Lab-Pack Management: Removal of Lab Waste in Schools, Laboratories, and Government Agencies
July 9, 2021

Laboratories in educational institutes and government agencies create hazardous wastes they are required to dispose of each year. Properly following EPA guidelines in handling these wastes can be challenging, but is imperative for public safety and health. Lab-packing is a method used for disposing of these materials which is a cost-effective decommission process of lab waste.

Lab packs are generally used by laboratories in educational institutes, USDA labs, city/county wastewater treatment plants, and other government agencies such as police departments.

What is a Lab Pack?

The lab pack is typically a fifty-five-gallon drum made from steel or fiber, which contains smaller containers of hazardous wastes. Lab packing is the process of placing several smaller containers into the drum. These smaller containers inside the drum are carefully sorted and padded. Inside the drum, a stationary material is used to keep the smaller containers in place and safe during transport.

The smaller containers placed inside the drum are similar to each other, such as flammables, oxidizers, or acids. These smaller containers are generally less than ten gallons each. Even though this is a much smaller amount than other hazardous wastes generated, they are no less dangerous.

Once the drum has been filled, a substance such as vermiculite is added on top of the contents. Should there be any leakage or damage to the contents of this lab pack, it will have to be over-packed into a larger drum. The large container or drum is then labeled with an assigned shipping name for easier sorting when it reaches its destination.

When the lab pack reaches its destination at the waste disposal service, the waste management company will consolidate the materials further. All substances and chemicals inside the lab pack will be prepared for the best possible course of disposal. When your facility or organization has properly done your lab packing, you will have peace of mind that your expired hazardous materials have been disposed of according to the law and with care.

Why Lab Packs are Used

Lab packs’ main purpose is to keep people safe from hazardous materials, and they also protect your environment. When hazardous materials are thrown with regular garbage or dumped down the drain, it can damage the environment and potentially the lives of people in the area.

Hazardous wastes can indirectly create health risks when they are released into the environment. Disposing of untreated chemicals in landfills can contaminate ground and surface waters as well as your drinking water. Due to the numerous health risks surrounding the mishandling of hazardous substances, companies and organizations are required to prioritize properly disposing of their hazardous waste materials.

Lab packs organize unused chemicals that cannot be discarded through normal garbage removal. The federal standards for these packs ensure the hazardous materials inside are properly moved, treated, and disposed of. When you follow lab pack guidelines, you and those in your facility will know they are doing everything possible to protect your employees, your community, your environment, and are avoiding possible punitive measures and fines.

Universities, high school chemistry labs, community college laboratories all use toxic, reactive, flammable, corrosive, and poisonous materials in your demonstrations during an academic term. It is your responsibility to dispose of these hazardous lab wastes at the end of each term or school year. City/County wastewater treatment plants, USDA labs, and police departments also use hazardous materials for testing purposes and are also responsible for proper disposal. Contact Environmental Marketing Services to learn how your facility can use a lab pack for the proper disposal of your lab waste.

Hazardous Waste Regulations for Lab Packs

It is a federal law that potentially hazardous chemical waste be disposed of properly. The EPA has additional guidelines to follow outside those concerning lab packs that your facility must follow. These are the two main EPA regulatory acts you are required to comply with:

1. CERCLA- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability
CERCLA also known as the ‘Superfund’ is one of the EPAs acts regarding regulations on chemical waste disposal. This act designates a federal ‘Superfund’ to be used in cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous wastes. This fund is to cover spills, accidents, and emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants into the environment.
CERCLA allows the EPA to find those responsible for any hazardous materials released and make sure they cooperate in the cleanup process regardless of their practices during generation.

2. RCRA- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Through the RCRA the EPA has full authority over controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated and right on through to its disposal. Most of the work done in the EPA is monitoring facilities to ensure they are complying with their guidelines in proper disposal practices.

Amendments have been made to the RCRA which have increased the EPA’s enforcement authority. The Land Disposal Restrictions program is one of the EPA’s most noteworthy mandates to RCRA updates. To ensure there are no hazardous wastes disposed of on land, the LDR places protective measures that must be followed before hazardous materials are disposed of on land. These measures will eliminate the possibility of hazardous contaminants entering water supplies and polluting groundwaters.

Lab Pack Disposal

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) and the Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR) has strict guidelines that have to be followed on lab pack chemicals. Your state and local environmental agencies will also have guidelines and regulations you must adhere to as well when disposing of your lab waste. If you are unsure how to use a lab pack, contact Environmental Marketing Services to learn how to follow the EPA guidelines. We can help educational facilities that have labs, USDA labs, City/County wastewater treatment plants, police departments, and other federal/state agencies that generate hazardous lab waste.

The government has strict laws regarding lab pack chemicals being combined without having a licensed chemist at hand to oversee the process. Proper monitoring is necessary to avoid a violent eruption, which could lead to your facility having to pay a more expensive fee. In some states, schools have to report the lab pack chemicals they are sending to disposal.

The EPA and other state organizations have strict rules in place regarding lab decommissioning, as well as OSHA and the DOT. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the DOT (Department of Transportation) have separate guidelines that differ from the EPAs. Check with Environmental Marketing Services to ensure you are following all agency mandates.

Disposing of Lab Waste Properly

It would be beneficial and wise for your facility to consult with a federally licensed hazardous waste disposal service, such as Environmental Marketing Services, to ensure you are following stringent regulations that have to be followed regarding your small-volume lab waste. These services may also be able to handle your lab waste according to all laws.

Inspections to Ensure Lab Waste Handled Properly

Surprise inspections by either or both federal and state agencies are performed to make sure all rules are being followed. Universities and other states, federal or private facilities have been found to be in violation of preventable lab chemical wastes as well as for not storing their materials properly, or mislabeling lab waste. Other violations include not providing essential training or chemical waste management, dumping mercury incorrectly, or having open containers of lab waste.

Choosing the Right Hazardous Waste Disposal Service for Lab Waste

When you are looking for the right hazardous waste disposal service, remember it must be EPA-compliant, be certified, and up-to-date with all regulatory requirements. Make sure you check the staff at the service is up-to-date with required training, they have a skilled chemist, are experienced, have a detailed cleanup crew, and the proper paperwork to complete a lab decommissioning.

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