Hazardous Chemical Waste

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Hazardous waste must be managaged by a comprehensive program that follows the hazardous waste regulations provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

Managing Hazardous Chemical Waste

All hazardous chemical waste containers must be labeled with the contents. Labels are available and instructions are listed on the back. Failure to list the contents can lead to a material becoming an unknown hazardous waste. Determining the contents of an unknown chemical is an involved and costly process.

Follow these guidelines when handling hazardous waste:

  • Hazardous wastes must be placed in a Satellite Accumulation Area (SAA) within your lab. All hazardous wastes must be kept in the same lab where they were generated. Transfer from lab to lab is not permitted. Refer to your lab's Laboratory Safety Manual for instructions on how to set up and manage your SAA.
  • Waste containers must be compatible with their contents. Incompatible wastes must be stored apart from one another.
  • Keep containers closed except when adding material to them.
  • All liquid hazardous wastes must be stored in a secondary containment bin.
Alcohol Disposal

Aqueous mixtures with alcohols such as ethanol (greater than 24%), methanol, isopropyl, etc. must be collected and treated as hazardous waste. Ethanol concentrations of 24% or less are acceptable for drain disposal.

Pickup of Full Chemical Waste Containers

When hazardous waste containers in laboratory satellite accumulation areas are no more than 90% full:

  • Complete DATE WHEN FULL on hazardous waste label
  • Follow the instructions on the Hazardous Waste Disposal Request form and scan and email the completed form to the number listed on the form

Special Waste Types

Battery Recycling

Battery Recycling Receptacles

Battery recycling receptacles are intended for intact and non-leaking alkaline and universal waste batteries only.

Do not place vehicle batteries, trash, gloves, paper, toner cartridges, chemicals, plastic (other than plastic bags containing batteries) in the receptacles.

Vehicle Battery Recycling

Batteries used in vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorcycles and heavy equipment will not be collected under this program.

Alkaline Battery Recycling

The majority of batteries generated at the UB are of the alkaline type. They may carry brand names such as Duracell or Energizer. Battery recycling pails are provided at various campus locations to recycle your AAA, AA, C, D and 9 Volt alkaline or carbon zinc batteries.

Recycle alkaline batteries in receptacles placed at the following campus locations.

North Campus
  • Center for the Arts, Room 142
  • 1Capen
  • Cooke Hall, Room 354
  • Crofts Hall, first floor by lobby entrance door
  • Davis Hall, Electrical Engineering, Room 230S 
  • Ellicott Complex & Governors Residence Hall Offices
  • Ellicott Complex, 165 Academic Center
  • Ellicott Complex, 146 Fargo Quad, Campus Dining and Shops (CDS)
  • Fronczak Hall, CAS Instrument Shop, Room 239
  • Lockwood Library Circulation Desk
  • Student Union Lobby Information Desk
  • 119 Jacobs Management Center Mailroom
South Campus
  • 1 Diefendorf Hall
  • 220 Winspear - EH&S Lobby
  • Goodyear Residence Hall Office
  • Pharmacy Buidling, Room 298
  • Parker Hall, Room 232 (by secondary door)
  • Sherman Hall, Room 123A
Downtown Campus
  • Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS) Front Desk
  • 955 Main Street Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry Stockroom Room 1134

Rechargeable or Sealed Lead Acid Battery Recycling

Many batteries contain toxic and hazardous materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium, silver and sulfuric acid. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has designated these as universal wastes rather than hazardous wastes with the goal of promoting recycling. Although not hazardous wastes, these batteries must still be managed in an environmentally correct manner.

Universal wastes cannot be placed in the regular trash. Designated boxes areprovided for recycling. Rechargeable batteries must be placed separately in a provided plastic bag. Do not place alkaline or carbon zinc batteries in the designated boxes.

Universal waste batteries include:

  • Nickel cadmium (NiCad); found in cell phones, portable instruments, and lap top computers
  • Nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH); found in cell phones, portable instruments, and lap top computers
  • Lithium ion
  • Mercury
  • Silver button
  • Sealed lead acid; commonly used for battery backup applications

Recycle rechargeable or lead acid batteries in receptacles placed at the following campus locations. You may also recycle at local area stores that provide battery recycling service (Best Buy, The Home Depot or Lowe's).

