TRSA Unsure If EPA Will End Shop-Towel Exemption

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — No indication has surfaced of when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will end its decades of deliberation on whether to perpetuate the exemption for reusable shop towels from regulation as solid or hazardous waste, according to the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA).
Disposable products do not receive this exemption and this distinction is seen as providing a critical cost-saving market advantage to reusables. Shop-towel-rental sales are worth about $1 billion annually to the rental laundry industry, TRSA says.
Traditionally, the paper-wiper industry has called for a level playing field, contending that both reusables and disposables can be handled responsibly to minimize environmental impact. Disposables manufacturers recently persuaded the EPA to conduct new research on cloth-towel handling and laundering. It concluded that washing solvent-laden wipers is a potentially significant contaminator of water and air. Also, paper-wiper makers contend that more solvent than previously believed reaches landfills in sludge created by laundries’ wastewater filtering.
A majority of TRSA members transport their sludge to lined landfills. The association has indicated that it can likely be ensured that all sludge containing any solvents of concern to EPA will go to such a landfill. TRSA will continue to involve Congress in making its case to the agency and has sought another meeting with EPA officials, the association says.


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