Chemical waste disposal

What is meant by “used/unwanted chemicals”?

 Our definition of a used or unwanted chemical is very broad. It can be a chemical in its original container, either opened or unopened. It can be reaction by-products, mixtures, or solvents. It also may include items such as glassware or gloves contaminated with chemicals.

Careful about using the word “waste”?

 While you may consider many of your used or unwanted chemicals as “waste” we prefer you do not apply this label. “Waste” has a lot of different meanings and there are important regulatory implications to this word. This is especially true if the waste is categorized as “hazardous” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Labeling materials as “hazardous waste” requires specific actions to remain in compliance with regulations. The Chemical Waste Management group within the Chemical Safety Office has the responsibility to ensure that materials are disposed of properly and that the University is in compliance with both EPA and state regulations.

 What is the definition of “hazardous waste”?

 The EPA has created lists (P and U) of specific chemicals and waste streams which must be considered as “hazardous waste” upon disposal, this includes many acutely toxic chemicals. It is important to note that these listed do not necessarily have to be pure chemicals, mixtures, by-products, or contaminated materials. Even if a material is not listed, it may still be hazardous waste if it has one of the characteristics listed below:

     Ignitability – This includes flammable liquids with a flash point below 140oF, solids susceptible to vigorous burning by friction, water absorption, or spontaneous chemical change, flammable compressed gases, and strong oxidizers.

     Corrosivity – This includes liquids with pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5, or that corrode steel faster than a quarter-inch per year at 55oC.

     Reactivity – Reactive wastes include materials that generate toxic gases in contact with water, wastes that contain cyanide or sulfide and can release toxic gases in contact with strong acids or bases, explosive materials, or materials that are explosive when heated.

“Non-hazardous waste”?

  • Containers of partially used chemicals,
  • Aqueous or solid by-products, or
  • Chemically-contaminated lab trash?

These items can sometimes simply be placed in a dumpster or put into the sanitary sewer under certain circumstances. The university believes strongly in environmental stewardship and disposes of many items using methods beyond what the regulations require.

 Essential rules for managing chemical waste

When possible, seek ways that will minimize the quantity of waste generated inside the laboratory.

  • Only use appropriate containers for the storage of waste materials (Plastic is preferred).
  • Store chemical waste in a designated Area.
  • Properly label all waste containers.
  • Keep waste containers closed.
  • Contact EHS for pick-up.

 Waste Minimization

Ways to help achieve the goal of reducing the volume of chemical waste generated on campus includes but is not limited to:

  • Practice the concept of Source Reduction by simply ordering the smallest quantity of chemical materials required for your research.
  • Keep an inventory of chemicals on hand.
  • Substitute hazardous chemicals with non-hazardous chemicals whenever possible.
  • Reduce the scale of laboratory experiments to reduce the volume of waste being produced whenever possible.


Chapter 6 :

Appendix A :

Chapter 7 :

 Waste Container (Carboy) Management

The Chemical Safety Office provides carboys for your used halogenated and non-halogenated organic solvents. EHS also provide carboys for used silica gels and alumina as well as other resins. These come with the necessary “Hazardous Waste” labeling.

Waste containers stored in a designated Area must be:

  • In good condition
  • Compatible with the waste being stored
  • Kept closed at all times except when filling
  • Labeled with a green chemical waste label
  • Stored inside secondary containment bins
  • Waste must always remain in the lab
  • Never store waste in PUBLIC AREAS (such as hallways)

 Properly labeling of Carboys

All Carboys must have a chemical waste label affixed at the time waste is first placed into the container. The label can be found at

  • The contact information and chemical constituents must also be entered at this time.
  • Chemical percentages must be completed when the container is filled.
  • Don’t use chemical symbols, abbreviations, or codes for waste identification.

Waste containers must be properly labeled and placed into secondary containment


 Why is labeling so important?

  • · EHS staff members need this information to decide how to safely manage the material.
  • · Environmental laws require the generator to label chemical waste materials.
  • · Chemical constituents must be known to allow us to dispose of chemicals with minimal cost and impact to the environment.

 Chemical waste pickup

 important Links

Disposal of Chemically Contaminated Needles & Syringes