Disposal of Lab Chemicals

Written by meg butler
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Disposal of Lab Chemicals
Chemicals must be properly disposed of. (laboratory image by Oleg Verbitsky from Fotolia.com)

Proper disposal of lab chemicals is an important aspect of lab use. Before using the lab, guidelines of the school, hospital or organisation regarding lab safety and waste disposal must be read thoroughly. In most labs, chemical disposal is handled by university or hospital officials specifically trained to handle and dispose of chemical lab waste in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)'s regulations. Before the waste reaches them, however, it must be properly sealed and stored.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Labels
  • Containers
  • Waste cabinet
  • Heavy-duty plastic bags
  • Cardboard boxes

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Label waste containers before any chemical waste is stored in them. Federal law demands that waste containers must obtain the exact words "Hazardous Waste" printed on a clearly visible label. The label must also clearly identify the waste product contained in the bottles (and any other information that your lab manual dictates). If the container has an old label, you must completely remove or deface it to avoid confusion.

  2. 2

    Store accumulating lab chemicals in the appropriate waste container. Use only glass or polythene containers to contain chemical waste. Store solid chemical waste in a heavy duty plastic bag placed inside of a cardboard box. Sharps must be in a designated sharps container provided by your lab supervisor or waste disposal manager. The containers are ready for disposal pickup when they are full. Leave at least one inch of space in the top of containers that store liquid chemical waste. Do not mix different types of chemical waste in individual storage containers. Keep containers sealed when they are not in use.

  3. 3

    Store waste containers in a designated waste cabinet. Ideally, waste disposal cabinets are explosion resistant. Clearly label the cabinet "Hazardous Waste" and include a list of the waste chemicals stored in containers in the cabinet. Certain chemicals should not be stored in the same cabinet. See the "warnings" section at the bottom of the article for a list of incompatible chemicals. The cabinet should not be located near a drain where liquid chemicals may escape should there be an accidental spill.

  4. 4

    Deliver chemical waste containers to the appropriate waste department of the hospital or university. Most departments will require you to fill out a form upon receipt of the chemical waste. If there is no waste disposal department for your chemical laboratory, contact your local solid waste or public health department to inquire about hazardous waste pickup.

Tips and warnings

  • Never store the following wastes in the same cabinet: acids with bases, organics with acids, any cyanide, sulphide or arsenic compound with acid, alkali or alkali earth metal with liquids, powdered or reactive metals with combustibles, mercury with silver, mercury with ammonium or ammonium with silver.

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