There are a variety of wastes that may be generated in UVM labs. Examples of chemical waste include the following:

  • Old and/or expired chemicals,
  • Chemical waste solutions that no longer have any use,
  • Chemically-contaminated debris (gloves, kimwipes, paper towels, etc), and
  • Research samples that are no longer needed.

The more chemicals combined into one waste container, the more challenging (more hazardous) and expensive the waste can be to dispose of properly. The information below is designed to assist you in disposing of your lab waste properly.  

Anyone who generates lab waste should complete the online Lab Waste Disposal Training. Contact your lab safety coordinator if you have any questions about how to combine or collect lab wastes for safe disposal. 

When are waste pickups?

On campus locations: Waste technicians pick up tagged waste containers 2x a week on main campus.

Off-campus locations: Waste generated at off-campus buildings (e.g.Colchester Research Facility, Rubenstein Labs, Proctor Maple Research Facility, UVM Horticulture Education and Research Center, Morgan Horse Farm, etc.) is picked up on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month. 

Waste Basics

Before you begin collecting lab waste, contact your lab safety coordinator so they can recommend a safe waste collection protocol. Then, review the section below called Waste Container Choice.  Understanding how to collect waste properly reduces the hazards for UVM waste technicians who handle and manage your lab waste.  For example, combining more than one chemical inside one waste container can often make it more difficult to safely manage and dispose of the waste and increases the disposal cost. Be careful if you re-use containers in the lab to collect wastes; the waste must be compatible with whatever the original container held.

Lab Waste Accumulation

Lab wastes that will accumulate over a period of time must be labeled with a yellow Laboratory Waste Accumulation label. This is specified in UVM's Lab Safety Program and is clearly mentioned on the monthly Lab Self-Inspection Checklist.

It is critical to complete all of the blanks on the Lab Waste Accumulation Label to ensure that laboratory personnel, Safety staff, custodians, Physical Plant personnel, and emergency responders can identify the contents of any lab container easily. Waste accumulation labels and laboratory waste tags are available from several locations on campus.

Lab waste labeling at UVM is a two-part procedure:

  1. Fill out all blanks on a yellow Waste Accumulation Label on any container that is being used to collect (accumulate) waste over time. This must be done when the first bit of waste is added to the container.
  2. Once a waste container is full OR before 6 months from the waste accumulation start date, complete a white Lab Waste Tag and enter the tag online.

Entering the lab waste tag online notifies our waste technicians that you have waste ready for pickup. Be sure to hang or tape the waste tag to the container itself.

see imageView supporting diagrams (waste accumulation label)


If you are not following this procedure, it may cause an accident and your lab and waste are out of compliance with UVM's Laboratory Safety Program.  Please review the details about this procedure below. 

Sink Disposal

Anything poured down a UVM drain goes directly to Burlington's wastewater treatment facility and eventually discharge into Lake Champlain. To protect this area resource, and per the EPA and Burlington Public Works Department, lab personnel are prohibited from drain disposing of the following materials:

  • Flammable liquids (flash point = or < 140 F);
  • Reactive or explosive materials;
  • Liquids with pH = or < 4.5;
  • Liquids with pH = or > 9.5;
  • Highly viscous materials (e.g. oils) capable of causing an obstruction in the wastewater system;
  • Radioactive materials;
  • Materials that have or create a strong odor (e.g. H2S, CS2, NH3, BME, SO2, etc.);
  • Materials capable of significantly raising the temperature of the system;
  • Grease or oils according to the following guidelines:
    • Petroleum > 15 mg/L,
    • Animal or vegetable > 100 mg/L,
    • Non-emulsified or "floatable" oils or grease; 
  • Pharmaceuticals or endocrine disruptors; 
  • Dyes or solutions with dyes.

Only materials that have been approved for sink disposal may go down the drain at UVM. Many non-hazardous salt and sugar solutions have been approved for drain disposal, but please err on the side of caution.

Submit an online Sink Disposal Request Form if you are disposing of anything that is not on the approved list. Please be sure to indicate 100% of the constituents in the solution, even if the solvent is water.


Collect solvents used to clean glassware

Solvents used to rinse clean glassware (acetone, ethanol, Nochromix, etc) are required to be collected as hazardous waste and disposed of through UVM's waste disposal procedures.


