The final rule modifies the hazardous waste management regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes from hazardous waste regulations provided that the businesses clean or dispose of them properly. It’s based on the EPA’s final risk analysis that concluded wipes contaminated with certain hazardous solvents do no pose significant risk to human health and the environment when managed properly.
To be excluded, solvent-contaminated wipes must be managed in closed labeled containers and cannot contain free liquids when sent for cleaning or disposal, the EPA says. Additionally, facilities that generate solvent-contaminated wipes must comply with certain record keeping requirements and may not accumulate wipes for longer than 180 days.
The EPA estimates that the final rule will result in net savings of $18 million per year in avoided regulatory costs and between $3.7 and $9.9 million per year in other expected benefits, including pollution prevention, waste minimization and fire prevention.
Now that the ruling, which was first challenged in the early 1980s, has been finalized, wipes makers are waiting for individual states to adopt the ruling. So far, 12 states—Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Utah—have already adopted the ruling, while five others—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota and Rhode Island—have decided against adopting the ruling. Another 25 states have indicated they are very likely to implement the ruling.
As this ruling slowly becomes law, INDA, the Association of the Nonwovens Fabrics industry, is forming a Product Stewardship Committee on industrial wipes, a committee that will focus on helping wipes companies fully realize the benefits of the wiper rule.
INDA is tracking state adoption and weighing-in with officials but will use the new committee to give association members the information and tools to monitor and influence activity in states critical to their businesses and to communicate key details to customers.
Calling the ruling a driver of change in the nonwovens industry, INDA says there is significant marketing opportunity for non-laundered wipes. If nonwoven disposables were to capture 25% over the next three years of the market, the industry would see an annual growth rate increase from 6.1% to 13.3%. Raising the overall industrial and institutional wipes annual growth rate from 5.9% to 8.4%. This represents a significant opportunity.
According to INDA figures, in 2012, sales to end users in the industrial and institutional wipes market were almost $2.8 billion for disposable nonwoven wipes, disposable cloth towels/rags, and reusable laundered shop towels/wipes. Sixty percent of these sales were to one segment, the industrial general purpose segment, where the greatest opportunity exists for nonwovens following the Wiper Rule.
Executives doing business in the industrial wipes market agree that there is significant opportunity for nonwovens in this market as more states adopt the ruling. Not only does conversion of nonwovens have the potential to save manufacturers money, the use of these substrates—which can be engineered for task-specific purposes—can get the job done more quickly and completely with less effort.
“Nonwovens offer many advantages in the wiping category. They can be engineered to work with the range of chemistries used in the industrial wipes segment,” says Trevor Kelley, Tork wiper product manager for SCA’s AFH Professional Hygiene business. “This allows you to really get optimal performance.”
The conversion from reusable textile wipers to nonwoven ones would be a paradigm shift in the market similar to the one the diaper market underwent when disposables were first developed in the 1960s.
“A lot of people will be hesitant to make the change. They feel like this is what we have always done and we will stick to it,” Kelley says. “It always takes some time for a market to make the transition to a disposable environment and when users of textiles first look at disposables, they think there is no way a nonwoven can measure up. The best way to encourage the shift is to prove them wrong through trial.”
For this conversion to happen however, education will be key. The entire value chain needs to understand how the product works, why a specific product is being used and what outcome can be offered.
“There has to be training,” Kelley says. “People need to see the benefits in terms of total cost-in-use of operating, should they adopt the use of nonwovens. Nonwovens can deliver a significant reduction in the amount of solvents and other chemicals that are used, and solvent consumption can have a major impact on total cost-in-use.”
Nonwovens, in fact, can outperform textiles because of the chemistry behind the substrate. Not only can a nonwoven be engineered to incorporate certain functionalities—like antimicrobial and antibacterial—it can be designed to absorb a certain amount of material and then release that same amount of material. Rags on the other hand tend to absorb more and then release less, leading to excess waste.
Nonwovens technology can also offer wipe users consistency. While many rags are made from various types of scrap materials, the wipers are all made to the same standard, meaning the user is protected against inconsistencies that could lead to problems down the road.
“The wipe can offer task-specific attributes that are engineered for a specific performance, while with rags there is always a threat of contamination,” says Dawn Huston, director of product marketing, wipes PGI/Chicopee.
She adds that in industrial settings, what works the best is often what sticks around, because products and processes are chosen by the workers. ”In this category, more than many others, the actual users of the product influence what is going to be used—it is not a corporate decision,” she says.
PGI’s Chicopee brand has a long history in the wipes market and is now reckoning this business with the recently acquired Fitesa businesses, many of which lie in the industrial areas.
“We are aligning all of our categories that Fiberweb has taken us into. Now that the channels are open, we are trying to undersand their needs,” Huston says.
Calling the specialty industrial wipes market very process driven, Huston says that the physical attributes of the wipe needs to drive what the product can do. For instance, in automotives, the wipes might be used in different processes at the same plant so each product might have to be a little difrerent.
“We are finding that manufacturers are looking at nonwovens wipes to help them perfect certain processes,” Huston says. “Wipers also have the ability to minimize waste and lessen downtimes.”
In anticipation on a wider spread adoption of the wiper ruling, PGI Chicopee is focusing on new product development and hopes to announce a new product category within the segment in the next 9 to 12 months.
