Frequently Asked Questions - Hazardous Waste

If you don't find your answer e-mail us at safety@uvm.edu so that we can add your question to this database. Click on the question below to be taken to its answer.

How should I dispose of laboratory waste (such as empty well plates and Eppendorf pipette tips) that have not come into contact with any hazardous materials?

How should I dispose of empty non-returnable gas cylinders, e.g. empty lecture bottles?

How should I dispose of large lead acid batteries?

Where do I get the multi-part white "Laboratory Waste Tag" and the yellow "Laboratory Waste Accumulation" stickers?

When does my chemical or Biological waste get picked up?

How do I dispose of empty chemical containers?

Is it okay to use a ‘Ziploc’ plastic bag for storage of chemically contaminated items?

What do I do when I break a piece of mercury containing equipment?

How should I dispose of fluorescent light bulbs?

Can I use my Chemical Spill Kit on all chemical spills?

Can I mix my acids with some alkaline liquids to neutralize them and pour them down the drain?

Are there any chemicals that I should not mix together for disposal?

Can I put chemical waste in red Biohaz bags?

My laboratory is moving. What should I do with my waste chemicals?

I had a chemical spill. What should I do?

I am cleaning out a freezer full of old samples. What should I do with them?

What do I do with an unknown chemical?

How should I dispose of laboratory waste (such as empty well plates and Eppendorf pipette tips) that have not come into contact with any hazardous or biohazardous materials?

Please dispose of these items in the new UNcontaminated lab waste box or Glass Box so that they won't be confused with hazardous materials by UVM custodians, our trash haulers or in the landfill.  If these items are "pokey" or considered to be sharps, they should be placed in a puncture proof container before going in the UNcontaminated lab waste box.  

Safety staff have put UNcontaminated Lab Waste boxes around campus in various locations where there are other lab safety supplies.  Please email safety@uvm.edu if you need us to re-stock a supply area.

How should I dispose of empty non-returnable gas cylinders, e.g. empty lecture bottles?

Empty gas cylinders that are not returnable must be tagged and disposed of as hazardous waste. Due to the high cost of disposal, Safety staff recommends against the purchase of non-returnable gas cylinders.

 

How should I dispose of large lead acid batteries?

Fill out a waste tag and enter the tag online. Safety staff pick up lead acid batteries as hazardous waste. Please tag each battery for hazardous waste pick up and disposal.

 

Where do I get the multi-part white "Laboratory Waste Tag" and the yellow "Laboratory Waste Accumulation" stickers?

These are both available at:

  • Given Mailroom (in a box across from the mailboxes)
  • HSRF 221 (dark room on shelf)
  • Stafford Mailroom
  • Rubenstein Laboratory (mail desk)
  • Colchester Research Facility mail room next to maintenance office
  • Cook (Room 243, Chem Stockroom)
  • Marsh Life Science (Biology Stockroom)
  • Votey 304 Mailroom

Additional labels and tags are available through safety@uvm.edu.

When does my chemical/biological waste get picked up?

Chemical waste is picked 2-3x per week from main campus (Fridays ONLY for Cook building).  For off-campus laboratories, such as in Colchester Research Facility and Rubenstein laboratories, waste is picked up the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month. 

Biohazardous waste pickups occur every Tuesday morning (updated January 2014). Anyone located on the main campus with biohazardous waste that is not connected to HSRF loading dock (Votey, Dewey, Terrill) can email safety@uvm.edu to request a biohazardous waste box pickup.  Please request the pick-up Monday morning before 9:00 am.  Biohazardous boxes filled with frozen carcasses or waste must not be placed in the HSRF bio storage shed until early Tuesday morning; this is when the biohaz waste vendor comes to pickup all waste from UVM.

How do I dispose of empty chemical containers?

HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS

1) Empty containers that held solid or liquid chemicals that are air or water reactives, stench chemicals, or highly hazardous materials such as carcinogens, teratogens, mutagens, or acutely toxic materials must be securely closed and tagged for pickup through the hazardous waste disposal system. See the UVM HCOC (Hazardous Chemicals of Concern) list attached to the Chemical Use Planning form to identify these chemicals at http://esf.uvm.edu/uvmemp/01chemuse.pdf.

2) Empty containers that held solid or liquid chemicals such as corrosives, flammables or other toxics not referenced above must be handled according to these guidelines:

  • They MUST be thoroughly rinsed with water and the label MUST be defaced.
  • The rinse water can go down the drain. If rinsed with a solvent the solvent must be collected as hazardous waste.
  • Do not place empty containers in the fume hood to evaporate.

DISPOSAL of the rinsed containers:

  • Empty glass and plastic containers that held hazardous chemicals are not recyclable. They can be reused as laboratory waste containers or go in the trash. Make sure they are thoroughly rinsed, labels defaced, and clearly labeled as ‘Trash’. Custodians will dispose of them for you.
  • Metal cans should be placed in recycling bins. Make sure they are thoroughly rinsed, labels defaced, and if clearly labeled ‘For Recycling’ custodians will manage them for you.
  • If labels are not defaced with an obliterating sticker or a heavy magic marker then storage guidelines for the named chemical apply.

 

NON-HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS

There is no need to rinse the container. Follow disposal guidelines in #2 above.

 

Is it okay to use a ‘Ziploc’ plastic bag for storage of chemically contaminated items?

