Before generating chemical waste, the researcher should determine how it will be collected and stored and obtain the necessary equipment (containers, labels) in advance. The choice of procedures depends on the type of waste and its final disposition. This section explains how to determine the final disposition of waste, select the appropriate waste container, and store waste in the lab or work area. It also suggests waste minimization strategies.
The final disposition of a chemical waste is determined by the answers to a series of questions:
Step 1. Is the waste Contaminated Debris (glassware, paper towels, clean-up materials), or is it a chemical or chemical mixture?
If it is contaminated debris: Go to Step 5.
If it is a chemical or chemical mixture: Go to Step 2.
Step 2. Is the chemical a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) controlled substance? (Refer to the DEA list controlled substances )
Yes: Refer to the DEA Controlled Substances Guide for disposal procedures.
No: Go to Step 3.
Step 3. Is the chemical a solid (not liquid or gas)?
Yes: Collect and store the waste as described in the waste container and storage guidelines listed below and dispose of it through the Division of Research Safety (DRS) chemical waste disposal program. See the section Procedures for Requesting Chemical Waste Disposal for the disposal procedures. (No solid chemical waste, hazardous or non-hazardous, should be placed in the regular trash.)
No: Go to Step 4.
Step 4. Is the chemical a liquid non-hazardous waste as listed in the section Liquid Non-Hazardous Chemical Waste Disposal?
Yes: The chemical may be poured down the sanitary sewer (sink drain) with copious amounts of water.
No: Collect and store the waste as described in the waste container and storage guidelines listed below, and dispose of it through the DRS chemical waste disposal program. See the section Procedures for Requesting Chemical Waste Disposal for the disposal procedures.
Step 5. Is the contaminated debris laboratory glassware (broken and unbroken)?
Yes: See the Laboratory Glassware Waste Disposal section.
No: Go to Step 6.
Step 6. Is the debris contaminated with a substance listed in the section Liquid Non-Hazardous Chemical Waste Disposal?
Yes: The contaminated debris can be disposed of in the regular trash.
No: Collect and store the contaminated debris as described in the waste container and storage guidelines listed below; dispose of it through the DRS chemical waste disposal program. See the section Procedures for Requesting Chemical Waste Disposal for the disposal procedures.
Except in high volume situations, 55-gallon drums should not be used for accumulating waste chemicals. If you need to use a drum, contact DRS by email at email@example.com or by phone at 217-333-2755. Do NOT store more than one drum in any given area. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require that if a site has more than 55 gallons of waste, the excess shall be removed within 72 hours. DRS can provide instructions on how to meet this regulatory requirement.
Drums for chemical collection should not be smaller than 55 gallons. If you do not generate enough waste to fill a 55 gallon drum, then use 10 liter jerricans and request frequent chemical waste pickups.
Jerricans should be used to collect liquid high-volume (at least 10 L or more a year) waste streams that are not reactive, extremely toxic, or malodorous. Solids must be filtered out before adding the waste to a jerrican. Wastes that should be collected in jerricans include:
Other waste streams may be accepted in jerricans. Check with the DRS Chemical Waste Section (firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-333-2755) before using a jerrican to be sure that DRS can bulk the waste. Otherwise, DRS may be unable to return the jerrican because it will have to be directly packed for shipment to the off-site waste treatment and disposal facility where it will be destroyed.
For labs in the Chemistry Department located in Roger Adams Laboratories, solvent or oil waste collected in jerricans can be disposed through the Roger Adams Laboratories Jerrican Pickup Program.
The chart below lists items that SHOULD NOT be placed in a jerrican because they are reactive when bulked with other chemicals, create odor problems, or are too toxic to bulk. DRS will be unable to return the jerrican if its contents react when tested or if it contains any of the chemicals listed below. Chemicals known to react with solvents or that are otherwise extremely toxic should never be added to a jerrican.
Do NOT Dispose of the Following Chemicals in Jerricans:
Alkaline and alkaline earth hydrides and alkyls in solutions
Alkyl silyl halides
Lithium aluminum hydride
Aluminum and gallium trialkyls
Amines > 5% by vol.
Metal halides and oxyhalides
Silicon and germanium hydroalkyls
Sodium or calcium hydride
Sulfuric acid (conc.)
Thio ketones or esters
Zinc and cadmium alkyls
Ethyl Ether > 5% by vol.
The advantages of chemical waste segregation include:
Use the following segregation guidelines to generate manageable waste streams:
This includes gloves, paper, plastic, glass, and other inert debris contaminated with chemicals. There should be no free liquids or solid chemicals in debris waste, only residues.
Debris that does not fall into one of the above scenarios is not considered contaminated debris and may be disposed of in the regular trash.
Packaging: Contaminated debris should be placed in sturdy plastic bags and closed securely. The outside of the bags should be labeled “[Chemical name] Contaminated Debris” or in the case of spill clean-up materials, “[Chemical name] Spill Clean-up Debris.” Do not use biohazard or radioactive waste bags for chemical waste or chemical-contaminated debris unless the hazard is present. (Note that ethidium bromide waste is a chemical waste, not a biohazardous waste.)
To request disposal of contaminated debris, submit a pickup request through the DRS web-site. Under the "Waste Management" tab, select "Regulated Waste" from the drop-down menu. Detailed instructions for the steps involved in the waste submission process are available on the bottom of the page.
To submit a request, click on the link to "Access the Waste Management App." The application allows you to search and choose from hundreds of contaminated debris wastes. Be sure to change your search parameters to "Contains," rather than "Begins with" - this will make searching for your waste much easier.
If you have contaminated debris waste which is not in the Waste Management App database, choose "New Chemical." In the Waste Description box list each constituent of the debris waste (e.g., paper towels contaminated with acetic acid). If you need assistance, please contact DRS (email@example.com or 217-333-2755).
Instructions for disposal of laboratory glassware are available here.
Waste minimization is any action that reduces the amount and/or toxicity of a chemical waste that must be shipped off-site for disposal as hazardous waste. The EPA ranks the three primary methods for waste minimization as follows:
The American Chemical Society has also recognized the need for minimizing chemical waste and has written a document on the topic, Less is Better.
Source reduction is the most desirable and effective method of waste minimization. This is any activity that reduces or eliminates the generation of chemical waste at the source. Laboratories can accomplish this by good material management, using the least hazardous materials possible, and good laboratory procedures.
Good material management means purchasing only the amount of chemical needed for a procedure.Buy only what you need. Use all of what you buy.
It is also good laboratory procedure to prepare only the amount of solutions needed for the work anticipated; to consider the types and amounts of wastes to be generated as a factor in choosing techniques and procedures; and to handle and store chemicals so as to minimize spill prevention.
Recycling is reusing a waste material for another purpose, treating and reusing it in the same process, or reclaiming it for another process. This is the second most desirable approach to waste minimization. Solvent redistillation is one example of recycling laboratory materials.
The third waste minimization method is treatment. From a regulatory point of view, this is best done in the laboratory because almost all treatment activities at the DRS waste storage facility require a permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, but if treatment is conducted in the laboratory as part of an experimental or analytical procedure, a special permit is not required. The most common treatment is elementary neutralization. Other kinds of treatment may involve chemical, physical, or biological methods.