Disposal of Solvent Wastes

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, also known as the Solid Waste Disposal Act, promotes the protection of health and the environment and the conservation of valuable material and energy resources. Virtually all chemical wastes have the potential to be defined as hazardous, because the EPA defines solid waste as any solid, liquid, semisolid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, or agricultural operations, or from community activities. There are exceptions, and a good background document appears in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, sections 261-281 (especially section 261.31).

Most electroplating wastes, including solvent residues, require disposal according to these regulations. Quantity exemptions, such as less than 1000 kg (2200 lb) per month, exist in some states for some wastes, providing relief from paperwork; however, proper waste disposal is still required. Solvent distillation can reduce the quantity of waste to a minimum, particularly with the nonflammable vapor degreasing solvents. Under some circumstances, still bottoms (residues) can be used as a fuel in industrial boilers. Nonhazardous waste such as paper should be segregated from hazardous wastes to minimize disposal costs. Incineration is the best known ultimate disposal method for wastes from solvent cleaning operations. However, wastes containing reasonable quantities of solvent may be saleable to local reclaimers.

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