North Campus
  • Student Union Information Desk
South Campus
  • 111 Sherman Hall
  • 220 Winspear Ave, EH&S Lobby

Drain Disposal Guidelines

Even if a chemical is not a “hazardous waste” by the USEPA definition or listing, the town and city wastewater discharge permits for the North and South Campuses, respectively, do not allow hazardous chemicals down the sink or other drains.

The ONLY aqueous solutions in normal laboratory volumes (<1 gallon) that may be drain disposed must have a pH between 5 and 9 and DO NOT CONTAIN:

  • Carcinogens
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Heavy metals (e.g., arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, etc.)
  • Cyanides or sulfides
  • Organic solvents (whether miscible or not)
  • Viable infectious agents
  • Radioactive substances

Solutions Acceptable for Drain Disposal

  • Physiological saline, inorganic buffers (phosphate or bicarbonate based), TRIS, or other such organic buffers at use concentrations, sugar solutions, and non-toxic salts in dilute form
  • Liquid blood, serum, or plasma from animals or humans not known to contain pathogenic organisms or liquid blood, serum or plasma known or suspected of containing pathogenic organisms may be drain disposed after disinfection using a 1:10 dilution of bleach for at least 30 minutes or as described in each labs SOP's and protocols.
  • Liquid tissue culture media, fresh or spent supernatant, which has been rendered non-infectious, including culture media containing serum additives such as fetal calf serum
  • Solutions containing disinfectants at used concentrations, such as 0.5 % bleach, may also be drained disposed
  • Ethanol concentration of 24% or less

Solutions Unacceptable for Drain Disposal

The following solutions are unacceptable for drain disposal. Containerize them as hazardous waste instead.

  • Aqueous phases of organic solvent separations
  • Miscible water solvent mixtures, e.g., acetone/water
  • Aqueous mixtures with alcohols (methanol, ethanol greater than 24%, etc.)
  • Histological preparation materials (Formalin, staining solutions, Xylene containing clearing agents)
  • Ethidium bromide solutions

Note: Gels (agar, electrophoresis plates, gelatin) that contain hazardous substances of biological, chemical or radiological nature must be containerized and disposed of as hazardous waste. If they do not contain hazardous substances, they do not need to be containerized, but they should not be disposed of through the drain system. They could clog and stop the drain. In addition they can provide a coating on the pipes that will allow bacterial growth and subsequent colonization of “drain flies” that are very difficult to eradicate.

Do not pour undiluted disinfectants or sterilants down the drain

Containerize them for proper disposal instead.

Contact for Questions

EHS avatar.

Environment Health & Safety

Service Building, 220 Winspear Ave.

Phone: 716-829-3301

Email: ehs@facilities.buffalo.edu

Empty Container Disposal

A container that held any hazardous materials (e.g. flammable solvents, toxic solvents, heavy metal salts, etc.) is empty if all wastes have been removed that can be removed using the practices commonly employed to remove materials from that type of container (e.g., pouring, pumping, and aspirating) AND it does not contain acutely hazardous waste.

Acutely Hazardous Waste

If the waste container held acutely hazardous waste, the container MUST be triple rinsed using a solvent capable of removing the residual chemical product before disposing of the container: 

  • The solvent can be water or any liquid that will remove the hazardous residue in the container
  • Make sure you collect wash solvent and add to a compatible hazardous waste accumulation container in the lab

If the container that held acutely hazardous materials is not triple rinsed, then it is not empty and the CONTAINER MUST have a hazardous waste label attached and be properly disposed of as hazardous waste.

Labeling "Empty" Containers

When empty, so it is clear that the container no longer contains hazardous materials, do one of the following:

  • Remove the label
  • Completely deface the label with a marker
  • Tape over the label
  • Place a UB “RCRA Empty” label over the original labels
Example of a RCRA Empty label that must be placed on a container that has been used with hazardous materials, and has been cleaned according to procedure.

RCRA Empty Label

Ethidium Bromide Disposal

All ethidium bromide solutions and gels must be collected and treated as if it were a hazardous waste, unless the ethidium bromide has been removed by one of the methods listed below. All grossly contaminated materials such as gloves, wipes, etc. must also be collected and placed in a properly labeled hazardous waste container.

Failure to remove ethidium from solutions prior to disposal contaminates municipal wastewater systems and violates water discharge regulations for the Town of Amherst and the City of Buffalo.

