Issues between industrial laundries and disposable towel makers, which compete for business among those that use wipes and towels to clean equipment, have ensued over the past year regarding a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used wipes and towels rule.
The disposable towel industry published a study in 2003 that discussed whether laundered wipes contained hazardous substances. The rule to ease waste handling requirements for reusable and disposable industrial towels had been delayed for quite some time, but will now undergo White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) review. That means the long-delayed rule should soon be issued. The rule is said to dictate controls on the disposal of one-time wipes and sludge from laundering reusable wipes.
The EPA sent the rule, known as the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), to the OMB in April. The RCRA rule began as a 2003 proposal, and then evolved into a 2009 notice of data availability (NODA) that changes hazardous waste regulations for managing solvent-contaminated industrial wipes. Questions regarding the 2003 proposed rule led to the EPA revising risk analysis used to define the risk of disposing of solvent-contaminated wipes or laundry sludge in municipal solid waste landfills to human health and the environment. In 2009, the EPA then published a NODA to collect additional information on the data used.
Findings of the 2009 NODA included the identification of eight of the 20 solvents as ones that could pose potential risks if disposed of in unlined landfills, two more solvents than were found in the 2003 study. It has been suggested that due to the NODA findings, the EPA will end up with a final rule that requires disposal of solvent-contaminated wipes and laundry sludge in lined landfills. Unlike the original versions of the rule, the final regulation will most likely not set a concentration level for determining when wipes are free of solvents, due to the various difficulties involved.
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