Waste Management and Disposal
Environment, Health and Safety (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.
EHS does not handle disposal of electronic waste. For information about electronic waste, please contact University Surplus.
- Request a pick-up of your aerosol cans by logging in and filling out the hazardous materials pick-up request page.
- Contact Environment, Health and Safety at 919-962-5723 for assistance with disposal of aerosol cans.
- Store aerosol cans in a Closed container labeled as “Aerosol Cans“.
- Return spray cans that malfunction (for example, the tip breaks off) to the manufacturer or dispose of them as Hazardous Waste.
- Establish a distribution control system to limit aerosol cleaner use.
- Consider phasing out the use of spray cans containing hazardous chemicals in your shop.
- Consider using refillable containers that use compressed air as the propellant.
- Do not discard partially empty spray cans in the trash.
- Do not puncture any aerosol cans.
- Do not spray aerosols in/around other solvents or parts washers. Hazardous waste contamination may result.
- Do not purchase products that contain chlorofluorocarbons or hazardous chemicals.
- Recycle your fluorescent lamps.
- Use low-mercury, green tipped bulbs. These are lower in mercury but do still contain mercury at a level that can cause contamination if broken.
- Store all spent bulbs in Closed boxes, labeled as “Used Bulbs” and date the container with the first date that a bulb was put into the box. This box must be kept closed unless a bulb is actively being added to the box.
- Bulb boxes should be brought to the EHS storage facility across from Surplus Property so that they may be collected for recycling.
- Contact Housekeeping immediately if you break a bulb in a lab or office environment.
- Do not put used fluorescent bulbs in the trash.
- Do not intentionally break or crush lamps because mercury will be released.
Mercury Dental Amalgam
UNC-Chapel Hill has a program for recycling dental amalgam. The dental amalgam usually results from excess mix or from the clean out of bits of amalgam from chair-side traps and screens. Because the amalgam contains mercury and other metals, the material is suitable for recycling. The amalgam can contribute to ground water contamination at landfills if the material is placed into the trash for disposal. If amalgam is washed down the sink drain, its mercury toxicity can adversely impact wastewater treatment operations and can contaminate rivers and lakes.
- Recycle all discarded film. Separate the film by type (microfiche, photoprocessing, or x-ray). Place each type of material in a separate box or container.
- Label the containers as to the film type such as “X-Ray film for Recycle”.
- Use the hazardous materials pick-up request page to request pick-up of your film.
- Do ensure that your department has a program in place to filter your photo or x-ray effluent by adding a silver filter, if applicable.
- If you have large amounts of fixer waste to collect, contact EHS. We can supply a pail or drum for accumulation.
- Do not allow spent fixer to be disposed into any drains.
- Do not place discarded film into the garbage.
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.
- Properly manage used batteries by having them picked up by:
- The wholesaler or retailer from whom you purchased the batteries.
- A facility that recycles the batteries by extracting the lead.
- A collection center that sends batteries to a smelter or recycler.
- Smaller Lead Acid Batteries may be picked up using the hazardous materials pick-up request page.
- Avoid long term storage of batteries.
- Store batteries upright in a secure, covered location on a sealed surface. Check for leaks often.
- Tape or cap all terminals.
- Get a receipt from the recycling company and maintain records for at least five years.
- Do not place lead acid batteries in the garbage.
- Do not pour battery acid onto the ground or into a drain.
- Do not take lead acid batteries to a landfill.
- Do not store batteries outside, unprotected from the weather.
- Do not pile batteries more than four high.
- Recycle your used batteries by placing them in a container labeled “Batteries for Recycle”. Department of Transportation regulations require all batteries to have their ends or terminals taped or capped prior to transport. Keep the lid closed unless you are adding batteries. Separate them out by type. Then you should request a pick-up by using the hazardous materials pick-up request page.
- Purchase batteries that contain less hazardous ingredients. For example, use alkaline batteries instead of mercury button cells.
- Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible.
- Reduce battery usage. Consider purchasing plug-in products instead of battery powered products.
- Do not place rechargeable nickel-cadmium, button cells, mercuric oxide, silver oxide, lithium, or lead acid batteries in the trash.
- 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.
Biohazard 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.
