Exposure to hazardous waste can cause a host of harmful effects to humans and the environment.
Hazardous waste can harm wildlife, seep through soil, mix with groundwater, and eventually get consumed.
Preventing these outcomes starts in the lab. It starts with how you clean your empty chemical containers, how you dump the hazardous waste, and how you dispose of your containers.
We'll take a look at several key concerns:
Let’s get started.
It can be tough to know whether a chemical is hazardous or not.
Labels can be misread or poorly designed, and sometimes, the universal sign for hazardous waste is missing – among other complications.
Thankfully, the EPA has put together a master list of “P-Listed” wastes. These chemicals are deemed “acutely hazardous,” and there are almost 200 of them.
Whenever you are unsure, refer to this list. It’s in alphabetical order so the chemicals are easy to find.
UC Berkley put together a list of chemicals that cannot be washed down the drain:
Refer to this list before dumping any chemicals. If you have these types of chemicals and need to dispose of them, contact your local hazardous waste transportation company.
Once chemical containers are cleaned, they are no longer determined hazardous waste.
However, they do need to be meticulously cleaned to remove all traces of the chemical before being disposed of.
To clean a chemical container, follow this process from the University of California at San Diego:
For volatile organic solvents not on the list of acutely hazardous waste (like acetone, ethanol, ethyl acetate, ethyl ether, hexane, methanol, methylene chloride, petroleum ether, toluene, xylene, etc.), the emptied container can be air-dried in a ventilated area without triple rinsing (Princeton).
UC San Diego provides a good outline that will tell you if your container is clean enough to be disposed.
Finally, if it’s impossible for you to clean the container, it must be collected by your facilities EH&S department or contact a hazardous waste disposal company.
According to UC San Diego, containers should be disposed of according to their size.
Chemical containers, and the chemicals within them, need to be disposed of appropriately.
You know which chemicals are hazardous, which chemicals you cannot wash down the drain, how to clean a chemical container, how to know if it is cleaned properly, and how to dispose of your empty chemical containers.
Follow this process and you will help reduce the harmful effects hazardous waste can cause to both humans and the environment.