Chapter 20: Chemical Waste Management

Revised January 2023

Management of laboratory waste is a University function coordinated by EH&S. Storage and disposal of laboratory waste is highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while Washoe County and the City of Reno regulate air and water effluent, respectively. The following information provides general guidelines for management of laboratory waste. Additional information is available at the Chemical Waste Management web page, or by contacting Marty Schwender, the EH&S Hazardous Waste Program Officer at (775) 784-4524.

Hazardous Waste Regulations

Accumulation, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste is highly regulated by the federal EPA and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP). In Nevada, hazardous waste regulations are enforced primarily by the NDEP; however, the federal EPA also has regulatory authority.

The NDEP routinely inspects the University facilities (at least annually). Significant fines and other regulatory action can result from non-compliance with hazardous waste regulations. Laboratory personnel are responsible for properly accumulating, labeling, storing, and disposing of hazardous waste that is generated during their research activities or academic classes for which they are the responsible instructor.

General Waste Management Practices

  • Do not dispose of hazardous chemicals or solutions containing hazardous chemicals in any sink or floor drain.
    • Hazardous chemicals include those that are flammable, reactive, corrosive, or toxic.
    • All material that is discharged to the sanitary sewer must be between pH 5.5 and 9.0.
    • Sewer discharge from university buildings is regulated by the City of Reno through sewer discharge permits that specify allowable chemical concentrations in sewer effluent and other discharge limitations.
  • Do not dispose of any hazardous materials as “general waste” to go to the landfill.
  • Chemical waste must be under the “control” of the laboratory at all times and must not be stored in general traffic locations such as halls or other areas with general public access.
  • Waste collection containers must be kept tightly closed except when being filled.
  • If chemical reagent containers are reused to accumulate chemical waste, they must be thoroughly rinsed (triple rinse) and dried so that no chemical residue remains which could react with added chemical waste. Rinsate from hazardous chemical containers must be collected as hazardous waste.
  • It is recommended that volatile hazardous chemical containers be rinsed before they are disposed of, with rinsate collected as hazardous waste.

Waste Separation

  • Segregate waste by specific hazard class:
    • Halogenated solvents (flammable)
    • Non-halogenated solvents (flammable)
    • Organic acids (corrosive)
    • Inorganic acids (corrosive)
    • Bases (corrosive)
    • Metals
    • Cyanides and sulfides

Be especially vigilant to avoid mixing strong oxidizers such as nitric acid, perchloric acid, and hydrogen peroxide with organic chemicals or other oxidizable chemicals.

Waste Accumulation

  • Waste containers must be chemically compatible with the waste.
  • Keep containers tightly closed except when being filled (see exception below).
  • Provide secondary containment whenever possible.
  • Never accumulate more than 55 gallons of chemical waste at any time.
  • EH&S provides 1, 3, and 5 gallon poly containers free of charge upon request (sign-in using University netID is required).

Exception: venting of containers is allowed when necessary to prevent buildup of internal pressure. EH&S can provide self-venting lids for one-gallon containers, or container lids can be kept loose on the waste container as needed to prevent pressurization of the container.

Waste Labeling

  • Label each container of chemical waste by completing the orange “chemical waste” label provided by EH&S, including marking the applicable check boxes and listing the chemical constituents.
    • Alternatively, chemical waste can be labeled by indicating the specific chemical waste (e.g., “acetic acid waste” or “mercury spill cleanup waste”).
  • List all chemical constituents, their volume (include water) and concentration. This information can be recorded on the orange “chemical waste” label or on a separate piece of paper if the paper is marked with an identifier number that corresponds to the same identifier on the corresponding chemical container, and the paper is kept in close proximity to the waste container.
    • Use a number to identify each container.
  • Waste collected from cleanup of a chemical spill can be labeled by indicating the specific chemical waste (e.g., “mercury spill cleanup waste”).

Waste containers provided by EH&S come with a chemical waste label that must be filled out by laboratory personnel. Individual chemical waste labels can be requested from EH&S for use on other waste containers.

Submitting a Request for Removal of Waste

Requests for pickup of chemical waste must be initiated electronically using the Online Waste Submission form.

  • Submit one form for each container.
    • Fill out the form completely.
    • Account for all constituents (including water) so that the sum of the constituents equals the total volume
    • Use full chemical names – not abbreviations or formulas
  • Attach a copy of the completed form to the corresponding container.

Additional Information

Chapter 21: Incident Reporting and Investigation