On July 23, 2013, U.S. EPA issued a final rule modifying regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA") concerning the management of solvent-contaminated wipes.  The final rule conditionally excludes solvent-contaminated wipes that are cleaned and reused ("reusable wipes") from the definition of solid waste, and excludes solvent-contaminated wipes that are disposed ("disposable wipes") from the definition of hazardous waste.  Industrial wipes are commonly used in conjunction with solvents to clean equipment or spills.  Solvent-contaminated wipes were previously subject to varying regulations based on determinations or interpretations made by RCRA-authorized states or EPA regions.  The final rule creates national consistency and reduces the regulatory burden on industry by not requiring full hazardous waste regulation for solvent-contaminated wipes.

In general, solvent-contaminated wipes-both reusable and disposable-must meet the following conditions to be excluded from hazardous waste regulation under RCRA:

  • Wipes must be contained in non-leaking, closed containers when accumulated, stored, and transported.
  • Containers must be able to contain free liquids, should free liquids occur.  Containers must be labeled "Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes."
  • Solvent-contaminated wipes may not be accumulated for longer than 180 days before being sent for cleaning or disposal.
  • At the point of transport for cleaning or disposal, the solvent-contaminated wipes and their containers must contain no free liquids.
  • Generators must maintain the following documentation:
    • Name and address of laundry or dry cleaner that is receiving the reusable wipes;
    • Documentation that the 180-day accumulation time limit is being met; and
    • A description of the process used to meet the "no free liquids" condition.
  • Solvent-contaminated wipes must be managed by:
    • An industrial laundry or a dry cleaner that discharges under the Clean Water Act; 
    • A licensed municipal solid waste landfill or hazardous waste landfill; or
    • A licensed municipal waste combustor or other combustion facility, hazardous waste combustor, or hazardous waste boiler or industrial furnace. 

The conditional exclusion applies only to the solvent-contaminated wipes and does not apply to any free liquid spent solvent that may come from percolation or compression of the wipes in the containers.  The free liquid remains subject to applicable hazardous waste regulations upon removal from the solvent-contaminated wipe and/or from the container holding the wipes.  The final rule is effective on January 31, 2014 and can be found at 78 Fed. Reg. 46448 (July 31, 2013).