EPA Reduces the Regulatory Burden on Businesses Using Solvent Wipes

Environmental Law  

July 2013

Environmental Law Update

On July 23, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency modified the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) hazardous waste management regulations to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes from those regulations provided the generator of the wipes cleans or disposes of them properly.  Wipes are used with solvents for cleaning and other purposes by tens of thousands of facilities in numerous industrial sectors, including printers, automobile repair shops, and manufacturers of automobiles, electronics, furniture and chemicals.  EPA believes that this new rule will result in significant savings for the businesses that use solvent wipes.

The new solvent-contaminated wipe rule applies to two types of wipes:  solvent-contaminated reusable and disposable wipes.  Previously, wipes contaminated with a P- or U-listed solvent, or that exhibited a hazardous characteristic resulting from the solvent contamination were hazardous waste under RCRA regulations when sent for cleaning or disposal.  Under the new rule:

  • When sent for cleaning and reuse at a laundry or dry cleaner whose discharge is regulated under the Clean Water Act, solvent-contaminated reusable wipes are not solid waste.
  • When sent for disposal at a combustor regulated under the Clean Air Act or a municipal solid waste landfill, solvent-contaminated disposable wipes are not solid waste.

As a result, neither the reusable or disposable wipes are hazardous waste under this new rule.  Both types of wipes must be accumulated, stored and transported in non-leaking, closed containers.  The containers must not contain any free liquids when they are sent offsite for cleaning or disposal.  In addition, facilities that generate solvent-contaminated wipes must comply with certain recordkeeping requirements and may not accumulate the wipes for longer than 180 days.

Leila Bruderer is an Associate in the firm's Environmental Law Practice. Leila's practice focuses in the areas of environmental compliance and litigation. © 2013 Downey Brand, LLP.

The information in this newsletter is not intended to provide specific legal advice. You should consult with an attorney and not rely on any information contained herein regarding your specific situation.