Disposal via evaporation is prohibited

Evaporation of hazardous materials in a chemical fume hood for the purpose of disposal is prohibited.

Fume hoods are used to control exposure to vapors during experimental processes and may increase the evaporation rate of some of the chemicals being used. To minimize the potential for air pollution as a result of fume hood use close caps tightly when not in use, and never store chemicals, including wastes, in the fume hood. Clutter and extra materials stored on the fume hood work surface prevents proper movement of airflow and can cause laboratory accidents.

Waste Container Choice

There are many steps in determining the appropriate waste container. The following information is to help guide you in your selection.


Container Material

To choose the proper waste container, the material, type of cap, and size of the container matters. Take a moment to consider the following questions:

  • Are the waste chemicals compatible with the container material?
  • Are the waste chemicals that are going to be mixed together compatible with each other?
  • Have you checked with Safety staff to ensure that the waste combination is safe and easily disposed in a single container? i.e. Are separate waste streams needed?
  • Is a vented cap needed?
vented cap

Email safety staff if you are unsure about how to collect waste in your area.

Pay attention to manufacturer containers. If HCl was originally shipped from a distributor in a glass container (or a glass container coated with plastic), a glass container (or a glass container coated with plastic) may be the safest choice in which to store a waste HCl solution.

e.g. 30% hydrogen peroxide solution is shipped from a distributor in a container with a vented cap. Be sure to purchase and store waste solutions of this material at varying concentrations in a pressure-relieving container with a vented cap.

Improperly choosing a waste container can increase the risk of the waste container degrading, leaking, or building up unnecessary pressure, leading to a potential lab injury.


Container Size

Think about how much waste you will generate within a specific time frame. 

e.g. If you estimate that you will generate 1 G of a specific waste stream over a one year period of time,  a 1 G waste container may be too large because lab waste can't be more than 6 months old before it is required to be picked up for disposal. If you estimate that a procedure will generate 500 mL of waste in one week, and you have hundreds of samples to run, a larger waste container may be a better choice.

Safety staff are always available to help make these kinds of waste descisions.


Do's and Don'ts of Waste Container Choices


  • make sure chemical waste containers are leak-proof.
  • keep containers free of contamination.
  • use screw-top caps only and make sure they fit the container.
  • securly close caps when not adding waste to the container.


  • use empty household or food-grade containers to collect waste (e.g.plastic milk jugs or juice containers).
  • use a bleach container or a nitric acid bottle to collect waste (both of these react with several chemicals)
  • use open beakers to collect waste.
  • use snap-on caps or glass stoppers.
  • store waste chemicals that are corrosive in a metal container.
  • use a metal can as a secondary containment bin for corrosive chemicals.

see imageView supporting diagrams (waste container choices)



Re-use of stock chemical containers to collect waste

If you re-use a stock chemical container to collect waste, be sure that

  1. The container has been triple rinsed,
  2. Chemicals being added are compatible with chemicals that the container held originally,
  3. De-face the original chemical label, and 
  4. Place a yellow laboratory waste accumulation label on the container when the first drop of waste is added.

Clearly label any reused containers as "EMPTY" and de-face the original labels until you start using them.

Safety Tip:

  • Never rinse and re-use a chemical container that held a highly hazardous or reactive material.  The empty container itself should be tagged as waste.
  • Never use a rinsed container for collecting waste that contains a reactive material, such as nitric acid.


(Empty) Acutely Toxic Chemical Containers

Any empty chemical container that held highly hazardous or reactive material, such as sodium azide, osmium tetroxide or cyanides, is required to be tagged for waste disposal (see list of acutely hazardous chemicals).


UVM Chemsource Containers

UVM Chemsource sells 1 G amber glass waste containers and 5 G (20 liters) plastic containers for liquid or solid waste collection. While most waste containers cannot be returned to users the 5 G waste containers are replaced during pickup. Customers pay for the initial 5 G waste container, and they are swapped out at no additional charge.

Labs that need to collect lab waste in volumes larger than 5 gallons (20-liters) should contact Safety staff before doing so.

If your lab needs smaller waste containers, please contact a contracted UVM preferred vendor, such a VWR or Thermo-Fischer Scientific, to purchase the appropriate size waste containers for your needs.

