Chemical Waste Management

February 2, 2023

All KES field personnel are

Proper chemical management is necessary to protect the health and safety of the University and surrounding communities and the environment. There are federal and state regulations that require all generators of chemical waste receive training and follow proper waste management and disposal procedures. These regulations have severe monetary and civil penalties associated with them. Between 1990 and 2004, over twelve million dollars in fines have been levied against University and Colleges for hazardous waste and other environmental violations, leading the EPA to question waste management at educational institutions.


Chemical waste is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Definitions, management practices and compliance are outlined in 40 Code of Federal Regulations and the Delaware Rules Governing Hazardous Waste. All policies and practices developed by the University of Delaware are designed to meet or exceed these regulations and assure compliance.

University Policy 7-18 states that all University of Delaware personnel must manage all chemical and hazardous waste in compliance with these federal and state regulations and in accordance with procedures set up by the Department of Environmental Health & Safety.

Chemical waste is a broad term and encompasses many types of materials. Consult your Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), Product Data Sheet or Label for a list of constituents. These sources will tell you if you have a chemical waste that needs special disposal. To reduce its long-term liability, the University is proactive in managing all of its chemical waste in an environmentally sound manner. If there are any questions on whether a material must be managed through the chemical waste management program, contact

Examples of Chemical Waste include, but are not limited to:

  • Unused and surplus reagent grade chemicals
  • Intermediates and by-products generated from research & educational experiments
  • Batteries
  • Anything contaminated by chemicals
  • Used oil of all types
  • Spent solvents - including water based
  • Mercury containing items
  • Photographic film processing solutions and chemicals
  • Pesticides
  • Non-returnable gas cylinders
  • Non-empty aerosol cans
  • Chemically contaminated sharps
  • Finely divided powders
  • Contaminated syringes, needles, GC syringes, razor blades, pasteur pipettes, pipette tips
  • Equipment and apparatus containing hazardous waste
  • Computer/electronic equipment
  • Toner cartridges
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Paints - both oil and latex
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Light ballasts
  • Preserved specimens
  • Custodial and industrial cleaners
  • Uncured Resins(Phenolic, Epoxy, Styrene, etc.)
  • Dye and glazes
  • Degreasing solvents
  • Brake/Transmission/Power Steering Fluids


Liquid Chemical Waste

Once it is determined that chemical waste will be generated, a container must be selected prior to waste generation. For bulk solvent and aqueous liquid waste streams use a Low Density Polyethylene Nalgene container. These containers will be returned within a week to the lab and are available from most laboratory supply companies and the campus storerooms. Nalgene containers are compatible with most chemical wastes, but there are a few waste streams that should not be accumulated in these containers.

DO Not Use glass, plastic-coated glass or other re-used reagent chemical bottles to store or accumulate bulk liquid chemical waste.

Examples of chemical that should not be stored in Nalgene containers:

  • Amyl Chloride
  • Bromine
  • Butyric Acid
  • Carbon disulfide
  • Nitrobenzene
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Thionyl Chloride
  • Vinylidene Chloride

Certain types of Nalgene containers work best for DEHS' operations. Please try to purchase containers that meet the following requirements:

  • Low density polyethylene
  • Either a 53B or 83B screw cap
  • Containers with a large handle
  • Capacity no larger than 5 gallons

For bulk corrosive liquid waste streams, use the Justrite Safety Containers for Waste Disposal. These containers are specially designed for corrosive chemical waste and vent under emergency conditions. DO NOT store or accumulate bulk liquid corrosive chemical waste in any other container. Go to Liquid Corrosive Chemical Waste Management for more information on managing corrosive waste streams.

Do Not use containers that are old, dented, damaged, leaking or cracked. The container must be able to be capped, sealed or closed. The container must be compatible with the waste streams that will be placed in it. For example, do not use a metal container to store acids, do not use a glass container to store hydrofluoric acid, do not use glass or metal containers to store organic peroxides and do not use metal containers to store picric acid and solutions of picric acid. Do not use containers that can be confused with consumer commodities like soda bottles or milk jugs. Do not use metal containers for flammable liquid waste, unless proper bonding and grounding precautions are taken.

Laboratory Clean Out of Regent Chemicals

All laboratories should, based on the hazards they pose, inspect all of their reagent chemicals. Look for chemicals that are no longer needed, old and out of date or unusable. Try to redistribute unneeded chemicals around the department or building. If no one else needs the chemical or if they are out of date or unusable, then package them as follows for disposal through DEHS:

  • Use sufficient packing material to prevent container damage en route.

Sample Vials - Sealed 15 ml or less

Some laboratories generate a number of sealed sample vials. If the laboratory does not want to reuse the glassware or plasticware and does not want to empty the contents into a liquid chemical waste container, the following procedures must be used:

  • Obtain a clean 5-gallon polyethylene pail with lid.
  • Line the pail with a heavy-duty plastic bag.
  • Place the lid on the pail.
  • When full, tightly seal bag with tape or bag closure tie.

Solid Waste Streams

Solid waste includes any laboratory material that has come in contact with a chemical or is potentially contaminated with a chemical. Examples include gloves, bench-top paper, weighing boats and papers, paper towels, clean up material and permanently contaminated glassware and plasticware. Go to Laboratory Solid Waste Disposal Procedures for a flow chart that helps decide if a material requires management as chemical waste or if it can be placed in the normal trash. Use the following procedures to manage solid chemical waste:

  • Use five-gallon poly pails, cardboard boxes, or other sturdy containers.
  • All containers must have lids.
  • Line the container with a 7-mil polyethylene bag or three standard trash bags.
  • All bags must be sealed unless laboratory personnel are actively adding waste. Seal the bag with a bag closure tie or a large binder clip.
  • When the container is full, seal the bag with tape. If the container is in a cardboard box, secure the box with tape as well.
  • It is important not to overload containers. Full boxes should not weigh more than 40 pounds. Do not use overly large boxes. Only fill boxes two-thirds full if they contain broken glass.

Chemically Contaminated Sharps

Anything that is capable of cutting or puncturing must be managed in a sharps container. Examples of sharps include needles, syringes, razor blades, slides, scalpels, pipettes, broken plastic or glassware, micropipettes and pipette tips. Sharps containers are available free of charge from DEHS. Go to Sharp and Piercing Object Disposal for more information about sharps management. If a sharp is chemically contaminated, simply place it in a sharps container that is labeled with a properly filled out Orange Chemical Waste Label.

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