EPA Final Rule on RCRA Exclusions from Solid Waste & Hazardous Waste for Solvent Contaminated Wipes

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Conditional Exclusions from Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste for Solvent Contaminated Wipes 
40 CFR Parts 260 and 261  [EPA-HQ-RCRA-2003-0004; FRL-9838-2]  RIN 2050-AE51 
ACTION: Final rule. 
SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) is publishing  a final rule that modifies its hazardous waste management regulations for solvent contaminated wipes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Specifically, this rule revises the definition of solid waste to conditionally exclude solvent contaminated wipes that are cleaned and reused and revises the definition of hazardous waste to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes that are disposed. The purpose of this final rule is to provide a consistent regulatory framework that is appropriate to the level of risk posed by solvent-contaminated wipes in a way that maintains protection of human health and the environment, while reducing overall compliance costs for industry, many of which are small businesses. 

After more than 10 years of negotiations with U.S. EPA, industry can claim a victory in exempting from full RCRA regulation, solvent-contaminated industrial wipes used to clean equipment or spills.

The victory comes in the form of a Final Rule issued by USEPA on July 22, 2013 which provides an exclusion from RCRA for solvent-contaminated industrial wipes that are managed in certain ways. The new rule affects  wipes destined for offsite disposal  or burning (“disposal wipes”),  as well as wipes sent for cleaning or drycleaning prior to reuse (“reusable wipes”).  Disposal wipes and reusable wipes, however, are treated somewhat differently under the new rule.  It is important to note that the exemption  does not  apply to disposal wipes contaminated with trichloroethyene,  which continue to be RCRA- regulated hazardous wastes.  

The new exclusion takes two forms.  Solvent-contaminated reusable wipes will be exempted under the solid waste exclusion of 40 C.F.R. 261.4(a)(26), while solvent contaminated disposal wipes will be excluded under the hazardous waste exclusion of 40 C.F.R. 261.4(b)(18).  In effect this means that the reusable wipes never enter the RCRA program, where disposal wipes remain subject to rules governing solid, though not hazardous wastes.  The Rule applies to reusable and disposal wipes contaminated with the following solvents:








Ethyl acetate

Ethyl benzene

2 Ethoxyethanol

Isobutyl alcohol


Methyl ethyl ketone

Methyl isobutyl ketone

Methylene chloride




Trichloroethylene (with respect to reusable wipes only); and


For wipes to be excluded under the solid waste or hazardous waste definitions they must meet container storage, labeling, accumulation, and recordkeeping and reporting standards. With respect to container storage, wipes must be handled in non-leaking closed containers that can  contain any free liquids which might be generated while the wipes are stored or transported for cleaning .  (Notwithstanding  these containers must be capable of containing free liquids,  containers for wipes sent for cleaning or disposal may not actually have any free liquid during storage or transport;  and the wipes must meet the paint filter test See 40 CFR 260.10).  Containers must be labeled “Excluded Solvent Contaminated Wipes, and the  accumulation standards provide that wipes must be sent offsite for cleaning or disposal within 180 days of the start of accumulation.

Not surprisingly, recordkeeping requirements must be met, such as documentation of the name and address of the laundry, drycleaner, landfill or combustor to which the wipes are sent, proof that the generator is meeting the 180-day limit for storage prior to disposal or cleaning,  and the generator must describe how it is going to meet the condition that there be no free liquids in the container. Finally, to the extent free liquids are removed from wipes prior to containerization,  or from the wipes container itself prior to transport, such free liquids must be managed as hazardous waste.

Only certain facilities are eligible to handle exempt contaminated wipes, and a generator is not entitled to either the solid or hazardous Waste exclusion unless the generator sends its wipes to an acceptable facility.  Reusable wipes must go only to a laundry or drycleaner whose wastewater discharge is regulated under the Clean Water Act Sections 301 and 402  (i.e. is subject to effluent limitations and NPDES provisions)  or Section 307 ( is subject to pretreatment standards).  Disposal wipes must go to: (1) a combustor regulated under Clean Air Act § 129 (the NSPS for solid waste combustion) (2) a hazardous waste combustor, boiler, or industrial furnace regulated under RCRA; or (3) a municipal solid waste landfill (“MSWL”) regulated under  40 CFR.  Part 258 (MSWL Standards)   or hazardous wste landfill regulated under  40 C.F.R. Parts 264 and 265 (Interim status and Part B -permitted facility standards).

DATES: This final rule is effective on January 31, 2014.

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