Laboratory Waste Labels

The yellow Lab Waste Accumulation label must be filled out completely as soon as any waste is added to the container. As part of the required UVM monthly laboratory self-inspection, visibly inspect waste containers and their labels. If the information written on a waste label is unreadable (has faded over time or chemicals have dripped on to the label), replace it. A properly filled out laboratory waste accumulation label includes the following:

  • Full English names to list all of the contents,
  • The date that the waste began being collected, and
  • Circles around the appropriate hazard(s) of the contents.

Waste container labels MUST be visible and readable at all times.


Avoid Confusion

Double labeling causes confusion. Never place an orange or green label AND a yellow waste accumulation label on the same container. Only use one or the other. If a label is still visible after placing a waste accumulation label, make sure to fully de-face the one that is no longer useful.

Waste accumulation container labels and laboratory waste tags are available from several locations on campus or by contacting

see imageView supporting diagrams (double labels)

Segregation and Storage of Waste

Key Requirements

  • Waste containers must be securely closed when not in use.
  • All liquid laboratory wastes must be stored in secondary containment in case the primary container fails.
  • Never leave a funnel in a waste container unless the funnel itself is designed to be a secure lid.
  • Avoid or minimize the storage of waste materials inside a chemical fume hood to preserve space for working safely and to allow for proper airflow within the fume hood.  
  • Flammable waste should be stored within a flammable safety cabinet and must count towards the fire code storage limits for the lab.
  • Do not store waste containers on the floor. In some cases, larger, non-glass containers of waste may be stored on the floor inside of a secondary containment bin. Never block aisles and/or egress and do not create a tripping hazard.


Chemical waste storage cabinets

Store chemical waste by hazard with other compatible chemicals in a properly labeled chemical storage cabinet. Never store waste in a chemical fume hood unless odors are being emitted (e.g. phenol, chloroform).

Cabinets used for multiple waste containers that are labeled "Chemical Waste Storage Area" must have smaller secondary containment bins inside to separate incompatible chemicals. Please see the Chemical Storage Guide.


Prevent leaks

Leave 2 inches of empty space at the top of waste containers - never overfill.

Waste containers must be inspected at least monthly, per the self inspection checklist, to assure that no degradation of the container or its contents has occurred.

A leaking container must be either packed in a secondary container, or its contents transferred to another container.

Laboratory Waste Tag

Once a waste container is full OR the date on the container is approaching the 6 month time frame, fill out a white muti-part Laboratory Waste Tag. List all chemical contents in English (no formulas) and estimated percentages.

Waste tags are uniquely numbered. NEVER MAKE UP A TAG NUMBER. After manually filling out a waste tag,

  • Enter the waste tag online,
  • Attach the tag to the waste container using the attached string or with tape, and
  • Place the containers into a properly labeled storage cabinet with other compatible chemicals.

Make sure to keep wastes in segregated secondary containers. Do not store waste in a chemical fume hood unless odors are being emitted.


Waste Pick Up

Waste technicians pick up laboratory waste for disposal 2x per week on main campus from most lab buildings. Here are the exceptions:

  • Discovery - picked up only on Fridays.
  • Off-campus buildings - picked up on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month.
    • Colchester Reserach Facility
    • Rubenstein Laboratories
    • Proctor Maple Research Facility
    • UVM Horticulture Education and Research Center 
  • For other pick up times, e.g. before breaks, shortened weeks, etc., notification will be sent to lab personnel.

Waste accumulation container labels and laboratory waste tags are available from several locations on campus or by contacting


How to Tag Multiple Containers Containing Identical Waste

5 G waste containers MUST always be tagged individually. Never tag a group of 5 G containers on one tag.

Should you have identical waste solutions in several containers that are smaller than 5 G, you may use one lab waste tag for the group of identical waste. In the "Amount" section of the waste tag, please enter the TOTAL amount in all of the containers, and don't forget to include the number of containers.

Chemical Spills: Contaminated Spill Debris

Chemical spills of one liter or less can be cleaned up by lab personnel using the Chemical Spill Kit that is provided by Risk Management & Safety to every lab on campus. 

