If you are having issues with finding a reusable wipe that fits your needs or are sending wipes off as hazardous waste, we suggest looking at the exclusion found in 40 CFR 261.4(b)(18).

On January 31, 2014 the US EPA’s new Solvent Contaminated Wipes Rules came into effect codified as 40 CFR 261.4(a)(26) and 40 CFR 261.4(b)(18), which are exclusions for laundering and for managing wipes for disposal as general refuse, respectively. This article focuses on 40 CFR 261.4(b)(18) – wipes for disposal.

A generator’s decision to use a certain type of wipe depends on its processes. For example, the amount of lint a wipe generates can play a significant role when deciding whether to use disposable or reusable wipes. Industries that may not be able to tolerate lint from a quality perspective include electronics, printing, and wood coating. Other factors include absorbent capacity and durability in both retaining structural integrity and its ability to withstand strong solvents. Reusable wipes may produce too much lint or may not be durable during the process.

To take advantage of 40 CFR 261.4(b)(18) you must first determine if your solvent-contaminated wipes qualify under the definition of “solvent-contaminated wipes.” According to the Final Rule Solvent-Contaminated Wipes include wipes that, after use or after cleaning up a spill, either (1) contain one or more of the F001 through F005 solvents listed in 40 CFR 261.31 or the corresponding P-or U-listed solvents found in 40 CFR 261.33; (2) exhibit a hazardous characteristic found in 40 CFR part 261 subpart C when the characteristic results form a solvent listed in 40 CFR part 261; and/or (3) exhibit only the hazardous waste characteristic of ignitability found in 40 CFR 261.21 due to the presence of on or more solvents that are not listed in 40 CFR part 261.

The exclusions apply to the solvent-contaminated wipes themselves. Free liquid spent solvent shall be treated as hazardous waste. You may collect the free liquid from the contaminated wipes and dispose of the free liquid in a satellite accumulation area if you have one. The exclusions are not applicable to wipes that exhibit the characteristic of toxicity, corrosivity, or reactivity due to contaminants other than solvents (such as metals). Furthermore, solvent-contaminated wipes that are hazardous due to the presence of trichloroethylene are not eligible for the exclusion.

If your wipes are eligible, then those solvent-contaminated wipes sent for disposal would still be considered solid waste but would not be regulated as hazardous waste, provided these conditions are met:

  • Wipes must be accumulated, stored, and transported in non-leaking, closed containers that can contain no free liquids.
  • Containers must be labeled with the words “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes” or with other words indicating the contents of the container.
  • Generators may accumulate wipes on site for up to 180 days.
  • Wipes must contain no free liquids prior to being sent for cleaning or disposal, and there may not be free liquid in the container holding the wipes.
  • Generators must maintain the following documentation:
    • Name and address of the laundry, drycleaner, landfill or combustor;
    • Records showing the 180-day accumulation limit is being met; and
    • Description of the process used to meet the “no free liquid” condition.

The “no free liquid” is an important condition, in that solvent-contaminated wipes and their container must contain no free liquids as determined by the Paint Filter Liquids Test (EPA Methods Test 9095B). The Paint Filter Liquids Test (SW-846, Method 9095B) was specifically chosen because it is currently being used by the majority of states to determine whether solvent-contaminated wipes contain free liquids and is also the test used to implement the restrictions on disposal of free liquids in the MSWLF regulations (40 CFR 258.28). The test is also simple and inexpensive to perform and typically produces clear results. It includes placing a predetermined amount of material in a paint filter and if any portion of the material passes through and drops from the filter within five minutes, the material is deemed to contain free liquids.

Centrifuging, mechanical wringing, screen-bottom drums, microwave technology and vacuum extractors may be used to remove free liquids from wipes.

Every site is unique, many factors or situations concerning management of contaminated wipes may not be covered in this article. Hazardous waste generators or other interested parties are invited to call us at 574-522-1019 and we will help you navigate through the exclusion to see if it works for you and your organization.

PUBLICATION DATE: March 29, 2017
AUTHOR: Tony DeMarco, Vice President of Consulting Services