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Environmental Health and Safety

Waste Disposal

Various types of wastes are generated in laboratories. Disposal of wastes is a responsibility of the generator of the waste.  Please review the university's high hazard and unknown waste minimization policy [pdf].

The most common laboratory wastes and how to dispose of them are described below:

  1. Hazardous (chemical) waste - all chemical wastes deemed as characteristic or listed wastes must be collected, labeled, stored, and disposed off according to our hazardous waste policy. Additional guidelines must be followed for special wastes such as:
    • Unknowns - treat all unknowns as hazardous waste.  Label with hazardous waste tag and write UNKNOWN and its possible identity.  Gather information about the unknown from past or present members of the lab group to determine possible identity of the material.
    • Peroxide formers
    • Waste that generate gas -  Two common mixtures such as aqua regia (nitric acid + hydrochloric acid) and piranha (sulfuric acid + hydrogen peroxide) tend to produce gas and must be stored carefully to prevent pressurizing or exploding containers.  These and other similar mixtures must be stored in approved waste containers that have a second cap for venting. These containers can be requested from EH&S.
    • Mercury containing items such as thermometers, thermostat switches and manometers must be collected for proper disposal through EH&S and not disposed in the trash.
    • Silica gels, dessicants, molecular sieve, chromatography columns contaminated with hazardous chemicals.  These materials are used to absorb hazardous chemicals and therefore, must be collected as hazardous waste. Place in 5-gallon bucket with lid, label as hazardous waste and request EH&S pick-up on-line.
    • Ethidium bromide gells - collect in a 5-gallon bucket with lid, label as hazardous waste and request EH&S pick-up online.
  2. Biohazard waste
  3. Radioactive waste
  4. Mixed waste
    • Mixed wastes are materials contaminated with two or more of chemical, biological or radioactive agents. Avoid generating mixed wastes as much as possible. Call EH&S 803-777-5269 to determine the best way to dispose of mixed wastes.
  5. Empty chemical containers
    • Make sure that the container is empty.
    • Check if the chemical is p-listed. If chemical is p-listed, tag as hazardous waste and request EH&S pick-up online.
    • If chemical emits strong odors, tag as hazardous waste and request pick-up online.
    • If chemical is not p-listed:
      • Remove label or simply deface by crossing out label completely using a marking pen (label should be unreadable).
      • If container is plastic, dispose as regular trash.
      • If container is glass, place in sturdy cardboard box. Tape the box closed, label with “EMPTY GLASS BOTTLES” and place in dumpster. 
  6. Broken glass and small glass items (pipettes, stirring rods, sample bottles) 
    • If contaminated with biological or radioactive materials, see #2 and #3.
    • If contaminated with p-listed chemicals, collect in 5-gallon plastic bucket with a lid and request EH&S pick-up online.
    • If not contaminated with biological and radioactive materials or p-listed chemicals:
      • Place in 5-gallon plastic bucket with a lid. When bucket is full, dispose in the dumpster.
      • Alternatively,  use a small or medium-sized, thick cardboard box lined with heavy duty trash bag or a commercially available broken glass box pre-lined with a plastic bag. A thick cardboard and a thick plastic lining are necessary to catch any excess liquid and small glass pieces.  This will also keep sharp edges from poking through the box. Do not use large boxes; they are very heavy for lifting when full of broken glass.
      • Once the box is full, tape the box securely. Label with “ Broken Glass”.
      • Place box in the dumpster.
      • NOTE: Broken glass must not be transferred from a transitional container to another due to increased risk of injury from unnecessary additional handling of broken glass.  Once a box is filled with broken glass, the box must be taped up and discarded.  If a plastic bucket with lid is used for collecting broken glass, the plastic bucket must be discarded with the broken glass.  Contents may NOT be transferred to another container to save the bucket.
  7. Sharps including syringes and needles, blade, scalpels
    • Collect in leak-proof, puncture resistant container and dispose in biohazard box.  For location of biohazard boxes, call the Biosafety Office at (803) 777-1625.
  8. Non-glass, solid wastes  
    • Include paper towels, filter paper, weighing boats, plastic pipette tips, disposable plastic pipettes, and others
    • Check if the chemical contaminant is p-listed. If chemical is p-listed, collect solid waste in 5-gallon bucket with a lid and also lined with plastic bag. Tag as hazardous waste and request EH&S pick-up online.
    • If chemical contaminant is NOT p-listed, collect as normal trash.
  9. Gas cylinders
    • Empty gas cylinders must be returned to the vendor.  If the cylinder is old and the vendor who owns the cylinder cannot be determined, contact EH&S to determine the best way to dispose of the "orphaned" cylinder.
  10. Lecture bottles
    • EH&S recommends that researchers purchase lecture bottles from vendors who will accept partially full or empty containers when they are no longer needed in the lab.  The disposal of lecture bottles is very expensive. If the vendor or supplier will not accept an
      unwanted lecture bottle, contact EH&S to arrange for its disposal.
  11. DEA Controlled Substances and other drugs
    • EH&S does not collect nor destroy DEA controlled substances or other drugs.  For information on this subject, consult the DHEC's Bureau of Drug Control, who enforces the S.C. Controlled Substances Act, which closely parallels the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
    • For more information on DEA substance use on animal research, contact the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources (DLAR).

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