Debris, such as contaminated gloves, cardboard, bench pads, glassware, etc should be collected in a CLEAR plastic bag and tagged immediately with a laboratory waste tag. Safety staff are always available to consult with lab personnel about a spill or to assist or perform the spill cleanup. Page Safety staff by calling UVM Service Operations at 802-656-2560, press 1 to speak to dispatcher.

Lab Cleanouts / Lab Clearance

One of the annual tasks on the self-inspection checklist is to review lab chemicals and relabel or purge as appropriate. 

If a lab has more than 15 or 20 waste containers ready for disposal at one time, please contact Safety staff so we can assist with the proper segregation, tagging, and disposal of the waste. In these cases, each container need NOT be tagged individually. Please meet with your Laboratory Safety Coordinator before conducting any chemical cleanout.


Lab Clearance

When renovating, relocating, or closing a lab at UVM, it is the responsibility of the Lab Supervisor to make sure that the lab is decommissioned properly. A Laboratory Clearance Checklist must be completed. For more information, please review UVM's Lab Clearance Procedure.

Research Sample Disposal

For any lab group that is looking to dispose of a large number of research samples with similar hazards, completing a Research Sample Disposal Form may be the simplest way to complete this task. Complete one form for each set of samples that have different hazards, characteristics, and states.

Fill out the form completely before tagging the form under one waste tag. Make sure all of the information is accurate and that you have included a good contact person to answer any questions that may arise during or after pick up. For the "yes" or "no" questions, make sure to explain the reasoning behind any "yes" answers.

For instance: "Is the material an oxidizer risk?" If "yes," explain the cause for the potential oxidation. Writing as much information as possible will make it easier to dispose of the materials appropriately.

Specific Wastes or Mixed Waste

For items that are not identified specifically as chemical, biological, or radioactive waste, refer to the UVM Recycling Guide for details about how other items (e.g. batteries, light bulbs, and old lab equipment) are collected on campus.


Unknown Chemicals

"Unknowns" are chemicals that are found in the lab either with an illegible label or no label at all that lab workers no longer know the contents. We cannot guess at what these wastes are. There is a strict and expensive protocol that Safety staff are required to follow in order to manage this type of waste. Please inspect your chemicals monthly as required by the Lab Safety Program to eliminate or minimize unknown chemicals in your lab.

If you find an unknown in your lab, please tag it for pickup with as much information as possible. If you have multiple unknowns, each container needs individual tags.


Assorted Batteries

Batteries are generally collected throughout campus in brown battery buckets. If you have a bag of batteries in your lab, this can be tagged as waste for pickup. Please estimate the amount in pounds.

NOTE: Large lead acid batteries, or any battery that is swollen and/or leaking, should be tagged immediately for disposal.


Chemically-Contaminated Sharps

Biologically contaminated sharps also contaminated with the residues of hazardous chemicals can be managed in the same red, puncture-proof container as all other sharps in the lab. There is NO need to manage these as a separate waste stream. Please do not label the container with a lab waste accumulation sticker.  Seal, lock, and place full sharps box inside of a biohazard box when full.

If you do not have a biobox, sharps, and their containers, can be handled like other chemical wastes. Use an accumulation label to identify the residues (e.g. solvents, etc.) that contaminate the sharps. Once full, tag for waste pickup.


Containers of Highly Hazardous or Reactive Chemicals

Containers of highly hazardous or reactive chemicals are required to be securely closed and tagged for waste disposal. Never re-use these types of containers to collect waste.


Contaminated Debris: broken glassware, gloves, pipettes, etc.

Debris that is contaminated with hazardous chemicals should be collected in a clear bag or in a cardboard box lined with a clear plastic bag and tagged as chemical waste for disposal. Never use a red biohazard bag to collect chemically contaminated glassware or debris.

Glassware contaminated with infectious material should be placed in a puncture-proof container and then placed in a biohazard box. For information about biological waste please follow this link to the biowaste management.

Glassware contaminated with radioactive contaminants should be decontaminated and Radiation Safety staff should be notified. For information pertaining to radioactive waste management follow this link to the Radiation Safety Office (RSO) website.


Light Bulbs

Burned out fluorescent lights, compact light bulbs, UV light bulbs, etc. are considered Universal Waste in the State of Vermont and should be removed from the fixture and carefully placed back inside of the cardboard box that they came in to prevent breakage. Email, call 802-656-5408, or submit a waste tag for intact light bulb pickup.