Dry chemically contaminated debris can be collected in a closed container such as a closed ziploc bag.  It must be labeled with the yellow Laboratory Waste Accumulation sticker if you are accumulating the material over time. When you are ready for us to pick it up for disposal, it must be tagged with a Laboratory Waste tag and entered online. There must be no free liquids. Spill clean-up materials (pads, contaminated gloves, etc) may also be placed in a closed ziploc bag and tagged with a Laboratory Waste tag as well.

Never use a biohazard bag to store chemical debris.

 

What do I do when I break a piece of mercury containing equipment?

Mercury is very difficult to clean up completely and can release vapors that can create toxic levels at room temperature. A surprisingly small amount of mercury can create a significant concentration of mercury in the room air. Therefore, do not try to clean it up yourself.

First, turn off the equipment to prevent further release of mercury vapors and have all personnel leave the room. Close the door, place a sign to avoid re-entry, and call the ESF at 656-5400. We will respond as soon as possible to complete the clean up and monitor the room air for mercury vapors.

For broken mercury containing fluorescent bulbs please see the next item, below.

 

How should I dispose of fluorescent light bulbs?

The white powder found inside fluorescent lamps contains mercury and must be handled according to state and federal regulations. You can clean up broken bulbs following the directions on the UVM Recycling and Waste Management website: http://www.uvm.edu/%7Erecycle/?Page=Guide/broken_lamps.html UVM Custodians have also received training on proper clean up of broken mercury-containing lightbulbs.

Contact Physical Plant Department with a Famis Work Order (http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmppd/?Page=forms/howtofamis.html) to have any unbroken burned out bulbs replaced or collected. UVM Environmental Safety ultimately receives all fluorescent lamps from campus and sends them to a lamp recycling facility.

 

Can I use my Chemical Spill Kit on all chemical spills?

There are 2 styles of spill kits that have been supplied by the ES:

1) The older version consists of an absorbent powder, a brush for sweeping it effectively over the spilled chemical, nitrile gloves, instructions and multi-part laboratory waste tags. The spill kit is specifically designed for use by lab personnel in cleaning up small spills (1 liter or less); the absorbent powder is compatible with most chemicals, with the exceptions of hydrofluoric acid and metallic mercury.

2) After March, 2007, we were not able to obtain additional absorbent powder and so have substituted gray absorbent pads (this also eliminates the need for the brush in the kit). The pads are compatible with all chemicals including hydrofluoric acid, but do not work with metallic mercury spills. They still have a maximum capacity of about 1 liter.

Note that neither absorbent removes any hazards associated with the spilled chemicals and that the clean up materials must be treated as chemical waste.

Call Police Services at 911 for help with any spill of chemicals that have corrosive, flammable or toxic vapors or that are in quantities large enough to preclude clean up by lab workers.

 

Can I mix my acids with some alkaline liquids to neutralize them and pour them down the drain?

Please do not treat any of your hazardous chemicals in order to dispose of them down the drain or in the trash. There are regulatory implications to any drain disposal of hazardous materials. Contact us at safety@uvm.edu if you have questions about proper disposal of chemical or other waste.

 

Are there any chemicals that I should not mix together for disposal?

Yes. Do not mix any chemicals for disposal without checking with Environmental Safety staff first. In many cases, mixing chemicals together results in a much higher disposal cost and sometimes makes it impossible to dispose of a material. Acutely hazardous chemicals and mercury should never be mixed with other chemicals.

 

Can I put chemical waste in red Biohaz bags?

No, please use only CLEAR bags to collect any waste or debris contaminated with chemicals. Label them with the “Laboratory Waste Accumulation” sticker while collecting waste. When full, complete and attach the multi-part white “Laboratory Waste” tag for disposal.

 

My laboratory is moving. What should I do with my waste chemicals?

Please do not tag each individual container. Set the chemicals to be disposed of aside in your laboratory and place a note on the collection that says “For Environmental Safety (ES) disposal”. Contact us at mailto:esf@uvm.edu to schedule a time for ES technicians to sort the waste chemicals into groups based on their hazard class and Department of Transportation regulations. Then you will be able to use one tag per group of chemicals and save yourself and us the time and effort of managing a large number of tags.

 

I had a chemical spill. What should I do?

If it is a spill you cannot manage on your own, all workers should leave the lab, place a DO NOT ENTER sign on the door and call ESF at 6-5400. Have the following information available:

1) Your name, building and room number

2) A phone number to reach you at

3) The name of the chemical spilled

4) How much spilled

5) Where the spill is

6) If anyone is hurt

Environmental Safety (ES) staff can then assess the situation and decide whether it can be safely cleaned up by laboratory personnel with a Spill Kit or if an ES technician or contractor should do the cleanup. If in doubt call the ES for advice.

 

I am cleaning out a freezer full of old samples. What should I do with them?

It depends if they are biological samples or chemical samples. Before you thaw the samples, call us to have an Environmental Safety technician visit to help you sort through the containers. It may take us several days to arrange to pick up waste materials.

 

What do I do with an unknown chemical?

Before tagging a chemical as an unknown please work to find out and record any information about the chemical from other lab personnel, notebooks or lab procedures. Tag unknown chemicals by listing the contents as "unknown" and submitting the tag information online as usual. Place the containers in a secondary container separate from other chemicals until they are picked up by the ES personnel. Pickup will be separate from your other tagged waste to allow Environmental Safety Technicians the time to conduct appropriate testing on these chemicals for proper storage with compatible chemicals while they await shipment to a hazardous waste processing facility.