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Handling Solvent-Laden Cleaning Towels, Wipes & Rags in Wisconsin

Handling Solvent-Laden Cleaning Towels, Wipes & Rags in Wisconsin

USEPA’s Final Rule for its new solvent-contaminated wipe conditional exclusion was published in the  July 31, 2013 Federal Register and will go into effect six months from that date:  January 31, 2014 (read about the USEPA Conditional Exclusion for Solvent-Contaminated Wipes).  However, the new regulation will only be effective in states that lack an authorized hazardous waste program (Alaska, Iowa, Puerto Rico, and Indian Country).  It will not be effective in Wisconsin, which has an authorized hazardous waste program, until the WDNR is able to draft its own regulations.  Those regulations will be applicable only within Wisconsin, and may be more stringent than the USEPA’s but cannot be less so.  In the meantime, the regulated community in Wisconsin looking to learn how to manage its solvent-contaminated wipes should refer to WDNR policy on the subject found in this WDNR guidance document:  Handling Solvent-Laden Cleaning Towels, Wipes and Rags, Publication WA 1207, Rev. 2007 and summarized in this article.

The WDNR identifies and defines three types of materials subject to the policy:

  • An industrial shop towel is a reusable woven textile that is laundered or dry-cleaned a number of times before it wears out and must be discarded.  Solvent-contaminated shop towels are usually washed or dry-cleaned at commercial laundry facilities.
  • An industrial wipe is a non-woven towel generally designed for one-time use.  Paper towels, which are similar to wipes, can also be used for cleaning up solvent in the workplace.
  • Industrial rags are made from old clothing or are cloth remnants from textile mills and are generally meant to be discarded after use.

For the purposes of the WDNR policy, an Industrial Towel may be any of the above three types that, after use, will be laundered or dry-cleaned and then reused.  Typically this will be limited to just industrial shop towels.  A Wipe may be an industrial wipe, industrial rag, or paper towel that is discarded after use.

While on-site, Industrial Towels and Wipes contaminated with solvents must be managed as follows:

  • Store in a closed, non-leaking container.
  • Keep containers away from sources of ignition.
  • There is not a specific labeling requirement other than to identify the contents:  dirty, used, or contaminated industrial towels or wipes.
  • Do not mix with other wastes, either hazardous or non-hazardous.
  • There can be no free liquids in the container.
  • A centrifuge can be used  – on-site or off – to remove liquid solvent.  Other methods of solvent extraction will be considered for approval by the WDNR on a case-by-case basis.  Solvent extracted by any means will be subject to a hazardous waste determination.

The exclusion from regulation for Industrial Towels and Wipes contaminated with solvents in Wisconsin will depend on your compliance with the above requirements and their ultimate destination:

  • Industrial Towels destined for laundering and/or dry-cleaning before reuse are excluded from regulation as a hazardous waste in Wisconsin.
  • Industrial Towels or Wipes that cannot be laundered and/or dry-cleaned before reuse and are to be burned for energy recovery must be managed as a hazardous waste only if they exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic:  Ignitability, Corrosivity, Reactivity, or Toxicity.  The presence of a listed, spent, organic solvent (which is likely) does not require its management as a hazardous waste under this condition.  If a hazardous waste, it must be sent to a licensed or permitted hazardous waste energy recovery facility using a licensed hazardous waste transporter.  If a non-hazardous waste the towels or wipes can be managed at a solid waste energy recovery facility, if allowed by the facility’s operating permit.  For transportation, a licensed solid waste transporter should be used.
  • Industrial Towels or Wipes that are land-filled are subject to full regulation in Wisconsin, which includes a hazardous waste determination.  If determined to be a hazardous waste (either characteristic or listed) the Industrial Towels or Wipes will need to be managed as such in compliance with Wisconsin’s hazardous waste regulations.  If a non-hazardous waste, Industrial Towels or Wipes may be sent to a solid waste landfill using a licensed solid waste transporter.

Keep in mind that as of this writing Wisconsin does not have regulations for the Handling of Solvent-Laden Cleaning Towels, Wipes, and Rags, but instead is managing them through policy and guidance documents.  The WDNR is working on drafting regulations that will strive to be harmonious with the USEPA Final Rule while taking into account Wisconsin’s state-specific needs.  If you have a question about Wisconsin’s regulations regarding Solvent-Laden Cleaning Towels, Wipes, and Rags you should contact Patricia Chabot with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at:  patricia.chabot@wisconsin.gov or 608.264.6015.

If you have questions about any other aspect of the Wisconsin hazardous waste regulations, including the requirement to provide annual training to all applicable facility personnel of a Large Quantity Generator of hazardous waste (NR 665.0016), please contact me.