Planning Your Summer Chemical Cleanout
April 11, 2023

The busy time for waste disposal services is beginning. This time of year becomes busy with all the year-end cleanouts and typical spring clean-up projects that are being performed. Now is the time for your school, college, university, or any other facility with a functioning laboratory to schedule your hazardous waste disposal project. Beginning these chemical cleanout projects now will ensure your facility is able to secure disposal services before the start of summer break.

There are often thousands of chemicals stored inside schools, colleges, or other learning facilities. The chemicals are used to degrease equipment, perform classroom experiments, disinfect the facility, and control pests or any number of tasks necessary in the operation of the classrooms, buildings, and grounds. Now is the time for your trained staff to review the chemicals in stock to determine which need disposal to make room for the new ones needed next year.

Your facility should conduct a chemical cleanout at least once a year to ensure you have the proper amounts on hand, that old and expired chemicals are disposed of, and to make sure all labeling and documentation are in order. Your staff and your student’s safety is at risk if your facility does not properly label chemicals, retains chemicals that have expired, or does not properly store these dangerous materials.

Chemical Cleanout of Laboratory Materials

Planning your chemical cleanout of laboratory materials should be scheduled now. Planning early will ensure your project is completed before the school year ends, and that the disposal company is able to provide service when you are ready.

Chemicals that are considered hazardous waste are any of your leftover substances with properties that would cause harm to humans or the environment’s health. These materials can be reactive, ignitable, toxic, or corrosive. Once these materials are no longer usable or have been placed in a safe container for disposal, they are considered ‘generated’ hazardous waste. These ‘generated’ materials will require a hazardous waste disposal service.

These materials can include:
Science classrooms can contain
– Mercury thermometers
– Laboratory chemicals

Maintenance and Custodial areas
– Paint, thinners, glues, stains, and other maintenance supplies
– Ammonia, bleach, drain cleaners, and other cleaning supplies
– Fertilizers, pesticides, and other groundskeeping supplies

Woodworking or Art areas
– Inks, stains, thinners, paints
– Photography chemicals
– Pottery glaze

– Nail polish, dyes, certain makeups, hair spray, polish remover

– Oil, grease, brake fluid, antifreeze, and other mechanical supplies

General areas
– Fluorescent light bulbs
– Printer toners
– Batteries
– Certain medical items

To start your chemical cleanout of laboratory materials, begin with a chemical inventory so you are able to maximize your time by organizing which are hazardous chemical waste and will need proper disposal services, which can be kept over for next year, and which can be disposed of through traditional garbage services. If you have materials in your facility you are unclear on whether they are considered hazardous or not, contact Environmental Marketing Services to learn how they need to be handled.

Creating a Chemical Inventory

Before beginning your lab’s chemical inventory, you want to make sure all chemicals have been returned to a proper storage area. Look inside any fume hoods to ensure there have been no chemicals left inside. When all chemicals are in their proper storage area, you are ready to create a chemical inventory.

The chemical inventory process includes making sure all containers have been properly labeled with:
– Substance’s full name
– The concentration of the chemical
– Any important hazardous information related to the chemical
If you or any staff member has questions on proper labeling procedures, Environmental Marketing Services is able to make sure you are following the requirements under the law.

Storage of Chemicals

The CDC has guidelines to follow regarding the storage of chemicals in your facility. Built-in hazards are diminished when you follow these requirements. The considerations you need to make for your chemical storage area include:
– Ventilation
– Segregation
– Temperature
– Ignition control

The basic rule for these chemicals is not to keep more than a three-year supply on hand unless your facility has a valid reason for keeping more than this amount. Each of the containers should be documented in your inventory information with the following:
– The name of the substance
– The size of the container you are using for storage
– The material the container is made from such as plastic or glass
– The amount remaining in each container
– The state of the chemical such as gas, liquid, or solid
– Where the container is located in storage such as on a rack, shelf, or floor
– The condition of each container. If any of your containers are failing, they need to be placed inside another container, and then properly labeled and closed securely

On the inventory information, or SDS (Safety Data Sheets) you will need to identify the chemicals that are planned for disposal. A good rule of thumb for disposing of chemicals is if you don’t plan to use it, lose it. Chemicals should not be kept just because they have a remaining shelf life.

The SDS or inventory information sheets can be either electronic or hard copies. Make sure all employees and emergency responders can easily access them in whichever form you use. All science departments and their staff as well as your school’s administration should know where this information is stored and how to access it.
Another task you should plan on during your chemical cleanout this year is checking your chemical spill kits and making sure they are fully outfitted for next year. Secure your chemical storage area and document which staff has access to it. This list should be shared with your school’s administration.

Preparing for Disposal of Chemical Cleanout

Once you have gone through the above preparations of labeling, inventorying, and storing your chemicals, you will have learned which materials need to be disposed of. Make sure you include damaged, leaking, or unlabeled containers in this disposal. Remember it is against the law to dispose of any chemicals in your regular trash or to empty down a drain. Talk to Environmental Marketing Services for information on lab packing methods as this is a safe, specialized, and compliant method of handling chemical cleanouts.

When you prepare a lab pack:
– Many chemicals from across the lab can be put into a single lab pack, but do not remove from their areas. Environmental Marketing Services provides you with information as to the pickup location for your facility
– Make sure all proper labels are in place
– Talk to Environmental Marketing Services if you have questions about their lab pack method and what their service covers

Benefits of the Yearly Chemical Cleanout Process

A chemical cleanout will help your facility learn if there are any gaps in your inventory. This process will also allow you to clean out those oddball chemicals that almost always appear in laboratories. Some of these chemicals may have been purchased by previous staff members or were only used as a one-time event. Your cleanout process will also alert you if ordering bulk items is financially productive. The cleanout process will also let you know which chemicals need to be reordered for the next school year.

Where to Find Additional Information Regarding Your Chemical Cleanout

Environmental Marketing Services has the expertise necessary for handling laboratory chemicals. We are ready to expedite your chemical waste disposal and urge you to begin the process early so we can ensure those services through this busy time of year. We are here to help you create a cost-effective solution to all your recycling and waste disposal needs. Talk to one of our specialists today to learn how we can help with your lab’s chemical cleanout.

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