For many years, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have wrestled with the practical question of how solvent-contaminated wipes should be managed under hazardous waste regulations. In 2013, the EPA finally concluded its rulemaking, adopting conditional exclusions from hazardous waste rules for most solvent-contaminated wipes. The EPA regulation is effective on January 31, 2014.

The EPA and Maine DEP solvent listings and the “mixture rule” capture many solvent wipers as hazardous waste, but because of the relatively low hazard they pose, EPA and Maine have by policy allowed alternatives to traditional hazardous waste management and disposal. The final EPA rule excuses generators and handlers from the usual hazardous waste requirements as long as certain conditions are met.

DEP managers plan a rulemaking to adopt the EPA regulation, but that effort is not yet a high priority. In the interim, DEP recommends following the EPA regulation, and we believe that is more appropriate than following the now-outdated Maine solvent wipes policy.

Under the EPA rule, solvent-contaminated wipes must be managed in accord with specified minimum requirements, including avoiding free liquids at the time of shipment, a 180-day limit on storage, labeling “excluded solvent-contaminated wipes” and disposal or incineration only using certain incinerators/combustors, landfills, or laundering. In addition, there are several recordkeeping requirements, including documentation that the 180-day limit is met. Notably, trichloroethylene disposable wipes must be managed as a hazardous waste, and are not subject to the conditional exemption.

The EPA rule is available at the following link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-07-31/pdf/2013-18285.pdf.