRA Solvent-Contaminated Industrial Wipes

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By Anthony Adragna  


The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule July 23 that excludes disposable solvent-contaminated industrial wipes from being regulated as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The rule also excludes certain reusable wipes from solid waste regulations.

Disposable wipes contaminated with trichloroethylene will not be eligible for the exclusion because EPA's risk analysis showed the compound could pose significant risks to human health and the environment when disposed of in a lined landfill.

To qualify for the exclusion, businesses will have to manage the wipes in closed, labeled containers, and the wipes cannot contain free liquids when sent for cleaning or disposal. Businesses cannot accumulate the wipes for more than 180 days and must comply with certain recordkeeping requirements.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the rule July 22 in one of her first acts as administrator. The final rule has been submitted to the Federal Register for publication.

Rule Reduces Costs for Businesses

The agency says the final rule will result in net savings of between $21.7 million and $27.8 million annually to businesses in numerous industrial sectors such as printing, automobile repairing, and automobile, electronic, furniture, and chemical manufacturing.

The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the rule June 24 after receiving the final rule for review in late April 2012, according to OMB's regulatory dashboard.

“Today's rule uses the latest science to provide a regulatory framework for managing solvent-contaminated wipes that is appropriate to the level of risk posed by these materials,” Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, said in a statement. “I've heard directly from stakeholders about the benefits of this rule and the need to finalize it. The rule reduces costs for thousands of businesses, many of which are small businesses, while maintaining protection of human health and the environment.”

EPA defines a solvent-contaminated industrial wipe as a shop towel, rag, pad, or swab made of wood pulp, fabric, cotton, polyester blends, or other material that becomes saturated with a solvent considered a hazardous waste after being used to clean up spills.

Industry Groups 'Ecstatic.'

Gary Jones, assistant vice president of environmental, health, and safety affairs at the Printing Industries of America, said he was “as ecstatic as you can get about a rule.”

“We're very pleased the rule finally got released,” Jones told BNA. “This gives us a lot more options and flexibilities, and it takes most wipes out of the hazardous waste arena and further even takes most reusable ones out of the waste definition.”

Marci Kinter, vice president of government affairs at Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, said the rule would reduce industry's regulatory burden.

“Release of this rule recognizes the Obama administration's commitment to review and reduce regulatory burden for industry,” Kinter told BNA. “We are grateful that one of Administrator McCarthy's first acts was to sign and release this final rule.”

Jones said he was told OMB had made a few “minor” changes to the rules, but was not told the details.

Caps Lengthy Rulemaking Process

The release of the final rule caps an extended rulemaking process. Industry groups first petitioned EPA for a hazardous waste exclusion for solvent-contaminated industrial wipes in the 1980s.

EPA first issued a proposed rule in 2003 to improve the clarity and consistency of the regulations for wipes and to reduce the cost of regulatory compliance while maintaining high levels of environmental protection.

The agency released a revised risk analysis in October 2009 after receiving public comments on its proposed rule. That analysis found eight of the 20 solvents studied could pose risks to human health if wipes were discarded in municipal solid waste landfills.

Industry groups met with OMB to urge it to finalize the rule in April (44 ER 1314, 5/3/13).


The final rule, scheduled for publication in the Federal Register, is available at http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/wasteid/solvents/wipes-final-rule.pdf.

A summary chart of the final rule is available at http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/wasteid/solvents/sumry_chrt_wipes_fnl_rul_070913.pdf.

Additional information about the final rule is available at http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/wasteid/solvents/wipes.htm.