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Excerpts from USEPA Letter on Laundered Rags and Soiled Clothing

The following are excerpts from a January 21, 1992 letter from George C. Meyer P.E., Chief, Hazardous Waste Compliance Branch of USEPA on guidance regarding the handling and disposal of solvent contaminated rags (solvent wipers).

"...Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region II has never formally prepared an issue paper on this subject, I will present our (USEPA's) position.

The Region has always viewed the mixture rule (see 40 C.F.R. subparagraph 261.3(a)(2)(iii) and 261.3(a)(2)(iv)) and the Agency's contained-in policy as the elements of the hazardous waste regulations which control the handling and disposal of solvent contaminated rags and wipers. The mixture rule states the following:

  • A solid waste is a hazardous waste if it is a mixture of a solid and a hazardous waste that is listed solely because it exhibits a characteristic (see 40 C.F.R. Part 261 Subpart C) and the mixture continues to exhibit a characteristic. This mixture would not be a hazardous waste if it no longer exhibited a characteristic.
  • A solid waste is a hazardous waste if it is a mixture of a solid and a listed hazardous waste (see 40 C.F.R. Part 261 Subpart D).

The contained-in policy asserts the following:

  • A matrix which contains a listed hazardous waste is considered hazardous until that listed waste is removed from the matrix.

(Sections of the original letter that are not relevant to New York State Environmental Department of Conservation Policy DSH-HW-03-09 have been omitted for clarity)

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted the following position regarding sorbents.

  1. That industrial rags and soiled clothing, contaminated with listed or characteristic substances do not have to be managed as hazardous waste when sent to a commercial or non-commercial laundry (or dry cleaner) to be cleaned and then returned to the owner, while rags or soiled clothing that is disposed of or intended for disposal are not excluded from regulation. This position is based upon, the following conditions:
    1. There is no exemption for rags or soiled clothing contaminated beyond saturation (i.e., containing free liquids. Saturation will be determined by the paint filter liquids test (EPA SW 846 Method 9095). Any rags or soiled clothing containing free liquids will be subject to full regulation.
    2. Until such materials are laundered on-site or sent offsite for laundering, they must be accumulated and managed in accordance with all the relevant provisions of Part 372 and Subpart 373-1.
  2. All used rags and soiled clothing must be stored and transported in fire-proof or fire-resistant containers.
  3. Rags and soiled clothing must be transported in accordance with all USDOT requirements for transportation or hazardous materials.

As long as the above conditions are met, on-site or off-site laundries will not require TSD permits, and laundry trucks will not have to be licensed as waste transporters. Shipments of used rags or soiled clothing would not have to be manifested or transported by authorized transporters unless intended for disposal.

Consistent with this approach, rags and soiled clothing that meet the definition of hazardous waste would be counted as hazardous waste generated, and would be subject to annual reporting and waste minimization planning.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy has adopted a similar position as that or New York. The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board has not formalized its position on rags and wipers that are reused, therefore it must be contacted directly for their its (sic) current policy.

(Sections of the original letter that are not relevant to New York State Environmental Department of Conservation Policy DSH-HW-03-09 have been omitted for clarity)

Be advised that EPA recommends that facilities which generate hazardous rags and wipers use alternative non-hazardous waste solvents (i.e., dilute solvent solutions, detergents or biodegradables) as part of a waste minimization program."


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