Waste disposal is a normal part of any science laboratory. As teachers or students perform demonstrations or laboratory experiments, chemical waste is generated. These wastes should be collected in appropriate containers and disposed of according to local, state, and federal regulations.
Chemical wastes are governed by the EPA, as well as state and local regulations. All school districts should have a person with the responsibility of being familiar with these regulations. In order to minimize the amount of waste generated and handle it safely, there are several steps to consider.
- Spend time planning and preparing for the activity.
- Select laboratory activities that are tailored to your science standards:
- Review the properties of the chemicals required and the products generated using resources such as the SDS. If the reactants or products require special disposal or create unique hazards, then modify the experiment to use safer materials.
- Use small-scale or microscale procedures. These reduce waste, save on resources, and reduce preparation time. Know and review the federal, state, and local regulations for disposal of the chemicals involved.
- Incorporate disposal instructions into your laboratory activity. By making waste disposal a routine in every activity, students will develop a culture of concern for the environment and accept it as part of their responsibility.
Note: Many laboratory explosions have occurred from inappropriate mixing of wastes, such as mixing nitric acid waste with organic wastes, so be sure that waste materials are compatible. Mixing nitric acid with any organic materials may result in an overpressurization of the waste container and release of the chemical into the workspace.
- Collect all compatible waste solutions with similar properties in a centrally located, well-labeled container.
- Dispose of waste immediately, following the regulations appropriate for your area. Disposal of small amounts of waste is easier and quicker than disposal of larger, stockpiled amounts.