Removing Ethidium Bromide

The use of ethidium bromide waste reduction systems such as destaining bags or filter extractors are recommended. Removing the ethidium bromide from dilute solutions reduces the volume of liquid ethidium bromide waste and thus a savings on disposal costs for UB.

Destaining bags offer a way to remove ethidium bromide from solution and gels for safe and easy disposal. Continental Lab Products, ICS BioExpress, BioWorld (and others) offers Ethidium bromide destaining bags. When you get to the sites, type "destaining bags" in Search and it will take you to the ordering page.

Another device designed to remove ethidium bromide is the S&S Extractor from Schleicher & Schuell or VWR. This device is designed to remove from up to 10 liters of gel staining solutions with >99% efficiency.

Whatever waste reduction system used, a written protocol should be developed. An example procedure would include the following steps:

Using Destaining Bags

  • Drop a destaining bag into your solution (or solution containing a gel).
  • Periodically swirl it around a few times.
  • Let it stand overnight.
  • In the morning, remove the bag and place it in a properly labeled hazardous waste container.
  • Perform UV check of the solution (and gel). If it no longer fluoresces, pour the solution down the drain - provided no other hazardous chemicals are present. Destained gels can be put into the trash - DO NOT PUT GELS DOWN THE SINK DRAIN.

Using Filter Extractors

  • Attach the extractor to a vacuum source via 1/4 - 1/2" vacuum tubing. Place a waste container under the extractor, making sure the extractor fits securely on top of the waste container that the waste solution is to be filtered into.
  • Remove the cover of the extractor; apply vacuum while holding the unit. The solution (or solution containing a gel) may now be poured through the extractor.
  • If the solution is viscous or partially gelled, a five percent urea solution may be added to dissolve gel.
  • Perform UV check of the solution. If it no longer fluoresces, pour the solution down the drain - provided no other hazardous chemicals are present.
  • Remove the filter (when spent or clogged) and place it in a properly labeled hazardous waste container.

Mixed Waste

The creation of mixed waste that contains toxic or corrosive materials, transuranic elements, or high levels of radioactivity is strongly discouraged. Whenever possible, avoid using hazardous chemicals and radioisotopes in combination. Contact EH&S at 829-3301 for recommended non- hazardous chemical substitutes and ideas for minimizing the generation of mixed wastes.

Contact for Questions on Chemical Substitutes or Minimizing Generation of Mixed Waste

EHS avatar.

Environment Health & Safety

Service Building, 220 Winspear Ave.

Phone: 716-829-3301

Email: ehs@facilities.buffalo.edu

Mixed Infectious/Chemical Waste

Whenever possible, disinfect infectious waste at the source of generation.

Contact for Approved Methods of Disinfection

EHS avatar.

Environment Health & Safety

Service Building, 220 Winspear Ave.

Phone: 716-829-3301

Email: ehs@facilities.buffalo.edu

Containers and Storage: Collect non-sharps infectious waste which is also contaminated with chemicals (mixed waste) in a red biohazard bag. After the infectious agent has been disinfected, place the red biohazard bag in a second, clear plastic bag. Add absorbent material (such as diatomaceous earth) to the second bag, sufficient to absorb fluids which may leach from the waste.

Seal and attach a completed hazardous waste label to the clear bag. On the “Contents” section of the tag it is important to note both the chemical waste and the infectious waste and the disinfection method that was used.


Sharps containers must not contain free liquids (such as full syringes). When the sharps container is full; seal and remove it from the collection area. Place the container in a clear plastic bag and seal it. Attach a hazardous waste label and list all chemical and infectious agents and the method of deactivation/disinfection used.

Contact for Mixed Waste Sharps Pickup Questions

EHS avatar.

Environment Health & Safety

Service Building, 220 Winspear Ave.

Phone: 716-829-3301

Email: ehs@facilities.buffalo.edu

Mixed Radioactive/Chemical Waste

A hazardous chemical waste, as defined by the USEPA, combined with a radioactive waste, as defined by the NYS Department of Health, is classified as mixed waste. This type of waste is initially treated as radioactive waste. If the radioactive component of the waste has a half-life less than 90 days, then it will be stored for decay and eventually dispose of as chemical waste. When the radioactive component of the mixed waste has a half-life greater than 90 days, the waste is much more expense to dispose of than separate hazardous chemical or radioactive waste. Used liquid scintillation fluid may or may not be considered a special type of mixed waste. In either case, the waste must be segregated and picked up for disposal as described in the sections above.

