Environmental Management

Waste Management

Hazardous Waste Minimization

"I certify this information is true and that I have done my best to reduce the volume and toxicity of this waste."

To sign and date a hazardous chemical waste tag certifies that you are actively working to reduce the hazardous waste you generate. This requires active thought and preparation on your part, as you purchase chemicals and perform experimentation, during work procedures and as you are collecting waste to be removed by EHS. Keeping waste minimization in your thoughts while you work will help save money, decrease environmental liability for the university, mitigate environmental stress caused by disposal and treatment of hazardous wastes, and create a safer working environment.

Waste minimization activities reduce the amount and/or toxicity of hazardous waste being generated at the source. The guidelines below are meant to help you think through your work processes to find ways that you can help.

  • Inventory your chemicals: The most important step you can take toward waste minimization is to know what you currently have and use by maintaining a running inventory of chemicals in your work place. An inventory is also an invaluable tool in emergency situations. Not only is this a good idea, but a chemical inventory is required under the hazard communication standard.
    • Check your current inventory before ordering to avoid unnecessary purchases!
    • Note the date a container is acquired or opened on the container.
    • Use older chemicals before purchasing or opening new bottles to reduce the amount of product wasted because a chemical has passed its expiration date.
  • Order only what you need: Buy what you will use in a reasonable time period. Buying in bulk rarely saves money when you consider disposal costs of unused material.
    • Testing a new experiment and not sure what you need? Start small. Purchase small amounts to perform trials of a new procedure.
    • It may also be possible to borrow small amounts of chemicals from other labs. Please take the time to check.
    • Centralize purchasing. Stop duplicate ordering by designating one person in your lab or work group to be responsible for chemical purchases.
    • Purchase compressed gas cylinders or lecture bottles only from manufacturers who will accept returns of empty cylinders.
  • Use recycled or second hand chemicals whenever possible: Be on the lookout for unwanted chemicals in other labs or work areas. Before you call EHS to dispose of an unwanted but usable chemical, please check to see whether other labs in your building can use the material. Pay special attention when you hear of a lab group that is moving or a work group that is changing a process!
    • Evaluate the possibility of redistillation of waste solvents in your lab.
    Reduce the amount of product used. This can be achieved by reducing the scale of experiments. Periodically review your procedures to see if this is possible. Also, make sure you read and follow instructions so that you only use what is needed. Get away from the false belief that “if one cup works, then 2 cups will really be great? This is especially true for application of pest control and fertilizers. What is not used will only run off to water resources or contaminate soil.
    • Prevent students in teaching labs from over-dispensing chemicals by pre-weighing chemicals needed for experimentation, storing stock chemicals in small nozzle bottles, and preparing stock solutions prior to each experiment.
    • Substitute instrumental methods for wet chemistry whenever possible.
    Substitute non-toxic or less toxic materials: Consider less toxic substitutes for commonly used chemicals. These substitutions can be done in most situations with satisfactory results. EHS is happy to provide waste minimization consultation and green product evaluation.
    • Detoxify or neutralize waste products within experimentation procedures whenever possible.
  • Maintain accurate labels on all product and waste bottles to ensure that unknown chemicals are not generated.
  • Do not mix hazardous and non-hazardous waste: Non-hazardous waste, when mixed with hazardous waste, will become hazardous itself. This only results in increased volumes of hazardous waste produced. For example, a solvent is used to clean residues of an oil spill, and the rag is then placed in a drum of oil and absorbent material. This drum, formerly non-regulated with a disposal cost of $45, is now hazardous waste and disposal will cost the university $211.56. 
    • High concentration waste should not be mixed with low concentration waste.
    • Avoid experiments that produce waste that is both radioactive and chemically hazardous or biologically and chemically hazardous.

Refer to the IU Waste Minimization and Pollution Prevention Program for more information.