Disposable wipers provide many benefits and address an array of pain points related to health, safety, cost and efficiency—but it’s essential to dispose of them correctly, particularly when using hazardous solvents. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated their wiper disposal guidelines, leveling the regulatory playing field between non-laundered wipes and laundered shop towels.
Under past guidelines, if a single drop of hazardous waste was mixed with non-hazardous waste, all of the material was considered harmful. This meant that facilities using disposable wipes were subject to costly hazardous waste management procedures. However, the EPA’s Solvent-Contaminated Wipe rule, which went into effect January 31, 2014, excludes solvent-contaminated wipes from the definition of regulated hazardous waste—provided that businesses dispose of them properly. This resulted in reduced compliance costs for facilities that use disposable wiper products.
But what are the best practices for businesses to comply under the new EPA guidelines? Below are a few things to know to help ensure you’re following current guidelines for wiper disposal in the U.S.
- Solvent-contaminated wipes must be accumulated, stored and transported in non-leaking, closed containers, labeled with “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes.” These containers must be sealed with all lids securely affixed, and all openings tightly bound.
- Properly labeled containers storing solvent-contaminated wipes—with no free (i.e. dripping) liquids—can be thrown away in accordance with the guidelines.
- You can test for free liquids by using the Paint Filter Liquids Test—a five minute test in which a predetermined amount of solvent-containing material is placed in a paint filter. If anything passes through and drops within the test-period, the material is considered to contain free liquids. In order to be recognized under the guidelines, the process used to conduct the Paint Filter test must be documented by the business.
- Free liquids must be disposed of under current hazardous waste regulations.
- Wipes and towels may be stored on site for up to 180 days before being shipped for disposal.
- Businesses must maintain a document at their site, including:
- The name and address of the landfill or combustor receiving the contaminated wipes.
- Documentation that the 180-day accumulation period is being met.
- Description of the process the business is using to ensure these wipes contain no free liquids at the point of disposal.
- The only solvent excluded from the new rule is Trichloroethylene.
- If you have wipes that are contaminated with Trichloroethylene, they must be sent to a landfill that is either a municipal solid waste landfill or hazardous waste landfill meeting specific government regulations.
Because state-adaptation of the rule is optional and states can create different standards equivalent to federal regulations, it’s essential to check the exact guidelines for where your facilities are located. The full updated EPA guideline details can be viewed here.