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EPA Finalizes RCRA Exclusion for Solvent-Contaminated Rags, Industrial Wipes, and Shop Towels

On Monday, July 22, the EPA finalized its long-awaited final rule excluding from RCRA regulation solvent-contaminated rags, industrial wipes, and shop towels, provided those rags and wipes are managed properly.  The rule was published in the July 31 Federal Register with an effective date of January 31, 2014.

Under the final rule, provided that conditions for exclusion are met, reusable wipes are excluded from the definition of solid waste (and hence neither a solid waste nor hazardous waste), whereas disposable wipes are only excluded from the hazardous waste definition. Reusable wipes must go to a laundry or dry cleaner whose discharge, if any, is regulated under sections 301 and 402 or section 307 of the Clean Water Act. Disposable wipes may go to 1) combustors that are regulated under section 129 of the Clean Air Act or under 40 CFR parts 264, 265, or 266 subpart H, 2) municipal solid waste landfills regulated under 40 CFR part 258 (including § 258.40) or, 3) hazardous waste landfills regulated under 40 CFR parts 264 or 265.

The exclusion includes F-listed, P-listed, and U-listed solvents, as well as wipes that exhibit a hazardous characteristic resulting from a solvent listed in part 261, and wipes that exhibit only the hazardous characteristic of ignitability when containing one or more non-listed solvents.

As outlined in an EPA Summary Chart, the conditions for exclusion include:

Storage Requirements

Wipes must be accumulated, stored, and transported in non-leaking, closed containers that can contain free liquids, should they occur.


Containers must be labeled “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes.”

Accumulation Time Limits

Generators may accumulate wipes up to 180 days from the start date of accumulation prior to being sent for cleaning or disposal.


Generators must maintain documentation that includes:

  • name and address of the laundry, dry cleaner, landfill, or combustor;
  • documentation that the 180-day accumulation time limit is being met; and
  • description of the process the generator is using to meet the “no free liquids” condition.

Finally, disposable wipes that are hazardous waste due to the presence of trichloroethylene are not eligible for the exclusion.