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Environment, Health and Safety

Unknown Chemical Waste

Chemicals that cannot be identified are considered unknown hazardous wastes. EH&S cannot, by law, pickup any waste from your lab that is "unknown". It is the responsibility of each laboratory, shop or chemical user to identify and know the contents of all hazardous wastes.

If you have an "unknown" chemical waste:

  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, EH&S may obtain a sample 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.

Did You Know...

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.