October 14, 2019

FAQs for Solvent-Contaminated Wipe Exclusions

The “solvent-contaminated wipes rule” was promulgated in 2013 [78 FR 46448] and attempted to provide a consistent, nation-wide approach to managing a ubiquitous waste stream. Earlier this year, EPA answered various frequently asked questions (FAQs) dealing with the rule’s exclusion from the definition of hazardous waste [§261.4(b)(18)] and its exclusion from the definition of solid waste [§261.4(a)(26)]. EPA also maintains a website tracking the state adoption status of this rule. Below, we summarize some of EPA’s answers to questions we are often asked.

Are mops, floor mats, and personal protective equipment considered wipes, eligible for management under this rule?

No. Materials such as sponges, gloves, aprons, chemical suits, shirts, coveralls, work uniforms, floor mats, and mop heads were specifically not included in the rule. [Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-RCRA-2003-0004] The rule was based on a risk analysis of solvent-contaminated wipes and management practices specific to the wipes. Thus, it was beyond the scope of the rule to include other types of materials.

Are wipes contaminated with fuel or oil eligible for either of the exclusions?

In developing the solvent-contaminated wipes rule, EPA only evaluated wipes that were contaminated with solvents listed as hazardous wastes F001 through F005 and conducted a risk analysis tailored to these solvent-contaminated wipes. The solvent-contaminated wipes rule thus is not applicable to other wastes, such as wipes contaminated with fuels.

However, solvent-contaminated wipes may be co-contaminated with fuels and still be eligible for the rule’s exclusions provided the fuels are not listed hazardous waste and the wipes do not exhibit the characteristic of toxicity, corrosivity, or reactivity. In other words, solvent-contaminated wipes that are co-contaminated with fuels that are not themselves listed hazardous waste and which only exhibit the characteristic of ignitability are eligible for the wipes rule exclusions.

Can I use plastic bags to accumulate, transport, and/or dispose of solvent-contaminated wipes? When is a plastic bag considered closed?

Yes. Bags can be used, provided they meet the RCRA closed-container standard. The bag is considered closed when the neck of the bag is tightly bound and sealed to the extent necessary to keep the solvent-contaminated wipes and associated air emissions inside the container. The bag must be able to contain liquids and be non-leaking. A bag leaving a trail of the liquid on the ground as it is transported clearly does not meet the closed-container standard.

May absorbents be added to containers of solvent-contaminated wipes?

If absorbents are necessary, this may be a sign that sufficient amounts of free liquids are not being removed prior to the wipes being sent for cleaning or disposal. Thus, the wipes may not meet the “no free liquids” requirement.

May a labeled, closed bag of contaminated wipes that does not contain free liquids be transported to a landfill or municipal waste combustor with other solid waste trash?

Yes, a bag of solvent-contaminated wipes that meets the conditions of the exclusion (closed, labeled, and contains no free liquids) may be placed in a dumpster and transported to a landfill with other solid waste trash.

Can I launder solvent-contaminated wipes onsite under this rule?

Yes, provided all of the conditions of §261.4(a)(26) are met. This includes the condition that the laundry or dry cleaner’s discharge, if any, is regulated under Sections 301 and 402 or Section 307 of the Clean Water Act.


©2019-2021 McCoy and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

McCoy and Associates has provided in-depth information to assist environmental professionals with complex compliance issues since 1982. Our seminars and publications are widely trusted by environmental professionals for their consistent quality, clarity, and comprehensiveness.



Considerable care has been exercised in preparing this document; however, McCoy and Associates, Inc. makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee in connection with the publication of this information. McCoy and Associates, Inc. expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use or for the violation of any federal, state, or municipal law or regulation with which this information may conflict. McCoy and Associates, Inc. does not undertake any duty to ensure the continued accuracy of this information.

This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.