Chemical waste

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Chemical waste is a waste that is made from harmful chemicals (mostly produced by large factories). Chemical waste may fall under regulations such as COSHH in the United Kingdom, or the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in the United States. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as state and local regulations also regulate chemical use and disposal.[1] Chemical waste may or may not be classed as hazardous waste. A chemical hazardous waste is a solid, liquid, or gaseous material that displays either a “Hazardous Characteristic” or is specifically “listed” by name as a hazardous waste. There are four characteristics chemical wastes may have to be considered as hazardous. These are Ignitability, Corrosivity, Reactivity, and Toxicity. This type of hazardous waste must be categorized as to its identity, constituents, and hazards so that it may be safely handled and managed.[2] Chemical waste is a broad term and encompasses many types of materials. Consult your Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), Product Data Sheet or Label for a list of constituents. These sources will tell you if you have a chemical waste that needs special disposal.[3]


In the laboratory, chemical wastes are usually segregated on-site into appropriate waste carboys, and disposed by a specialist contractor in order to meet safety, health, and legislative requirements.

Waste organic solvents are separated into chlorinated and non-chlorinated solvent waste. Chlorinated solvent waste is usually incinerated at high temperature to minimize the formation of dioxins.[4][5] Non-chlorinated solvent waste can be burned for energy recovery. Innocuous aqueous waste (such as solutions of sodium chloride) may be poured down the sink; aqueous waste containing toxic compounds are collected separately.

Waste elemental mercury, spent acids and bases may be collected separately for recycling.

Broken glassware are usually collected in plastic-lined cardboard boxes for landfilling. Due to contamination, they are usually not suitable for recycling. Similarly, used hypodermic needles are collected as sharps and are incinerated as medical waste.

Guidance for Disposal of Laboratory Chemical Wastes[edit]

If in the laboratory, some chemicals can be washed down with excess water.[6] This includes: concentrated and dilute acids and alkalis, harmless soluble inorganic salts (all drying agents), alcohols containing salts, hypochlorite solutions, fine (tlc grade) silica and alumina.

In contrast to this, chemical materials on the "Red List" should never be washed down a drain. This list includes[6]: compounds with transitional metals, biocides, cyanides, mineral oils and hydrocarbons, poisonous organosilicon compounds, metal phosphides, phosphorus element, and fluorides and nitrites.

Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits disposing certain materials down any UVM drain.[7] Including flammable liquids, liquids capable of causing damage to wastewater facilities (this can be determined by the pH), highly viscous materials capable of causing an obstruction in the wastewater system, radioactive materials, materials that have or create a strong odor, wastewater capable of significantly raising the temperature of the system, and pharmaceuticals or endocrine disruptors.

When disposing hazardous laboratory chemical waste, chemical compatibility must be considered. For safe disposal, the container must be chemically compatible with the material it will hold. Chemicals must not react with, weaken, or dissolve the container or lid. Acids or bases should not be stored in metal. Hydrofluoric acid should not store in glass. Gasoline (solvents) should not store or transport in lightweight polyethylene containers such as milk jugs. Moreover, the Chemical Compatibility Guidelines should be considered for more detailed information.[8]

Chemical Compatibility Guideline[9][edit]

Many chemicals may react adversely when combined. It’s recommended that incompatible chemicals are stored in separate areas of the lab.

Acids should be separated from alkalis, metals, cyanides, sulfides, azides, phosphides, and oxidizers. The reason being, when combined acids with these type of compounds, violent exothermic reaction can occur possibly causing flammable gas, and in some cases explosions.

Oxidizers should be separated from acids, organic materials, metals, reducing agents, and ammonia. This is because when combined oxidizers with these type of compounds, inflammable, and sometimes toxic compounds can occur.

Laboratory Waste containers[edit]

Label all containers with the group name from the chemical waste category and an itemized list of the contents. All chemicals or anything contaminated with chemicals posing a significant hazard.All waste must be appropriately packaged.[10]

Container should be sturdy and leakproof,it also has to be labeled.[11]

All liquid waste must be stored in leakproof containers with a screw- top or other secure lid. Snap caps, mis-sized caps, parafilm and other loose fitting lids are not acceptable. If necessary, transfer waste material to a container that can be securely closed. Keep waste containers closed except when adding waste. Secondary containment should be in place to capture spills and leaks from the primary container, segregate incompatible hazardous wastes, such as acids and bases.[12]

Mapping of chemical waste in the United States[edit]

TOXMAP is a Geographic Information System (GIS) from the Division of Specialized Information Services[13] of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) that uses maps of the United States to help users visually explore data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory and Superfund Basic Research Programs. TOXMAP is a resource funded by the US Federal Government. TOXMAP's chemical and environmental health information is taken from NLM's Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET)[14] and PubMed, and from other authoritative sources.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hallam, Bill (April–May 2010). "Techniques for Efficient Hazardous Chemicals Handling and Disposal". Pollution Equipment News. p. 13. 
  2. ^ "LABORATORY CHEMICAL WASTE MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES" (PDF). Environmental Health and Radiation Safety University of Pennsylvania. 
  3. ^ "Waste - Disposal of Laboratory Wastes (GUIDANCE) | Current Staff | University of St Andrews". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  4. ^ Shibamoto, T; Yasuhara, A; Katami, T (2007). "Dioxin formation from waste incineration.". Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology 190: 1–41. PMID 17432330. 
  5. ^ Europa. "Waste incineration". 
  6. ^ a b "Waste - Disposal of Laboratory Wastes (GUIDANCE) | Current Staff | University of St Andrews". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  7. ^ "Chemical Waste Management | Environmental Health and Safety at UVM". Retrieved 2016-02-04. 
  8. ^ "How to Store and Dispose of Hazardous Chemical Waste". Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  9. ^ "Chemical Compatibility and Segregation Guides". Retrieved 2016-02-12. 
  10. ^ Laboratory, National Research Council (US) Committee on Prudent Practices in the (2011-01-01). "Management of Waste". 
  11. ^ "Laboratory Waste Disposal" (PDF). 
  13. ^ "SIS Specialized Information System". United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  14. ^ "Toxnet". United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]