These Are The Most Popular Hazardous Wastes Found In Laboratories
August 30, 2019

Standard or typical hazardous wastes found in laboratories have to be appropriately managed under local, state, and federal guidelines. These guidelines have strict rules and regulations regarding the storing, handling, labeling, segregating, and disposal methods of these dangerous waste materials.

These are some of the popular hazardous waste material you will find in the liquid form in laboratories:

  • Reagents that have been left or abandoned by previous users of the lab
  • Organic synthesis liquids
  • Partial portions of reagents left behind or that are no longer needed
  • Liquid solvent waste
  • X-ray or photographic related darkroom chemicals
  • Liquids connected with TLC or HPLC analyses
  • Preservatives for specimens such as formaldehyde, alcohol, or paraformaldehyde
  • Vials containing samples for extractions, digestion, or preservation
  • Waste liquids connected with DNA extractions and cell lysis

These are some of the popular hazardous waste materials you will find in the solid form in laboratories:

  • Electrophoresis gel which contains Ethidium Bromide
  • The gloves which are worn to protect workers or students when handling hazardous materials or chemicals
  • Ion exchange materials and filters used for chemical processes
  • Adsorbent and absorbent materials used for chemical processes
  • Disposable pipette tips which transfer or measure chem
  • Papers or weighing boats used with chemical reagents
  • Vermiculite or ‘kitty litter, paper towels, and rags used in the cleanup of chemical spills
  • Slides that have been used or contaminated with hazardous chemicals

This list is not an all-inclusive list of what can be found in a laboratory which would be considered ‘hazardous waste.’ This list is some of the more common or popular wastes you will find in this setting. Workers or students have to know how to read all the documentation that comes with chemical reagents and how to use that information to decide which ones require hazardous waste management.

Basics of What is Considered a Hazardous Waste

The EPA defines hazardous waste as waste with the properties that will be a danger or is capable of having a harmful effect on a human’s health or our environment. These wastes can be generated by a variety of sources, which range from the industrial sector to the educational. Hazardous waste can also come in many forms, including solids, gases, sludges, or liquids.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a manner in which hazardous wastes are defined along with a process to follow to identify specific substances, which are known to be hazardous.

The identification process is complex, and it is suggested you contact a professional waste disposal service to provide this service. They have the training and experience with these dangerous materials to ensure you are correctly handling your disposal of hazardous wastes according to the EPA regulations.

Hazardous waste generators are the first link in managing these dangerous materials. As a generator of these wastes, it is your responsibility to determine if the material is hazardous and then oversee its ultimate fate. Under local, state, and federal regulations, you are required to identify accurately, manage, treat, store, transfer, and dispose of these hazardous wastes. Having a professional hazardous waste disposal service working with you will ensure as a generator, you are fully documented. They can provide the documentation necessary to prove you have an established hazardous waste management plan in your laboratory.

Hazardous Waste Identification in the Laboratory

Workers and students have to treat waste materials whether a solid, liquid, or containerized gas as hazardous waste unless it has been confirmed as a non-hazardous material by a licensed expert.

Chemicals become a waste in the laboratory when they are no longer going to be used, regardless of whether or not anyone has used it, or it has been contaminated. Any absorbent materials that have been used to clean up spills or the spilled chemicals have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

  • Chemicals include paints, solvents, varnishes, stock chemicals and solutions, degreasers, bromide gels, or ethidium used in the laboratory.

To be consistent in the determination process of hazardous waste, all waste chemicals in a laboratory should be treated as hazardous. The specialists with the disposal service can make the final determination as to which are and which are not hazardous.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) defines hazardous waste in three different categories: solids, containerized gases, and liquids. These categories then have to meet the definition of a listed or characteristic hazardous waste. These are further described as:

Characteristic Hazardous Wastes

  • Characteristic hazardous wastes are liquids, solids or containerized gases which exhibit any of these characteristics- corrosive, reactivity, toxicity, or ignitability.

Listed Hazardous Wastes

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency has predetermined which wastes are hazardous, and these have been separated into published lists. For a complete list of these wastes, you can check the USEPA website. These are the different lists created:

 – K-listed hazardous wastes include source-specific wastes, which are generated by certain industries such as steel production or iron facilities. These materials are not likely to be found in the laboratory setting.

