Lab Pack Disposal from an Academic Perspective
In recent years, the responsibility of safe chemical disposal has shifted from treatment facilities and waste removal companies to hazardous waste generators.
This change has also focused primarily on the chemical waste produced in academic laboratories.
Hazardous Waste at Academic Laboratories: Final Rule
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Academic Laboratories Rule. This regulation added a new subpart, Subpart K, to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which specifically pertains to educational labs and improper lab pack disposal.
According to Subpart K, school and university labs must remove or dispose of unused or unwanted chemicals at a regular interval, or at least within six months of each chemical’s accumulation start date.
Even without the burden of regulation and the spotlight of the standard of safety procedures being shined on academic laboratories across the nation, generating hazardous chemical waste is a liability for your school or university.
There isn’t another way of looking at it; with regulatory and compliance concerns, safety and health issues relating to the toxic nature of laboratory chemicals, and the possibility of fines or more serious legal action for not following the thin line of local, state, and federal rules on hazardous chemical disposal—it’s just common sense.
What to Look For in a Lab Pack Disposal Company
With the regulatory clock running on safe chemical disposal, finding a secure, knowledgeable, and detail-oriented hazardous waste disposal company to form a relationship with for your lab pack disposal is of great import.
Choosing the best company to suit your institution’s particular needs can be a daunting process, but having a set of criteria to help narrow down your choices can help shorten your search and lessen the collective stress on your faculty.
The right lab pack disposal for your school or university depends on a number of factors. These factors can include those that are internal and specific to your labs, such as,
- the nature and amount of chemicals you have in your laboratories,
- how quickly disposal is needed, and
- your location.
The other factors are the onus of the hazardous waste removal company, including,
- the number of chemicals that they can handle,
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulatory compliance,
- list of service locations,
- the retaining of trained chemists,
- necessary paperwork,
- correct safety procedures, and
These are just a few of the issues that must be addressed when looking to find the best chemical waste disposal company for your particular needs.
Reducing Your Overall Costs
First, if possible, take an inventory of what chemicals are in your labs that will need disposal. This can minimize the cost of disposal, in that the amount of time a lab packing team spends in your facility is reduced.
Once you have a list of all the chemicals in your labs, then categorize them into compatible groups and segregate similar chemicals into small containers. For safety reasons, it is of utmost importance that incompatible chemicals are not mixed together; you can refer to this chemical compatibility list for more information on unlike chemical groups.
Creating a Storage Area
It is a good idea to then cordon off an area near the site of generation (possibly in a secluded room in the lab or at least away from everyday lab activities) for the temporary storage of the containers of chemical waste.
Make sure to label the area with a sign that reads “Danger – Hazardous Waste“, so that students and other members of the faculty are aware of the chemical waste. Taking care of these initial steps in the lab waste removal process can help to decrease the cost of disposal.
If you are dealing with multiple labs with hundreds of discrete chemicals, it may be a difficult task to reasonably inventory each and every one, so some companies can offer assistance with this initial survey in what is called a ‘paper pack’.
A paper pack is the process of having a trained off-site chemist inventory your chemicals remotely before disposal.
A paper pack conducted by a reliable disposal company can be a benefit to your bottom-line, regardless of the company you end up choosing to take care of your final lab chemical disposal.
Turnkey Lab Packing: the Best Solution?
Some disposal companies may offer a turnkey lab packing service, which includes everything from a pre-inventory (or paper pack) to final disposal and treatment, with all the paperwork, waste segregation, packaging, labeling, transportation, and disposal taken care of by a single entity.
A turnkey lab pack disposal company will usually offer the following services and benefits:
- turnkey lab packing service (from inventory to final incineration or disposal)
- paperwork (slips, manifests, and labels)
- EPA, DOT & OSHA compliance
- local and state regulatory compliance
- trained on-site or off-site chemists
- offers a paper pack
- proper waste segregation techniques
- nationwide service
- comprehensive experience with all types of lab pack chemicals
- scheduled pick-ups
- ability to turn hazardous waste into non-hazardous waste
Low-cost and quality service don’t usually go together, especially in a waste removal situation. So it is a good idea to talk to two or three disposal companies to find one that suits both your budget and the ever-present need for compliant and safe disposal.
A turnkey hazardous waste removal company might be the best choice for your school or university. And once you find the right disposal company, scheduled pick-ups can lessen the burden on your educational facility in many ways, and will also assuage the worry of having chemicals past their legal storage date in your labs.
This article is the 3rd installment of a four-part series on chemical lab waste disposal in academic facilities. If you would like to learn more about lab decommissioning in an educational setting, please refer to our other articles:
If you want to know more about reliable lab pack disposal service for your academic labs, call Hazardous Waste Experts at (800) 936-2311 or click here to email us.