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Industrial Cleaning Proposal to Protect Public Health by Increasing Solvent Recycling

Release Date: 12/11/2003
Contact Information:

Dave Ryan 202-564-7827 /

(12/11/03) On Nov. 20, EPA proposed in the Federal Register for public comment a rule for cloth and paper industrial wipes that is designed to ensure protection of human health and the environment by maintaining appropriate standards and by increasing solvent recovery and recycling. These wipes are used for cleaning equipment and can become contaminated by hazardous solvents. After several years of debate, discussion, stakeholder involvement and extensive risk analysis and assessment, EPA decided to pursue a federal rulemaking to provide regulatory certainty and, in the case of certain disposable industrial wipes, regulatory relief. The proposed rule covers two different categories: 1) wipes that are used and then recycled by being laundered or dry cleaned and 2) wipes that are used and discarded. The proposed rule sets conditions for disposable wipes that vary depending on whether the wipes are to be disposed of in a landfill or an incinerator. The conditions include limits on the amount of solvent remaining in the wipes, and conditions for management during storage and transportation (e.g., a requirement that wipes must be stored in non-leaking, covered containers). Based on the risk assessments, there is a prohibition on the disposal in municipal landfills of industrial wipes that contain certain hazardous solvents: 2-Nitropropane; Methyl Ethyl Ketone; Pyridine; Cresols (o, m, p); Chlorobenzene; Trichloroethylene; Nitrobenzene; Methylene Chloride; Benzene; Carbon Tetrachloride; and Tetrachloroethylene. EPA risk data indicates that wipes containing these solvents would pose an unacceptable risk when placed in municipal landfills. The proposed rule also sets conditions for the management of solvent-contaminated reusable industrial wipes that are to be sent to laundries or industrial dry cleaners for cleaning and then reuse. The conditions are similar to those for disposable wipes and include a prohibition on free liquid solvents in shipping containers, and management of wipes in non-leaking, covered containers during storage. If free liquids are found in shipments, the laundry must either remove the free liquids and manage them as a hazardous waste or ship the containers back to the generator so that the free liquids can be removed. In all instances, spills or leaks of solvent during storage or shipment must be cleaned up immediately or be considered illegally disposed hazardous waste. EPA has thus developed a regulatory approach for industrial wipes that provides the necessary conditions to guard against risks posed by management of industrial wipes, and that is less costly than the current hazardous waste regulatory approach. In essence, EPA is proposing regulations that are specifically tailored to the risks posed byindustrial wipes that contain hazardous solvents. This new approach will provide incentives to recycle rather than dispose of solvents. Without this rule, we estimate that 3.4 million gallons of solvent would volatilize into the air that could otherwise be captured and recycled as a result of the conditions imposed in this rule. EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal until Feb. 18, 2004. More information is available from the RCRA Call Center at 1-800-424-9346 or TDD 1-800-553-7672. The RCRA Call Center operates weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Address written requests to: or RCRA Information Center (5305T), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20460-0001. For more information, go to: .