Laboratory Waste Disposal – A Quick Overview
January 18, 2023

Laboratory experiments, exotic research, workday procedures, and medical tests all generate hazardous waste. These wastes can be broken down into three categories, (1) pathological wastes, (2) chemical wastes, (3) infectious wastes, and how they are disposed of is regulated by the EPA.

How to Manage Chemical Waste Disposal in Your Laboratory

The first rule in managing your chemical waste disposal is to not purchase any more materials than will be needed and used. Don’t buy chemicals in bulk just because they appear to be cheaper when bought in volume. You will not be saving money if you end up having to dispose of the excess or when the materials expire. This may sound like commonplace advice, but you would be surprised at how much staff and management overbuy just so they don’t get caught short or run out, leading to the overbuying of materials.

If your facility does own more of some chemicals than you will ever use or before it expires, check with other departments or facilities in the profession to see if others are able to use it. Some chemicals such as xylene, formalin, and ethyl alcohol can be easily recycled and in doing this, your facility saves money.

Agencies Involved with Chemical Waste Disposal

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and three other federal agencies are involved in making sure chemical waste disposal is done properly and that all laboratories follow waste disposal rules:

CDC- There are CDC guidelines for infection control that must follow specific disposal methods of medical waste.
DOT- Transporting medical waste, considered hazardous waste material is regulated by the DOT (Department of Transportation .)
OSHA- An environmental and occupational concern is RMW which becomes more dangerous when it is close to its point of generation, therefore OSHA guidelines are much stricter and trump local and state if they are less strict.

If your facility is unsure of the chemical waste disposal requirements and guidelines needed to be followed with your materials, contact Environmental Marketing Service for advice on how to adhere to these rules.

What are Laboratory Chemical Wastes?

Chemical waste in your laboratory can be found in:

Reagents
Stains
Test kits
Analyzers
Calibrators
Cleaners

All of these items have to be analyzed to learn if they need hazardous waste disposal methods as per the RCRA standards. The preservatives and contaminants found in these types of waste can be considered RCRA hazardous even if scant levels are detected.

Product inserts will not always list data concerning smaller amounts of contaminants and preservatives which require hazardous waste management under the EPA lethality laws. It is important for your facility to seek expert advice from Environmental Marketing Services regarding your laboratory waste. Your facility must ensure it is not inadvertently out of compliance.

Some of the chemical waste that could be found in your laboratory include:

Paraffin
Xylene
Stain
Fixatives
Clini-test tablets
Hemocue

What are Laboratory Infectious Wastes?

Biohazardous and infectious wastes are often called the ‘red bag wastes’ by healthcare facilities. These wastes can include bulk-body fluids, fluid blood, along with albumin from humans. There are also live vaccine cultures, related lab items infectious to humans, and biological agents. Your facility must use hazardous waste disposal methods if your garbage contains:

Infectious disease cultures or agents
Any item which has been soaked in blood, such as gowns, gauze, gloves, and any other item
All material that is considered teratogenic, carcinogenic, or mutagenic
Heavy metals and batteries that come from decommissioned lab equipment
Animal or human tissues
Discarded or expired pills, antibiotics, vaccines, or any other pharmaceuticals
Solvents and disinfectants used for laboratory purposes

Once your facility has safely placed these materials in the hands of a reputable licensed hazardous waste disposal company, such as Environmental Marketing Services, they will be handled in one of three safe ways:

Encapsulation
‘Sharps’ which are contaminated materials that can easily puncture waste containers that would cause them to spread hazardous materials, are encapsulated into puncture-proof containers. These containers are segregated from pedestrian garbage in landfills. The most common ‘sharp’ is a syringe.
Autoclaving
There is about ninety percent of biohazardous wastes that are incinerated through the process of autoclaving. This process involves hazardous wastes being placed in specialized containers which are then destroyed by high levels of pressure and temperatures.
Chemical Disinfection
Certain types of biohazardous materials can be chemically disinfected so they are able to be thrown in a landfill like other types of waste.

The best practice for your facility to follow when managing your laboratory waste is to first identify it and separate it into appropriate containers. Separate:

Chemical pathological
Non-hazardous
Sharps
Pharmaceuticals

One thing to keep in mind is not to mix hazardous with non-hazardous waste materials to attempt to cut down expenses on disposal. Your facility should also be using approved containers for waste such as special tubs, certified cardboard boxes, and puncture-proof containers. If you do not have these special containers, talk to the experts at Environmental Marketing Services to learn where you can obtain them.

Once your chemical waste is properly contained, store the containers in a dry, secure area until your scheduled pickup. The containers should be properly labeled following DOT regulations and remember the weight restrictions placed on these types of shipments. You must also send the correct documentation under your state and local agencies, the EPA, OSHA, and DOT. If you are sure about the documentation needed for chemical waste disposal, talk to one of the experienced agents at Environmental Marketing Services for assistance.

What are Large Tissues and Pathological Waste?

Large tissue and pathological waste include body parts (whether removed during surgery or by an accident), blood from research animals, carcasses, and human tissues. These types of waste materials need to be placed in yellow bags rather than the red ones mentioned above. This type of chemical waste disposal will involve autoclaving instead of encapsulation or chemical disinfection.

Your Goal for Chemical Waste Disposal of Laboratory Materials

The goal for your facility is to properly identify, categorize, separate, and ensure all chemical waste materials are transported to the right waste disposal facility, such as Environmental Marketing Services. We have over ninety combined years of experience in the industry and our mission is to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions for your recycling and waste disposal needs. We minimize your liability and protect the environment through our extensively trained and experienced Waste Management Team. Contact us today and learn how we can effectively and efficiently help with your chemical waste disposal.

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