Hazardous Waste FAQs
EHS offers two classroom training sessions on hazardous waste management. Hazardous Waste Management Workshop is intended for students and employees who work in laboratory or classroom settings. Hazardous Waste Management for Facilities Workshop is intended for maintenance and repair employees. Classes are generally offered at least once per month, depending on demand. You can register for the appropriate workshop by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
All employees and students who are identified by their unit administrators as individuals who generate and/or manage hazardous waste shall attend the university Hazardous Waste Management workshop, or other appropriate training approved by the Environmental Health and Safety Office, prior to generating and/or managing hazardous waste at any university facilities. After initial training, this training requirement must be met once every five years.
Always perform a "hazardous waste determination" before disposing of any chemical waste into the trash or down the drain. In general, chemical waste is hazardous if the pH is at or below 2 OR at or above 12.5 (corrosive waste) OR the flashpoint is below 140 degrees Fahrenheit (flammable waste) OR the waste is normally unstable (reactive waste) OR it is toxic. Chemical waste that is not flammable, corrosive or reactive is often managed as toxic.
Hazardous waste management is more thoroughly described in the classroom Hazardous Waste Management workshop, which is mandatory for all hazardous waste handlers.
These are highly toxic materials that are capable of causing or significantly contributing to an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating illness. For our purposes, they include discarded unused formulations of trichlorophenol, tetrachlorophenol, and pentachlorophenol AND discarded commercial chemical products, including dilutions, that are specifically listed as acute hazardous wastes (also called P-listed chemicals).
You can reuse empty reagent bottles as chemical waste containers, making sure that the container is compatible with the anticipated waste. Or, send an email to email@example.com and request the type and number of containers you would like.
Chemicals become hazardous waste when someone decides to no longer use them. Label containers as soon as they contain even one drop of an unwanted chemical. Mark the container with the words “HAZARDOUS WASTE” or with words that identify the contents of the container, such as “Waste Sulfuric Acid/Lead.”
- Choose a container that is compatible with the chemical waste.
- For liquid waste, the container must be sturdy and have a tight-fitting screw cap.
- Label the container.
- Keep the container closed except when adding or removing waste.
- Store the waste at or near the point of generation. DO NOT move it to another room.
- Keep the waste under the control of the person who generates it. Make sure to dispose of all wastes before leaving the university.
- Store no more than 55 gallons of hazardous waste or one quart of acutely hazardous waste.
- If a container of chemical waste leaks, transfer the remainder to another container that is in good condition, and clean up the leaked material.
Submit a request to EHS through our online Chemical Waste Collection Request system. When prompted, be sure to print a collection request label and attach it to the waste container.
We make every effort to collect the waste within 10 working days of the online request.
- It has not been submitted for disposal via an online Chemical Waste Collection Request.
- A Chemical Waste Collection Request label is not attached to the container.
- The contents of the container are unknown or the listing of constituents is incomplete.
- A container for liquid waste does not have a tight-fitting lid.
- The container is damaged or leaking.
- The container is overfilled.
First, try to avoid the generation of “unknowns” by labeling all chemical containers. If an unknown container appears, inquire of your co-workers if they may know of the contents. Submit a Chemical Waste Collection Request, listing the constituents as “Unknown.” Under Comments, provide as much information as possible, such as color and appearance, pH if applicable, possible constituents, etc.
Sharps include such items as:
- Razor and X-acto blades
- Broken glass such as Pasteur pipettes and labware
A sharps disposal guide is available to help you properly dispose of sharps.
Do not use red biohazard bags for chemically-contaminated waste. Disinfect the biohazard component by autoclaving or applying a recognized chemical disinfectant; then, manage the sterilized waste as a chemical waste. List the chemical constituents on the hazardous waste label.
If the container held an acute hazardous waste (P-listed chemical), you must triple-rinse the container with an appropriate solvent, collecting each of the rinsates for disposal as hazardous waste. Otherwise, thoroughly empty the container by pouring until dripping stops, or scooping solid chemicals from the container. Use a Magic Marker to obliterate the manufacturer label and mark “EMPTY” on the container. You may wish to place empty containers of liquid chemicals in a fume hood and allow to ventilate overnight. Then, place the containers in a laboratory broken glass box or in a sturdy cardboard box that is marked “Broken Glassware” or “Laboratory Glass.” When full, tape the box closed and place directly in a municipal waste dumpster.
Certain hazardous wastes are generated by many, if not most, businesses in the United States. To encourage proper handling of these “Universal Wastes,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed regulations for these materials that are less stringent than other hazardous wastes. The reduced requirements apply to batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment and lamps that would have otherwise been a hazardous waste.
Newer alkaline and carbon/zinc batteries can be disposed in the normal trash. Most other types of batteries, such as lithium, Ni-Cad, NiMH, Silver-oxide and sealed lead-acid, are managed as a Universal Waste. Please see the Universal Waste page for additional information.
All fluorescent lights contain a small amount of mercury. A specific list of newer models can be disposed in the normal trash. Other fluorescent light bulbs, including compact fluorescent lights, are managed as a Universal Waste. Please see the Universal Waste page for additional information.
Unbroken mercury thermometers are managed as a Universal Waste. Broken mercury thermometers must be sealed in a plastic bag and submitted for disposal as a hazardous waste. Please see the Universal Waste page for additional information.
Unused, stock supplies of pesticides are typically managed as a Universal Waste. Rinsates should be mixed with the next application. If it is not feasible to spray-out rinsates, collect them for disposal as hazardous waste. Please see the Universal Waste page for additional information.