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Chemical & Laboratory Safety

Chemical Waste & Hazardous (Chemical) Waste Collection


To schedule a Hazardous (Chemical) Waste Pick-up and/or to order waste containers click here.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is closely scrutinizing academic institutions these days. Under EPA regulations, those individuals who continue to dump chemical waste down the drain will face stiff fines and a possible jail term. This punishment will be levied against the offending laboratory employee, not the University.

All this talk of fines is unnecessary, however, because UVA maintains a user-friendly waste disposal program. Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) answers waste collection questions and will even pick up your chemical waste upon request, but we need your help. Take the time to follow the simple guidelines below, and call EHS if you have any questions (434-982-4911).

Hazardous Waste Collection Guidelines for persons generating/collecting Hazardous (Chemical) Waste in NON-laboratory areas can be found here.

Waste Segregation

We prefer to keep certain types of chemicals separated at the time of collection. This method not only lowers disposal costs for the University, but also decreases the chances of incompatible materials being added together.

Keep the following groups to themselves whenever possible:

  1. Non-halogenated organic solvents, <5% water
  2. Non-halogenated organic solvents, >5% water
  3. Halogenated solvents (% water unimportant)
  4. Solutions containing compounds of the following metals: arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, silver and selenium.
  5. Any solution containing mercury or its compounds. (Mercury/mercury compounds should be kept separate from any liquid whenever possible.)
  6. Acids, organic
  7. Acids, mineral
  8. Bases, organic
  9. Bases, mineral
  10. Acyl Halides (e.g. acetyl chloride, thionyl chloride, benzoyl chloride)
  11. Cyanides
  12. Sulfides
  13. Organic peroxides
  14. Inorganic Oxidizers
  15. Photographic fixer
  16. Photographic developer
  17. Photographic stop bath
  18. Water-reactive compounds (e.g. sodium, butyllithium, grignard reagents)
  19. Pesticides
  20. Oils
  21. Paints
  22. Formaldehyde Solutions

Do not put acidic or basic waste (pH <3 or >9) in metal cans. Metal cans corrode in a very short time. Keep acids and bases separate from hydrocarbons and ethers.

When possible, keep all carcinogens/mutagens/teratogens separate from other waste. Keep aqueous wastes separate from organic solvents. Keep halogenated solvents and wastes separate from non-halogenated solvents.

Containers and Labels for Hazardous Chemical Waste

Do not put hazardous waste down the sink or in the trash. If you are not sure if a chemical is hazardous, call EHS.

EHS provides the following containers for chemical waste collection, activities requiring special containers are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

4 liter (~1 gallon) plastic-coated glass bottle

5 gallon plastic carboy
This is the preferred (DOT-approved) container for liquid chemical waste.

5 gallon bucket
The 5 gallon bucket is used for solid and gel waste.
Liquid waste should NEVER be put into a bucket like this.

Chemically contaminated needles should be placed in Sharps-a-Gator boxes, and will be disposed of by EHS.

All chemical waste must be deposited in properly labeled waste containers. According to the Virginia Department of Waste Management, each waste container MUST be marked with a HAZARDOUS WASTE STICKER (see image below), issued by EHS. Any containers issued by our office will already contain this sticker. If you plan to use your own bottles as waste receptacles, you can receive the required stickers by contacting our office (434-982-4911).

In addition to waste stickers, all waste containers MUST contain a WASTE DISPOSAL LABEL (see image below), issued by EHS. This includes chemicals still in their original containers. Waste will not be picked up if it is not labeled properly. If you need new labels, let us know and we will deliver them on our pickups.

Both the label and its no-carbon-required copy should be affixed to the waste container by a single piece of tape across the top of the label, or in such a way that we can remove the copy when we pick up the waste.

Chemically contaminated lab trash should be collected in trash bags inside 5-gallon screw top pails, also provided by EHS, NOT in CMC's. Only Regulated Medical Waste should go into a CMC. If you have questions about whether your chemically contaminated trash needs to be picked up by EHS call EHS at 434-982-4911.

Information that is absolutely required on the chemical WASTE DISPOSAL LABEL

  1. The names of all possible contents, including stains, water, or any solvents. Do not use abbreviations or formulas.
  2. The percentages of each component (total must equal 100%).
  3. The total quantity.
  4. The pH of the waste liquids if it is suspected to be below pH 3 or above pH 10.
  5. Also include your name, date, department, building and room number where the waste is located, phone number, and lab director.

IMPORTANT: Disposal companies will not accept unknown chemicals. You must make every possible effort to accurately describe the contents of each container. This means tracking down and questioning previous lab occupants if necessary.

DO NOT FILL CONTAINERS TO THE TOP. Fill plastic carboys ONLY to the fill line. Leave about 2 inches at the top of all other containers. All waste must reside in closed, non-leaking containers. Do not use flasks or test tubes with stoppers, beakers with parafilm, or bottles with ground glass stoppers. The outside of the waste container must be reasonably clean. Do not put liquids (especially phenol) in bottles designed for solids. They leak!

The Virginia Department of Waste Management has stated that all chemical waste containers must remain CLOSED (capped) between chemical waste additions. When chemical waste containers are left uncapped, laboratory personnel are at the risk of chemical exposure due to inhalation of chemical vapors. This will be an area of emphasis in future Virginia Department of Waste Management inspections of the university.

We do not pick up empty bottles. They may be triple rinsed and discarded. We will supply empty bottles, as well as 5-gallon cans and carboys. Call in advance for these items and we will bring them with your regular pickup.

Potential Accidents

Ethers tend to form extremely explosive compounds over time. Therefore, date all ether cans. Do not keep an open ether can for more than 1 month or an unopened can for more than 12 months. If you have an old ether can, label as waste and call EHS for pick up.

Do not attempt to open any bottles of DRY picric acid. This is an extreme explosion hazard!!! Any dry bottles of picric acid should be labeled as waste and picked up by EHS staff.

How to Request a Chemical Waste Pick-up

Do not accumulate more than five 5-gallon cans or carboys, or more than ten gallons in bottles. Larger pickups will have to be scheduled separately.

Use this online form or call EHS at 434-982-4911 to schedule a waste pick up. Chemical waste will be picked up within three working days from the date it was requested to be picked up.

Examples of Chemical Waste Labels