Maria Nicopulos

January 22, 2024



Rags, i.e. cleaning cloths contaminated with hazardous substances are produced almost in every works, workshop or factory as a result of cleaning or degreasing surfaces with solvents, removers or oily substances. Hazardous waste is generated, depending on the applied chemical agent. This hazardous waste should be properly classified in accordance with the EU Commission Regulation No. 1357/2014 of 18 December 2014, EU Council Regulation No. 2017/997 of 8 June 2017 as well as with European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR).

Classification in accordance with the European Waste Catalogue

Cleaning cloths are made of neutral materials such as: paper, fabrics, including neutral (cotton) or synthetic (viscose) fabrics and synthetic materials (for example polyester). When absorb or contaminate hazardous substances used for cleaning, degreasing or disinfection, they become hazardous waste.

In order for a material to be classified as a hazardous waste, it must display at least one of the 15 hazardous properties (HP) listed below:


Table number 1. Hazardous properties of waste according to HP codes

HPproperties of waste which render it hazardous
HP 1Explosive
HP4Irritant — skin irritation and eye damage
HP5Specific Target Organ Toxicity (STOT)/Aspiration Toxicity
HP6Acute Toxicity
HP10Toxic for reproduction
HP12Release of an acute toxic gas
HP15Waste capable of exhibiting a hazardous property listed above not directly displayed by the original waste


According to the European Waste Catalogue defined in Commission Decision 2000/532/EC “absorbents, filter materials (including oil filters not otherwise specified), wiping cloths and protective clothing contaminated with hazardous substances shall be defined by the code 15.02.02*. Any waste marked with an asterisk (*) is considered as a hazardous waste. Contaminated cleaning cloth can be found under different waste codes listed in group 07 (wastes from organic chemical processes) as:

  • halogenated filter cakes and spent absorbents (codes: 07 01 09*, 07 02 09*
    07 03 09*, 07 04 09*, 07 05 09*, 07 06 09*, 07 07 09*), and:


  • other filter cakes and spent absorbents (codes: 07 01 10*, 07 02 10*, 07 03 10*, 07 04 10*,
    07 05 10*, 07 06 10*, 07 07 10*).


Classification in accordance with the ADR

The chapter 2.1.3 of the ADR defined how to classify hazardous waste. Substances including solutions and mixtures (such as preparations and wastes) not mentioned by name shall be classified according to their degree of danger on the basis of the criteria mentioned in sub-section 2.2.x.1 of the various classes.

The danger(s) presented by the substance shall be determined on the basis of its physical and chemical characteristics and physiological properties. Such characteristics and properties shall also be taken into account when such experience leads to a more stringent assignment.

If the substance to be carried is a waste, with a composition that is not precisely known, its assignment to a UN number and packing group in accordance with may be based on the consignor’s knowledge of the waste, including all available technical and safety data as requested by safety and environmental legislation in force.

In case of doubt, the highest danger level shall be taken. If however, on the basis of the knowledge of the composition of the waste and the physical and chemical properties of the identified components, it is possible to demonstrate that the properties of the waste do not correspond to the properties of the packing group I level, the waste may be classified by default in the most appropriate n.o.s. entry of packing group II. However, if it is known that the waste possesses only environmentally hazardous properties, it may be assigned to packing group III under UN Nos. 3077 or 3082.


This simplified procedure should not be applied in relation to wastes containing:

  • substances mentioned w ADR (material of Class 7, 1, 2, liquid desensitized explosives of Class 3; material of Class 4.3, Self-reactive substances and solid desensitized explosives of Class 4.1, Pyrophoric substances of Class 4.2, Substances of Class 5.2, 6.1 II PG, 8, I PG, 6.2),
  • substances of the case mentioned in, or
  • substances which are not accepted for carriage in accordance with 2.2.x.2.

In table 3.2 A of dangerous goods list are listed the following items, which name and description may have reference to contaminated cleaning cloth.


Table number 2: UN numbers, which may be applied to classification of contaminated cleaning cloth (own elaboration):

No.UN No.Name and description ClassPGComments
2.UN 3175SOLIDS or mixtures of solids (such as preparations and wastes) CONTAINING FLAMMABLE LIQUID, N.O.S. having a flash-point up to 60 °C4.1II 
3.UN 3360Fibres, vegetable, dry4.1 NOT SUBJECT TO ADR
5.UN 1372Fibres, animal or fibres, vegetable burnt, wet or damp4.2 NOT SUBJECT TO ADR
7.UN 1387Wool waste, wet4.2 NOT SUBJECT TO ADR
8.UN 1856Rags, oily4.2 NOT SUBJECT TO ADR
9.UN 1857Textile waste, wet4.2 NOT SUBJECT TO ADR


In my work as a DGSA advisor I have encountered several times of classifying contaminated cleaning cloth under one of the five positions marked in blue in table no. 2, most commonly UN 1856 Rags, oily. For these five UN in Table 3.2 of ADR there is a notation: NOT SUBJECT TO ADR, and the problem is solved. But are we sure? Why cannot we in the same way classify absorbents, wiping cloths and protective clothing contaminated with hazardous substances?