Just last month, Chicopee parent PGI announced it would offer its Spinlace technology for the wipes market. The 300 million square meter increase, which is currently being commercialized, will help PGI grow in the specialty materials business, according to executives.
“This multi-million-dollar investment in the Spinlace technology helps ensure that we continue to provide a diverse and innovative array of specialty products to our customers across the globe,” says J. Joel Hackney, Jr., CEO, PGI. “Anchored with strong customer support and developmental agreements, it is a key step in our broader strategy for global growth, as we continue to extend our position as the leading nonwovens manufacturer in the world.”
The Spinlace technology utilizes a highly efficient process that incorporates almost limitless material inputs, including pulp, with high-speed hydroentanglement. Additionally, the process uses PGI’s proprietary Apex technology to impart customizable three-dimensional images directly into the fabric to impart both functional and aesthetic attributes. The process results in stronger and higher performing materials at typically lower weights and with a better value proposition than traditional manufacturing methods. PGI introduced the technology in 2007.
SCA takes on the task
SCA/Tork has responded to changes in the industrial wiping segment by changing the way it communicates the product. Finding that “task is king” within industrial wipes, SCA this year changed product names and packaging for the entire line—to show which of four tasks, wiping, cleaning, polishing or sanitizing—the product is designed to do. SCA made this change after conducting global research and talking with end users and distributors.
“One of the key things we have learned is that customers feel that task is king when it comes to how we talk about wipers,” Trevor Kelley says. “Many distributors tend to think in terms of how we market the product via cross reference, but that doesn’t get to what the users and customers understand.”
SCA’s primary market segments are food service, food processing, education, healthcare and a variety of industrial applications. Its product line ranges from heavy paper-based wiper substrates to standard and exotic spunlace materials, which are used for industrial cleaner and solvent applications.
Kelley says one of the big challenges in designing wipers for the food service segment is that the substrate cannot negatively impact the chemical concentration of a quat solution because the user must be assured the sanitizer is doing what it is intended to do. SCA offers the Tork Antimicrobial, and the Tork Quat Friendly wiper to meet these market requirements.
Nonwovens technology is also allowing wipers to be used in other specialty areas like low lint environments. While offering no linting is not really possible, nonwovens can offer wipers with low enough linting for highly sensitive areas like electronics or automotive paint.
“The closer you get to low lint, the more expensive the wipe is,” Kelley adds. “But there are definitely environments where the sensitivity is so high that there is a financial reason to go as close to low lint as possible.”
ITW Professional Brands has been dabbling in how printing technology can impact performance in the wipes category for a while. Last year, the company launched a rechargeable sanitizer indicator hand towel into the food service industry, which won the World of Wipes (WOW) Innovation Award at the conference last spring.
The Sertune rechargeable sanitizer indicator towel starts yellow and then turns blue when quats are added. Once the quats are released, meaning they have done their job and more needs to be added, the towel returns to its yellow.
Chris Plotz, product manager, says the technology was developed after the company looked at the market and found that there was a big problem with people getting fined or written up for not properly sanitizing areas in the food service industry.
“We can tell when the quat is not being used or when it has been used to eliminate the guess work in sanitizing,” he says.
The intelligence behind the product is a color check technology that will be applied in other markets—anywhere sanitizers are used, Plotz adds.
Also new from ITW is Scrubs In a Bucket, which are premoistened towels that remove industrial oils from skin. This product, which is a direct decendent of surface cleaning towels, are used in Away from Home and manufacturing settings where they eliminate costs associated with workers having to leave a site to wash their hands.
K-C aims for the sky
Last year, Kimberly-Clark Professional introduced a line of aviation-certified wiping solutions that met the requirements of Aerospace Materials Specification 3819C and Boeing Material Specification.
The wipes are specifically engineered to perform in all areas of OEM, surface prep, engine maintenance and general purpose cleaning. These application-driven solutions are designed to deliver superior cleaning, improve operational efficiencies, reduce turnaround time and maximize productivity while meeting the precision standards and requirement of the industry.
Kimtech Wipes for Aviation are available in three categories: Surface Preparation Wipes; Cleaning Wipes; and a Wet Wipe System. To complement these solution-oriented wipes, the company also launched the Kimtech Large Surface Wiping Applicator. The applicator developed for the aerospace industry helps workers address the difficulties of cleaning and preparing large, contoured areas and elevated assemblies.
The use of the applicator has shown an increase in productivity up to 56%, eliminating over-processing, wasted time and wasted motion. The Kimtech Large Surface Wiping Applicator uses aerospace wipes mounted on a flexible applicator head designed to hug contoured areas for more efficient cleaning. The ergonomically-designed handle provides better control during wiping tasks, while the adjustable pole extends and retracts so workers can wipe elevated and below-floor-level surfaces with ease.
This design reduces the physical stress caused by awkward positions when hand wiping.
“At Kimberly-Clark Professional, we work with aerospace manufacturers worldwide to develop effective, task-specific product offerings,” says Marianne Santangelo, aerospace target market leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional. “Aviation industry workers must have the best wiping tools available to make sure every job is done right the first time. Our goal is to help manufacturers uncover hidden opportunities to improve safety and productivity to help solve the customers’ needs. We’ve seen workers in unnatural, unsafe positions trying to reach areas they need to prep. In addition, we’ve observed unsafe adaptation of tools, such as tying rags to mop heads, in order to prep hard to reach areas. We identify and address these types of challenges and innovate to solve our customers’ needs.”