EPA Wipes Rule Frequently Asked Questions
While it’s been several years since the EPA Wiper Rule went into effect, our graphics customers continue to ask questions on this important compliance requirement regarding solvent-contaminated wipers (also referred to as printer towels).
Below are some of the questions we’ve recently received with responses from Jodi Drew, Environmental Engineer at ITU AbsorbTech.
Q1: How to prove “no free standing liquid” in the solvent-contaminated wipes
Q2: Method to prove your towels do not fall into the solvent category
Q3: How to document the 180 day accumulation
Q4: Can we still keep open tubs of towels?
Q5: Can I have free standing liquid in any of my containers?
Jodi Drew is the Corporate Environmental Manager for ITU AbsorbTech. She is also the Corporate ISO Coordinator for ITU AbsorbTech’s ISO 14000 and 9000 Management Systems. She holds a US Patent in her field and is a requested speaker on a variety of environmental topics.
Customer Question 1:
How to prove “no free standing liquid” in the solvent-contaminated wipes
My understanding is the Wisconsin DNR publication WA-1207 is meant to be the current guidance for management of solvent rags in Wisconsin until language is officially put into state regulations.
On one hand this guidance states that we can used the paint filter liquids test to prove the solvent rags contain no free liquids, but on the other it states that free liquids must be removed prior to sealing the lid to prevent leaks or emissions. It doesn’t really leave any room for the possibility of the rags not containing free liquids to begin with.
What method should I be using to prove there are no free-standing liquids?
I use the same materials as you have referenced, with the addition of the federal final rule summary and the full 150 page explanation.
The EPA has put the majority of the requirements on the generator as you have outlined. Both the state and the EPA allow for alternate methods and descriptions of methods to prove that wipers contain no free standing liquids.
You may use any method of removing solvents to the degree that there is no free liquid accumulating in the container (drum) to be used for transportation.
Our customers use a variety of methods including:
- Small containers at the point of use, transferred to larger accumulation and shipping containers
- Good material handling practices – hand wringing prior to putting towel in any post use container
- Good material handling practices – limiting the amount of liquid used (pumps or sprays vs. dip to apply solvents used in cleaning)
- Screen bottom drums, with or without drains
- Screen top drums
- Allowing towels to sit with no screening and then transferring to another container
- Mechanical separation using a centrifuge, or rollers
- A few may even use the more aggressive method of mechanical wringing
The important part is that you document the method used and how you know that it is effective. The paint filter test is low tech and can be done by anyone. Visual observations and documentation are also acceptable methods. EPA has stated that they do not expect every towel to be tested, so some type of periodic tests or observations are acceptable for them.
I personally do not know of any customers who perform the paint filter test regularly as part of their compliance.
As your partner, ITU AbsorbTech will communicate on a regular basis any concerns with compliance that we would observe while in your facility or once the towels arrive at ours.
Customer Question 2:
Method to prove your towels do not fall into the solvent category
We use shop towels, not printer towels. Can you send me any sort of documentation that advises our shop towels do not fall into the solvent category, or something to show that we have reviewed this and we are not in violation of the EPA Wiper Rule?
The type of towel does not matter in the determination of the rule applicability. What matters is the solvent that is on the towels, or if the towels have the characteristic of ignitability after use.
If your towels do not come in contact with any of the part 261 listed solvents below, and they do not have the characteristic of ignitability, they do not fall under the wiper rule.
(From EPA Wiper Rule Summary)
Wipes containing one or more F001-F005 listed solvents listed in § 261.31 or the corresponding P- or U- listed solvents found in § 261.33, including:
- Isobutyl alcohol
- Methyl ethyl ketone
- Methyl isobutyl ketone
- Methylene chloride
- Ethyl acetate
- 1,1,2- Trichloroethane
- Ethyl benzene
- Trichloroethylene (*For reusable wipes only.)
- Wipes that exhibit a hazardous characteristic resulting from a solvent listed in part 261.
- Wipes that exhibit only the hazardous characteristic of ignitability when containing one or more non-listed solvents.
I have also included information on what the criteria are for meeting the characteristics of ignitability. The soiled towels would be a solid (not a liquid) so would need to meet the requirements in (2) below.