F-listed hazardous wastes include non-specific sources which are generated by a particular industry and can consist of various sectors. These industries can include electroplating, metal finishing processes, wood preservation, or any processes which create waste solvents.

P & U– listed hazardous wastes are commercial and pure grade formulations of particular unused chemicals which are considered wastes. Chemicals that are unused or they are no longer needed, have been spilled, or are off-specification can be considered waste.

Listed Hazardous Wastes Found in the Laboratory 

The listed hazardous wastes most likely to be found in the laboratory are the F, P, and the U-listed. The F-listed ones would be in laboratories which perform electroplating or metal finishing procedures and use solutions that contain cyanides.

From the U-listed hazardous wastes, there are more than three hundred commonly found in laboratories.

From the P-listed hazardous wastes, there are more than one hundred commonly found in laboratories. Check the USEPA for the full list of these hazardous wastes.

Managing Your Hazardous Waste in an Academic Laboratory

The EPA added a subpart K to the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) a few years ago. Subpart K refers to academic entities, including universities, colleges, nonprofit research facilities, and teaching hospitals.

The rule under Subpart K established an alternative set of regulations to allow eligible academic institutions flexibility in making their determinations regarding their hazardous waste:

  • At their on-site disposal, storage, or treatment facility
  • At their on-site central accumulation areas
  • In their laboratories

The new rule under Subpart K will also provide incentives for eligible academic institutions to clean out their expired and old chemicals that could possibly present unnecessary risks. The rule also requires any eligible institutions, which choose to manage their hazardous waste under Subpart K, create a Laboratory Management Plan. The Subpart K is designed to create safer laboratory practices and increase the academic institution’s awareness regarding their management practices of hazardous materials.

Not all eligible academic institutions are required to follow the new regulations under Subpart K. If they choose not to follow these new rules, they are then subject to the pre-existing regulations related to hazardous generator’s requirements.

  • Generator of hazardous waste are explained in the Code of Regulations under section 260.10 and is listed as any site or person who processes or produces hazardous waste materials. These materials must be listed or identified in Part 261 of the code.

Subpart K as Alternative Regulations for Academic Laboratory

The EPA created Subpart K as a way to improve environmental performance in the research and teaching laboratories. It involves eligible institutions which are:

  • LQG- large quantity generators
  • SQG-small quantity generators
  • VSQG- very small quantity generators

You can find the full set of regulations for these new rules under the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart K of part 262 under Title 40.

The new Subpart K has a set standard for managing your hazardous waste in academic laboratories as an alternative to the satellite accumulation area generator rules. The standard will protect the public health as well as the environment by requiring better-suited requirements of the research and teaching laboratories. The new provisions under Subpart K include:

  • Your academic lab must establish a Laboratory Management Plan, which specifies your best waste management practices
  • Your hazardous waste determinations in the academic lab must be made by a trained professional and not one of the students
  • Your academic lab will be offered an incentive when you remove all expired and old chemicals that could present a possible risk
  • Your academic lab will be allowed the flexibility of choosing where and when on-site hazardous waste determinations are made

What Happens When Academic Labs Choose NOT to Follow Subpart K Regulations?

As an academic lab, you are not required to follow the new regulations created under Subpart K. There are also some academic labs which do not qualify to follow these new set of rules set forth under Subpart K. In either of these situations, the lab will then operate under the RCRA regulations as a satellite accumulation area.

Satellite accumulation provisions will allow a generator of hazardous waste to accumulate up to fifty-five gallons of the waste materials in containers, which are near or at the point of generations. These containers must also be under the control of an experienced operator.

These academic institutions must follow the requirements under the Code of Regulations, section 262.15.

How Can You Reduce Your Laboratory Waste?

The first step in reducing your laboratory waste is to look at your purchasing policy. Buy only the materials you will need to reduce wastage on unused or expired chemicals. Check with your supplier or others on the market to ask about delivering small amounts of chemicals at short notice. You can also ask about taking or buying back unused materials.

You should also have a labeling procedure in place. Make sure all chemicals and wastes in the lab are labeled correctly and be standardized. You can separate the wastes into specific streams for their proper disposal, treatment, or reuse.  A professional waste disposal service can help you with this process to ensure you comply with all local, state, and federal regulations.

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