The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forbids the disposal of several goods down drains. To comply with safety, health, and legal standards, hazardous chemical waste created in a laboratory environment is typically held on-site in a proper waste carboy before being later picked up and disposed of by a specialized contractor.
For instance, a lot of Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) departments and divisions have collection and oversight responsibilities. The usual practice is to burn organic waste and solvents.
Recycling is used for some chemical wastes, such as used elemental mercury. The sewer system or normal trash cannot be used to dispose of it. The EHS Hazardous Waste Program must be used to dispose of the majority of chemical wastes.
The proper approach to chemical waste disposal methods, the various types of hazardous waste, recognizing and minimizing potential fire threats, and the significance of risk assessment will all be covered in this article.
Table of Contents
What is Chemical Waste?
The phrase “chemical waste” refers to both smaller-scale chemicals disposed of by businesses and families as well as dangerous chemical byproducts from manufacturing plants and laboratories.
Depending on the suggested method of disposal, a lot of chemical waste can be labeled as hazardous waste. Any surplus, unused, or undesired chemical, particularly one that harms the environment or human health, is referred to as chemical waste. Chemical waste can be categorized as home hazardous waste, universal waste, hazardous waste, and non-hazardous waste.
Radioactive waste and radioactive chemical waste need specific management and disposal techniques. Despite frequently being chemical, biohazardous waste is divided into four groups and treated accordingly.
Examples of Chemical Waste
- By-Products from manufacturing or laboratories
- Reagent-grade chemicals
- Used oil
- Spent solvents
- Gas Cylinders
- Chemical Powders
- Electronic Equipment
- Toner / Print Cartridges
- Solutions and Chemicals for Film Processing
- Contaminated Syringes, Needles, GC Syringes, Razor Blades, Pasteur Pipettes, and Pipette Tips
- Industrial cleaning supplies
- Fluorescent light bulbs
- Lighting ballasts
- Ethylene glycol
- Glues, and adhesives
- Degreasing Solvent
- Fluids, including Transmission, Radiator, Brake, and Steering Fluids
- Resin, including Epoxy and Styrene
- Spray Cans
- By-products and intermediates from research and educational experimentation
- Chemically tainted objects
- Tools and devices for handling hazardous waste
- Preserved specimens
Chemical Waste Disposal Methods
Legal prohibitions against improper chemical disposal make rigorous adherence to recommended practices essential. You might need to use a lot of water to wash chemicals down the drain in some circumstances. These things are covered by this:
Along with the standard packing specifications, the following particular guidelines for chemical waste must be adhered to:
- Don’t ever combine incompatible materials in one container.
- Garbage must be kept in containers that work with the chemicals kept there. For instance, it is prohibited to store caustic chemicals in metal containers and hydrofluoric acid waste in glass containers.
- To collect and temporarily store significant volumes (10–20 liters) of flammable organic waste solvents, solvent safety cans should be utilized. These cans need to be delivered by the researcher to the lab. As long as the cans are correctly labeled with the building and laboratory room number, they will be immediately emptied and returned to the lab.
- Avoid filling safety cans with solids, precipitates, or other non-fluid waste.
- If at all possible, package halogenated and non-halogenated solvents separately. The University incurs additional costs when getting rid of halogenated solvents (e.g., chloroform, carbon tetrachloride).
- Buildings with Central Waste Storage will feature drums for contaminated glass and plastic which lab personnel can empty their containers into.
- Do not put solid chemical waste into biohazard bags since this falsely signals a hazard that is not present.
Along with the general labeling guidelines provided, the following particular guidelines for chemical waste must be followed:
- Directly affix a Chemical Waste label to the trash can. Chemical waste labels are freely available to EPS employees.
- You should give all the information needed on the Chemical Waste Label. Chemicals must be included with their generic names. There should be no usage of acronyms, abbreviations, or brand names. The use of ambiguous categories (like “solvent waste”) is not permitted.
These particular standards for chemical waste must be adhered to in addition to the general storage requirements
- The building’s central waste-holding facility should be used to store any leftover chemicals. The chemical waste should be temporarily kept in the generator’s lab if such a facility is not accessible.
- All safety measures necessary for the handling and storage of chemicals shall be followed for wastes produced.
- As opposed to alphabetically, waste should be divided into compatibility groups such as acids, bases, flammables, oxidizers, and water reactive.
- Quickly get rid of used containers. Some chemicals can deteriorate quickly and produce potentially dangerous byproducts. For instance, ethers can produce explosive organic peroxides as they break down.