Broken light bulbs are considered hazardous waste and should be collected in a clear bag that can be sealed inside of a cardboard box. Fill out a lab waste tag and enter tag online for pickup.


Mixed waste

Since the management and disposal of mixed wastes is more complex and costly, please contact before you generate any mixed lab waste such as the combination wastes described below.  

  • Chemical and biological waste,
  • Chemical and radioactive waste, or
  • Biological and radioactive waste.

Mixed waste combinations should only be collected with prior approval. 


Old Laboratory Equipment

Old lab equipment needs to be checked by UVM ITSto have hazardous components removed prior to safe disposal as scrap metal or electronic-waste. Labs are required to use the Surplus Disposal Form for any equipment to be disposed appropriately.


Pump Oil and Contaminated Rags

Used oil, and oil-contaminated rags/debris, is regulated in Vermont. This means the oil and debris must be collected, labeled, and disposed as hazardous waste. Here are a couple examples:

  • Vacuum pump and silicon oils;
  • Vehicle crankcase oils, transmission fluids, and power steering fluids;
  • Hydraulic, compressor, and straight cutting oils;
  • Tramp oil and oil drained from evaporators.

Unknown Chemicals

Unknown chemicals present serious safety and compliance issues. An "unknown" is defined as a chemical in an unlabeled container for which the identity is unknown. Federal, state, and local regulations specifically prohibit the transportation, storage, or disposal of wastes of unknown identity. Unknowns can be dangerous for lab personnel and anyone who has to manage the material for disposal after it leaves the lab. Hazardous waste disposal companies will not accept unknowns without analysis. Never open or handle an unknown in your lab if the container is bloated or you suspect that it may react adversely or even detonate. Contact Risk Management & Safety immediately.

Unknown Testing is Required before Disposal

The process for identifying an unknown chemical is dictated by the end-disposal company who contracts with UVM to receive and manage the final destruction of the waste. Risk Management & Safety manages this tedious and expensive process. In 2021, UVM labs generated about 30 unknowns!
Unknown chemicals must be tested for several properties before they can be identified as what they are not. Yes, you heard that correctly! A specific testing criteria helps RM&S determine the hazard class (corrosive, ignitable, oxidizer, reactive, toxic, and radioactive) before proper waste management and disposal can take place. For this reason, every effort should be made by laboratory personnel to prevent and identify unknown chemicals, but never guess when it comes to unknowns. Never open, sniff, taste, or try to react an unknown to make an identification. Avoid consolidate multiple unknowns into one container.

If you have any information that can help narrow down the possibilities, please let us know!

Prevent Creating Unknowns in Your Lab

Before students graduate and move on, help them properly label and dispose of their samples before they leave UVM. If a lab is closing or a PI is retiring or leaving UVM, contact RM&S 2-3 weeks beforehand to meet in the lab and review all leftover materials.

  • LABEL all chemical solutions when they are created! This including beakers, samples, test tubes, and flasks, even if they are created for temporary use.
  • INSPECT all chemical containers and their labels as you conduct the required monthly lab self-inspection. Immediately replace labels that have fallen off, faded, or become damaged.
  • ENSURE container labels have full chemical names. Never use abbreviations, chemical structures, or formulas. Include the user's initials and a date on the container for easier identification later.
  • SUBMIT lab waste tags frequently. Dispose of spent materials and chemicals with no foreseeable use promptly.
  • PURGE archived samples annually. Bins containing multiple and identical vials must be clearly labeled on the outside of the secondary bin with the user's name, chemical constituents, and the date.

One Waste Tag per Unknown Container

If you are unable to identify the unknown chemical, it must be tagged with its own individual lab waste tag. The description of the unknown should include the word "Unknown" and a general description (color, liquid or solid, etc). Refer to the image on this page to better understand how to complete a lab waste tag for each unknown material.

NOTE: Unknowns are picked up from campus labs 1x per month to accommodate the time it takes to conduct lengthy testing and to categorize and pack the waste safely for proper disposal.



Not finding what you're looking for? Insterested in meeting with your building's Lab Safety Coordinator? Want to make sure your lab is managing chemical waste safely and efficiently?