261.21 Characteristic of ignitability.
(1) It is a liquid, other than an aqueous solution containing less than 24 percent alcohol by volume and has flash point less than 60 °C (140 °F), as determined by a Pensky-Martens Closed Cup Tester, using the test method specified in ASTM Standard D 93-79 or D 93-80 (incorporated by reference, see § 260.11), or a Setaflash Closed Cup Tester, using the test method specified in ASTM Standard D 3278-78 (incorporated by reference, see § 260.11).
(2) It is not a liquid and is capable, under standard temperature and pressure, of causing fire through friction, absorption of moisture or spontaneous chemical changes and, when ignited, burns so vigorously and persistently that it creates a hazard.
If the above criteria are met and you believe that the towels are covered by the rule, then you would need to come up with some method of documenting your compliance with the rule. I agree that photographic evidence of every container, would be difficult. I also don’t think that a clear picture of towels being held aside, showing a dry drum bottom would be a reliable, repeatable method.
Alternate methods could include:
- Periodic simulated paint filter test. (X towels from the bottom of the drum laid on a suspended window screen for X time, did any drips fall). The method described is not an actual paint filter test as it uses a screen and does not have all the prescribed weighing of material, so simulated or a much longer description of quick determination test that should be followed up with an actual test if there is concern.
- Visual observation during a transfer operation set at a predetermined frequency
- Knowledge of amounts of liquid used at the operation
- Evidence from a material handling method prior to putting towels in transportation container
- Written descriptions of both your method to prevent free liquid from being in the drum and the method to assess that there is no free liquid prior to transportations are important.
While the method does not have to be complicated, technical, mechanical, or overly involved, it does have to be written. Most methods I am aware of involve a description of the material handling process for the towels after use. I recommend using checklists and forms as supplemental documentation that regulators can use as evidence of compliance.
As we continue to partner with you and provide Genuine Service Excellence you can be assured that we will continue to communicate any issues or problems that we see during our time in your facility, or when products arrive at our production facilities for processing.
Our service team will let your facility contact know if they suspect that free liquids are present. They are trained to leave behind any containers with known free liquid to allow a customer to remove the liquid prior to transportation.
I hope this answers your questions and provides some guidance. If you do decide that the shop towels are solvent-contaminated, our service department will work with you to determine if that is the best towel for the application going forward. Industrial shop towels (usually red) are not normally used in solvent applications.
Customer Question 3:
How to document the 180 Day Accumulation
The rule states we need documentation that the 180-day accumulation limit is being met, but does it have to be on the label that goes on our drums? Is there other documentation that I can reference in my program as to how we’re meeting that time limit; i.e. refer to scheduled service pickup agreement/invoices? Does the accumulation date restart when I transfer wipes from a smaller accumulation container to a larger bulk container?
The rule is not prescriptive in how you document the 180 days, or the method you use to comply with the no free liquids requirement. A date on the label is not required – it is just a good way to track the 180 days. Accumulation date record keeping is the generator’s requirement. The generator (printer) must document how they are meeting the 180-day requirement.
ITU AbsorbTech re-labels drums every week so that clean product is not brought to your facility without an excluded solvent-contaminated wipes label.
Customer Question 4:
Can we still keep open tubs of towels?
Can we still use the open tubs for soiled towels and how often do those need to be transferred to the “closed” containers?
You cannot use open tubs anywhere in your facility for solvent-contaminated towels, but may use them for red general purpose towels. The rule states that containers must be closed and labeled while wipes are accumulated. When the containers are full they must have no free liquids and be sealed. You are not required to keep a cover on clean product.
Customer Question 5:
Can I have free standing liquid in any of my containers?
Is free liquid forbidden at any time, in any container, with wipes or only for the transportation container?
Only in the transportation containers. You may have it in your collection/accumulation containers, but be sure that what you offer to a laundry or disposal facility doesn’t have free liquids. You have to document how you meet the no free liquids requirement.
Still Have Questions?
Do you have a question for Jodi Drew? Please contact her at 888-729-4884, or submit your question here: https://ituabsorbtech.com/contact/
How to Reach Us
Our processing facilities are registered to ISO 14001:2015 by SAI Global