4. Chemical Compatibility
- It is the generator’s duty to make sure that incompatible chemicals are not stored in the same container when preparing chemical waste for disposal. Waste containers should be stored based on how chemically reactive they are. Here are a few broad examples:
- Never combine any inorganic acid (e.g., sulphuric or hydrochloric acid) with acid-reactive substances that release gaseous products when acidified (such as cyanides and sulfides).
- Organic acids and inorganic acids ought to be kept apart (for instance, glacial acetic acid). While most organic acids are either reducing agents or flammable, inorganic acids often act as oxidizing agents.
- Materials that react with water, like sodium, should be kept away from all sources of water.
- Organic substances (e.g., organic bases like pyridine, aniline, amines, flammable solvents like toluene, and acetone) or reducing agents should never be combined with oxidizers (i.e., any inorganic compound that aids fire such as hydrogen peroxide, lead nitrate) (e.g., water-reactive chemicals such as sodium).
Although it is an inorganic acid, perchloric acid is a strong oxidant and should be regarded as such in its concentrated state.
The previous step dealt with regularly generated chemical wastes from instruction and research. Periodically, chemical wastes are produced that need additional or particular handling, as will be covered below.
Facilities and Services Trades employees are taught in the proper disposal of asbestos-containing products, such as bunsen burner pads, gloves, etc.
Household batteries should be disposed of in the recycling bins that have been installed throughout the campus. Facilities and Services provide drop-off containers; before putting any lithium batteries in them, tape the terminals of each one.
7. Empty Drums
Staff from EPS will remove empty drums (20 to 205-liter capacity).
8. Ethidium Bromide
All ethidium bromide-contaminated items, including solids like gloves, need to be stored in a secure container, identified as chemical waste, and handled accordingly. Ethidium bromide-contaminated gels should be placed in leak-proof plastic containers (no trash bags) and disposed of as chemical waste.
Avoid handling anything explosive. Materials like trinitrate compounds (like TNT), dry picric acid (20% by weight water content), fulminated mercury, and heavy metal azides are examples of explosives (e.g., lead azide).
For disposal, these materials need to be handled carefully. These materials need to be regularly inspected for aging and degrading indicators. These symptoms can include a container “sweating,” swelling, the forming of crystals around the cap, etc.
Handling deteriorating explosive materials may be riskier than handling fresh explosives. Inform EPS right away.
10. Gas Cylinders
All gas cylinders ought to be viewed as high-energy sources. Utilize the smallest size necessary to complete the task. Verify if empty cylinders can be returned to the supplier directly before purchasing the cylinder.
These materials are exceedingly expensive and challenging to dispose of elsewhere. For more information, get in touch with the EPS Office.
11. Mercury Thermometers
Mercury thermometers should be treated as chemical waste when disposed of. All free liquid mercury should be collected and stored in a leak-proof container, together with all contaminated solids such as glassware, gloves used during the cleanup, etc. Broken thermometers should be treated as contaminated.
12. Paint Cans
Paint cans that are empty or used up are typically disposed of as chemical waste.
13. Peroxidizable Compounds
Less than a six-month supply of these products should be ordered, and the order should be dated after the container has been opened. After exposure to air for 6 months, organic peroxide generation can start, even if a commercial inhibitor has been added by the manufacturer.
The likelihood of peroxide generation is decreased by ordering fewer items in larger amounts and decreasing the amount of these things that must be stored. Explosive organic peroxides exist.
Potential constituents of organic peroxide include the following:
- diethylene glycol
- ether isopropyl ether
14. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Waste products contaminated with PCBs need to be handled, stored, and disposed of with extra care. In Ontario, any trash that contains more PCBs than 50 ppm is regarded as PCB-contaminated.
Transformers with the brand name Aroclor (or the generic fluid known as askarel), which were often used in North America, are one source of PCBs. Liquid PCBs were used in almost every capacitor produced between 1930 and 1980.
PCBs were also employed in a wide range of applications, such as pumps for vapor diffusion, electromagnets, hydraulic equipment, and heat transfer equipment.
Samples can be examined by EPS personnel to see if they contain PCBs. Environmental Protection Services must organize any special disposal plans.
Chemical waste has a significant impact on our environment and health that’s why the proper disposal of this waste needs to be taken seriously. As we have seen, there are different methods of chemical waste disposal and this correlates with the kind of chemical waste that is to be disposed of.
This should be carefully followed to ensure appropriate chemical waste disposal and consequently, a healthier environment.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.