The UN numbers such as: UN 1372, UN 1387, UN 1856, UN 1857 UN 3360 were created for the maritime transport of dangerous goods. They pose danger only by transporting them by sea. In the IMDG Code each of these UN number has its unique Packing instructions (P410, P003 with PP19), and Special provisions in section 3.3. Harmonizing regulations regarding various fields of the transport of dangerous goods, these UN numbers were incorporated into the twelfth revised edition of the Model Regulations in document ST/SG/AC.10/C.3/1999/1 by the IMO during its sixteenth session held from July 5 to 14, 1999. At each of them, was included a specific provision SP 117 “subject to these Regulations only when transported by sea”. These UN numbers were introduced to RID/ADR in 2003. Because the SP 117 applies only in maritime transport, in RID/ADR there is an notation: “NOT SUBJECT TO ADR”.

On September 1, 2005, a German expert raised this issue during the twenty-eighth session of the Subcommittee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, held from November 28 to December 7, 2005, presenting document ST/SG/AC.10/C.3/2005/28. Not only he proposed to delete SP 117 in column (6) in Table 3.2 A, but also apply for these five UN numbers in RID/ADR the same provisions as in the IMDG Code. He underlined that the entry “NOT SUBJECT TO ADR” caused confusion because users of RID/ADR may consider that there is no need to determine the data for classifying such substances. He gave an example from Germany, where rags and cloths, depending on their properties, were assigned either to UN 3175 SOLIDS CONTAINING FLAMMABLE LIQUID, N.O.S., if the flash-point of the solvent used is less than 61°C or to UN 1325 FLAMMABLE SOLID, ORGANIC, N.O.S., if cloths or rags have properties of Class 4.1, or to UN 3088 SELF-HEATING SOLID, ORGANIC, N.O.S. , if the cloths or rags have properties of Class 4.2.

In the report of Committee from the twenty-eight session (ST/SG/AC.10/C.3/56) we can read that in the opinion of Committee the argument of German expert concerning technical problems, i.e. discrepancies in marking and placarding cargo transport units with dangerous goods, which are in accordance with the IMDG Code but not in accordance with RID/ADR, is not sufficient to transposition of provisions. The goods considered as dangerous goods in the IMDG Code should not be considered as dangerous in ADR.

The real problem are not the discrepancies in labelling, but the differences in classification of these dangerous goods in RID/ADR/ADN, and IMDG. The same hazardous waste such as cleaning cloths and rags contaminated by oils that have properties of Class 4.2., in accordance to ADR classification are transported by road under the UN 3088 SELF-HEATING SOLID, ORGANIC, N.O.S., Class 4.2., but in maritime transport it may be classified under the UN 1856 Rags, oily, 4.2. Try to image the situation like this: the container with the UN 1857 Textile waste, wet, 4.2 was transported by sea. Then the transport changed to the road one. According to the ADR the container doesn’t contain any dangerous goods. But properties of this hazardous waste haven’t changed! It’s the same material, and it cannot be considered as neutral goods!

Moreover, “NOT SUBJECT TO ADR” for five UN numbers, for goods which are dangerous only in maritime transport, could be misleading. Many DGSA advisor who don’t know anything about the history of the ADR regulations, and help companies in classifying hazardous waste, try to do their job in the most efficient and safe way. They find in the Table 3.2 A the UN 1856, Rags, oily, and apply this UN to cleaning cloth contaminated by oils. The ADR is not applicable for this UN number, so any regulations of ADR concerning packing, labelling or documents are not applied. Perhaps, adding this special provision to these 5 UN numbers, for example SP 117 “subject to these Regulations only when transported by sea”, prevents incorrect classification.

The notation “NOT SUBJECT TO ADR” appears in the Table 3.2 ADR for 13 different UN numbers, among others for UN 1910 Calcium oxide, Class 8, or UN2216 Fish meal, (Fish scrap), stabilized, Class 9. The entry is also often used in section 2.2 about classification in each classes, and means that certain goods because of various reasons are excluded, and the ADR regulations do not apply to them. The transport participant does not find the information in the ADR regulations that 5 of 13 UN numbers listed in the Table 3.2 A with the notation “NOT SUBJECT TO ADR” apply exclusively to the UN numbers for the purpose of transporting dangerous goods by sea. However, do they not pose a threat in road transport as well?

In IATA DGR for the safe carriage of dangerous goods by air for these five UN numbers there is a note: “prohibited = cannot be transported”. However, the special notes A2 provides for such a possibility, that with the consent of the competent authority of the country of origin and the operator’s country after determining conditions of transport, the transport of goods is possible in freight aircraft.


Absorbents, filter cakes, wiping cloths and protective clothing contaminated with hazardous substances shall be always classified in accordance with ADR. The danger(s) presented by the substance, and choice of the UN from the Table 3.2. A shall be determined on the basis of its physical and chemical characteristics and physiological properties. These substances cannot be classified under the UN 1372, UN 1387, UN 1856, UN 1857, UN 3360 which are applicable only for dangerous good in maritime transport. In this case the harmonization of RID/ADR/ADN and IMDG regulations would be appropriate, as there are indications that these goods also pose risks in road.