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Federal Rule Regulating Solvent-Contaminated Towels and Wipese
In 2013, EPA issued a final rule that modifies the hazardous waste management regulations for solvent-contaminated wipes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). 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 disposable solvent-contaminated wipes. The purpose of this final rule is to provide a consistent regulatory framework for solvent-contaminated wipes that is appropriate to the level of risk posed by these 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.
EPA is seeking public comment on a revised risk analysis developed for the 2003 proposed Solvent-Contaminated Industrial Wipes Rule. EPA has revised the risk analysis in response to comments received when the rule was proposed. The rule is meant to improve the clarity and consistency of the regulations for wipes and reduce the cost of regulatory compliance, while maintaining the same level of protection for the environment. The revised risk analysis, which was peer reviewed, includes updated data and information, including the use of a newly developed landfill model. The revised risk analysis shows that 8 of the 20 solvents evaluated could pose a potential health risk if disposed of in an unlined municipal solid waste landfill. The revised risk analysis also shows that tetrachloroethylene has a potential health risk if contaminated wipes or laundry sludge are disposed in a composite lined landfill.
In 2003, EPA proposed to conditionally exclude from the definition of hazardous waste disposable industrial wipes that are contaminated with hazardous solvents and are going to disposal. EPA also proposed to conditionally exclude from the definition of solid waste reusable industrial shop towels and rags that are contaminated with hazardous solvents and are sent for cleaning.
The public comment period will be open for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. More information on the risk analysis is available http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/wasteid/solvents/wipes.htm.
Shop Towel Rule Update for October 2005
On October 4, 2005, the Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the Evaluation Report Rulemaking on Solvent-Contaminated Industrial Wipes, which was initiated in response to a Congressional request on a November 2003 proposed rule to regulate shop towels (see below).
From the Flexographic Technical Association's EHS newsletter: "The Inspector General was asked to examine if the U.S. EPA followed proper procedures in developing the proposed rule and to determine the degree of influence that the industrial laundry industry had on the outcome of the proposal. The Inspector General found that U.S. EPA met all legal and internal requirements for rulemaking and that there was no illegal or inconsistent interaction with the industrial launderers. The clearance by the Inspector General should now allow U.S. EPA to proceed on the rule. The printing industry associations have been actively involved in the rule, which will provide consistency and uniformity to handling and disposal of shop towels across the country. The associations would like to see some changes to the rule and have met on numerous occasions with U.S. EPA, submitted comments on the proposed rule, and gave public testimony in support of the rule."
On November 10, 2003, the U.S. EPA released a draft rule that addresses the management of solvent-contaminated reusable towels and disposable wipes. Because the use of towels and wipes is pervasive in the printing industry, this rule affects virtually every printer. Towels, wipes and solvents are used for cleaning presses, ink cleanup, and a variety of other tasks.
The rule also affects many other types of businesses which use shop towels and wipes, including those that handle them, such as industrial laundries and waste handlers.
PNEAC has been helping printers and organizations that assist printers understand the proposed rule and participate in providing comments to EPA regarding this draft rule. On December 2 and 11, 2003, PNEAC hosted two Webinars (Web Seminars) to brief printers and other stakeholders on the rule and solicited questions and comments on the rule. Information from those Webinars, as well as supplemental information about the rule is listed below.