Contact for Questions

EHS avatar.

Environment Health & Safety

Service Building, 220 Winspear Ave.

Phone: 716-829-3301

Email: ehs@facilities.buffalo.edu

Unknown Chemical Waste

Chemicals that cannot be identified are considered unknown hazardous wastes. By law, waste that is "unknown" cannot be picked up from your lab. It is the responsibility of each laboratory, shop or chemical user to identify and know the contents of all hazardous wastes.

Avoid creating “unknown” hazardous wastes in your laboratory.

Determining the contents of an “unknown” hazardous waste is an involved and costly process and also presents unique concerns and hazards for chemical waste handlers, Facilities staff, and to the environment. Please take care to avoid creating “unknown” 

If you have an "unknown" chemical waste:

Determining the contents of an “unknown” hazardous waste is an involved and costly process and also presents unique concerns and hazards for chemical waste handlers, UB EHS staff, and to the environment. Please take care to avoid creating “unknown” hazardous wastes in your laboratory.

  1. Do your best to identify the chemical: use whatever information may be on the label, try to find out when and where it came from, talk to previous users of the lab, etc.
  2. Place a UB Hazardous Waste Label on the item - in the contents section, write "unknown". Fill out the generator section as usual.
  3. Store the unknown with your other hazardous chemical wastes, keeping compatibility requirements in mind.
  4. Call EH&S on our Service Request Line, 829-3301. Give as much information as possible. A staff member will then meet with you and arrange the appropriate sample analysis.

If your are unable to identify the unknown, a sample will be obtained for analysis to be performed by an outside laboratory. This process can be expensive; in most cases the costs will be borne by the lab or person(s) generating the unknown hazardous wastes.

Avoid Generating Unknown Wastes

To avoid generating unknown hazardous wastes in the future follow these steps:

  1. Label ALL chemicals correctly by using a full name and not abbreviations, experiment numbers, log book numbers, etc.
  2. Dispose of spent or unwanted chemicals promptly
  3. When closing or moving a laboratory, arrange for all unwanted chemicals to be picked up before the lab is vacated. Do no leave old chemicals behind.

Other Wastes

Refer to the Hazardous Waste Management Guidebook for guidance for other types of wastes. Shown below are typical laboratory wastes that must be disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations.

Photographic and X-Ray Fixer Waste

Fixers contain some silver which must be treated or recovered before it can be disposed of. There are two options available for this material:

  • Recycling: Have a commercial company service your photographic needs. This service typically includes stocking your developer and fixer and removing your waste
  • Put hazardous waste labels on the containers (Section 5.2.2), complete the Request for Disposal form (Section 5.2.4) and fax to EH&S for pickup

Reagents Used in Biological Procedures

The following are reagents that contain mercury and should be managed as hazardous wastes:

Dobbin’s Reagent, Hayem’s Solution, Hopkins-Cole Reagent, Hubb’s Reagent, Jacquemart’s Reagent, Knapp’s Solution, Mercresin, Meyer’s Solution, Millon’s Reagent, Morell’s Solution, Nessler’s Reagent, Rohrbach’s Solution, Sachsse’s Solution, Spiegler’s Reagent, Tanret’s Reagent and Tyrosine Reagents

Other hazardous regents include:

  • Erlicki’s Solution (chromium)
  • Fisher’s Reagent (phenyl hydrazine)
  • Flemming’s Solution (osmium, chromic acid)
  • Folin-Dennis Solution (mercuric cyanide)

Broken Glass

Broken glassware should be placed into an appropriate broken glassware container (hard sided container such as a cardboard box). The container must be sealed and taped shut to prevent injury. Since they will be picked up by custodial staff, these containers should be labeled with the words Broken Glass.

Do not place broken glassware, pipettes or other sharp-edged materials of any type into the regular trash.

Aerosol Spray Cans

Waste aerosol spray cans still containing product are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly.

  • Place a completed hazardous waste label on the spray can
  • Complete Request for Disposal form

Contact an Expert

Head Shot of Anthony Oswald Hazardous Materials Manager.

Anthony Oswald

Hazardous Materials Manager; Chemical Hygiene Officer

Environment, Health & Safety

Phone: 716-829-5681

Email: acoswald@buffalo.edu