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EHS is committed to the safe disposal of hazardous wastes to preserve public health and the environment. Various types of wastes are regulated differently according to State and Federal regulations. Please refer to the quick reference guides below for information about specific types of waste.

The Principal Investigator (PI) for each laboratory has overall responsibility for characterizing, containerizing, labeling and managing chemical wastes in their laboratory spaces. These responsibilities must be carried out in strict compliance with State and Federal regulations.

As soon as waste accumulation starts, please attach “Unwanted Material” labels to waste containers, complete with the full chemical name and the accumulation start date. Waste should be stored in secondary containment with lids securely in place. Waste must be submitted within 12 months of the accumulation start date. Before submitting waste for pickup, please review the hazards and properties of unwanted chemicals.

Chemical wastes can be submitted using the hazardous materials online application. Providing accurate and complete information is critical for keeping EHS personnel and other members of the community safe. When filling out the form, please include all relevant known information. Relevant information might include:

  • Chemical composition of waste (if unknown, specify as “Unknown”)
  • Possible hazards
  • Specific waste location
  • Type and number of containers
  • Container condition (e.g., “rusted”)
  • pH values
  • Expiration dates
  • Peroxide concentration

After your submitted waste is approved, you will receive an email with a waste form. Please print this form immediately and securely attach a copy of the form to each individual waste container. After attaching the printed label, place the waste in a visible and accessible location. Note that your waste may not be approved. This is most likely because it has been flagged as a high hazard and will need to be collected by a third-part vendor. For questions about hazardous waste, you may contact EHS staff.

For additional information, please refer to the Laboratory Safety Manual – Chapter 12: Laboratory Waste Management Plan

It is important to dispose of radioactive waste in accordance with radiation protection regulations. This avoids exposure to personnel and contamination of the environment. It also avoids regulatory penalties and the possible loss of radioactive material use privileges. Radioactive wastes are not permitted in sanitary landfills and must never be placed in non-radioactive waste receptacles. Radioactive wastes can be submitted using the hazardous materials online application.

All waste must be segregated by waste type and half-life category. Radioactive waste types include:

  1. Biological materials and animal carcasses
  2. Dry solids
  3. Liquids
  4. Scintillation vials
  5. Source vials
  6. Mixed wastes
  7. Lead pigs/shielding

Before requesting waste pickup, check to ensure that the following has been done:

Dry Waste
make sure the yellow liner is sealed, the lid is taped onto an EHS-provided box, the box identification information is filled out and the radioactive waste disposal record is completed.
Biological Waste
make sure the material is sealed in a clear plastic bag, frozen, labeled with permanent marker, the weight of the waste is listed in grams, the activity is listed in uCi and the radioactive waste disposal record is completed.
Scintillation Vials
make sure the liner is sealed, a lid is placed on the drum, the name of the media or chemical constituents is listed and the radioactive waste disposal record is completed.
make sure a lid is securely in place, the container has at least 10% head space and the radioactive waste disposal record and yellow tag are filled out.

For additional information on radioactive waste disposal, please refer to the Radiation Safety Manual – Chapter 9: Disposal of Radioactive Wastes or contact EHS staff.

Policies and Training

The University’s Biological Waste Disposal Policy stipulates proper procedures for the collection, decontamination, and disposal of biohazard waste to minimize the risk of exposure to those who work with these materials. Biohazard waste includes:

  • Any potentially contaminated materials generated during activities requiring biosafety level 1, 2, or 3.
  • Human liquid blood and body fluids.
  • Human tissue and anatomical remains.
  • Materials contaminated with human tissue or tissue cultures.
  • Animal carcasses, body parts, blood, fluids, and bedding from animals infected with BSL2 and BSL3 agents.

Biohazardous waste must be placed in a container lined with an orange biohazard bag. Biohazard waste containers must be durable, leak-proof, lidded, and clearly labeled. The maximum limit on the size of a biohazard waste container is 15 gallons (57 liters).

Prior to autoclaving, heat sensitive indicator tape must be used to mark out the biohazard symbol on the bag in an “X” pattern.  The waste should then be autoclaved with a test indicator and deposited in a waste collection bin labeled “AUTOCLAVED/DECONTAMINATED WASTE ONLY.” Biohazard bags marked with indicator tape and placed in these containers will be removed by housekeeping. Please refer to the Biological Waste Disposal Policy for more information.

Cuts and punctures by sharp objects are among the most common laboratory injuries, so it is important to safely manage broken glass, needles, and syringes.

Never handle broken glass with your bare hands. Always wear appropriate PPE and use cardboard or plastic to handle broken glass. Glass can be collected in lined cardboard boxes with a lid. Please do not overfill the boxes. When ready for disposal, please tape the box closed. Uncontaminated glass can be picked up by housekeeping. Contaminated glass can be submitted to EHS for pickup using the hazardous materials online application. Please specify any chemical contaminants on the waste form.

Needles and syringes should be collected in lidded, hard-walled plastic containers. Note that sharps containers used for non-biohazardous waste should have any biohazard symbols defaced prior to disposal. Please do not fill sharps containers past the two-thirds mark. Needles should not be re-capped after use. If a needle must be re-capped, use a one-handed technique to minimize the risk of puncture. Uncontaminated sharps can be removed by housekeeping. Refer to the biohazardous waste guide for information about biohazard contaminated needles. Sharps contaminated with hazardous chemicals can be submitted to EHS for pickup using the hazardous materials online application. Please specify any chemical contaminants on the waste form.

Labels for sharps containers can be found on the Safety Labels and Signage page.

Batteries can be submitted to EHS for pickup through the hazardous materials online application. Please sort the batteries into separate containers by type. To request battery containers please contact EHS staff.

Alkaline batteries are the most common type of battery. EHS recommends collecting these in a screw-top bucket and submitting them as waste. Alkaline batteries do not need to be taped.

Button-cell, lithium (Li) batteries, lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion), nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd), and nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries can NOT be thrown in the trash and MUST be submitted to EHS as hazardous waste. Please tape the terminals of these batteries or place them into individual plastic bags. Lithium batteries may spark and cause fires if terminal ends touch. These batteries do not need to be taped if they are encased in plastic.

Lead-acid batteries contain lead and sulfuric acid and should be handled with care. Do NOT throw these batteries in the trash. Please store spent lead-acid batteries in a closed polyethylene container and submit to EHS for waste pickup.

Aerosol cans, fluorescent bulbs, paints, used oil, lead-containing materials, mercury-containing materials, non-PCB ballasts and other wastes can be submitted to EHS for pickup using the hazardous materials online application. For questions about specific materials, please refer to the Disposal FAQ.

EHS provides universal waste boxes for fluorescent bulb disposal. To inquire about fluorescent bulb boxes, please contact EHS staff. Containers may also be requested for ballasts, aerosol cans, or abatement activities.

EHS does not handle disposal of electronic waste. For information about electronic waste, please contact University Surplus.

Personal household wastes such as batteries, paints, bulbs, solvents, etc. may be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste collection site at the Waste and Recycling Center on Eubanks Road. If you live outside of the Chapel Hill community, please refer to your municipality’s website for information about your local household hazardous waste collection site.

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