The N.C. Medical Waste Rules require that autoclaves be monitored under conditions of full loading for effectiveness weekly through the use of biological indicators. An autoclave log of each test should be maintained, which includes the type of indicator used, date, time and result of the test.
Autoclave Bags/Biohazardous Waste Disposal
If your research or teaching activities generate waste that is autoclaved, please
- Place all biohazardous waste to be autoclaved in an orange bag.
- Prior to autoclaving, crisscross the bag’s biohazard symbol and/or markings with heat sensitive autoclave tape, available from Fisher Scientific (15-999-34A) and other safety supply vendors.
- Provide biological indicator testing that meets regulatory requirements.
Landfill workers look for the tape to confirm that the waste has been properly treated. If the tape is not present, landfill operators may hold or reject the University’s entire waste load. To prevent undue disruption and higher disposal costs, we need your cooperation to properly treat, package and mark biohazardous waste.
Heat-sensitive tape or a sticker is required even if you use biohazardous waste bags that change to reveal the word “autoclaved” after autoclaving.
Do not use orange bags for any other waste.
Biohazardous waste contains infectious agents, blood or body fluids, including waste from research and teaching activities covered by biohazard levels 1, 2, or 3, or plant biohazard levels 1, 2, or 3. Chapter 10, Section 1 of the Biological Safety Manual explains the identification and disposal of biohazardous waste in further detail.
A different procedure is used to manage biohazardous waste from patient care areas.
If you are unable to autoclave liquid waste potentially contaminated with any of the materials listed in the chart below, you will need to make application to the North Carolina Medical Waste Division to dispose of this chemically disinfected liquid microbiological waste down the sanitary sewer.
|Requires Approval||No Approval Required*|
|Liquid waste media from cells/tissue likely to be infected with risk group 1, 2, or 3 pathogens including those produced in recombinant DNA procedures.||Liquid waste media from uninfected human tissue culture (continuous or primary cell lines). A verification process may be necessary.|
|“Microbiological waste” as defined by the North Carolina medical waste regulations: e.g. cultures and stocks of infectious agents, including but not limited to specimens from medical, pathological, pharmaceutical, research, commercial, and industrial laboratories.||“Blood and body fluids” as defined by the North Carolina medical waste regulations**: e.g. liquid blood, serum, plasma, other blood products, emulsified human tissue, spinal fluids, and pleural and peritoneal fluids. Dialysates are not blood or body fluids under this definition.|
**Note: the “Blood and body fluids” definition under the North Carolina Medical Waste Regulations should not be confused with the “Human Blood and Other Potentially Infectious Material” definition put forth by OSHA under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
If you wish to obtain approval for chemical treatments of infectious liquids please submit the Request for Approval to Chemical Treat Liquid Microbiological Waste form and supporting documentation to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS). Contact the Biological Safety office for any questions.
To simplify this application process, your lab may be able to adapt an existing protocol. One example is adapting the approved protocol below for “Treating HIV waste with 10 percent bleach” to a lentiviral vector because HIV is classified as a lentivirus within the retrovirus family, having genetic and morphologic similarities to the engineered viral vector.
- Treatment of Dengue virus, Zika virus, and the attenuated strains of Japanese Encephalitis and Yellow Fever virus with 10 percent bleach
- Treatment of HIV waste with 10 percent bleach
- Treatment of Dengue virus infected cell lines with one percent bleach
- Treatments of Pseudmonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus mixed culture waste with BacDown detergent disinfectant
- Treatment of Escherichia coli and Mycobacterium smegmatis mixed culture with Vesphene
- Treatment of Adenoviral tissue culture with 10 percent bleach
- Treatment of Coronavirus culture waste with 10 percent bleach
- Treatment of Hepatitis A virus and Hepatitis C virus culture wastes using Virkon antiviral solution
- Treatment of Histoplasma capsulatum wastes with Vesphene
- Treatment of Moloney Murine Leukemia Virus (MMLV)-based retroviral vectors with 10 percent bleach
- Treatment of Fusobacterium nucleatum with 10% bleach
|Pathogen||Disinfectant Used||Contact Time|
|Adenovirus||10% bleach||30 minutes|
|coronavirus tissue culture (not MERS or SARS)||10% bleach||min 2 hours|
|Dengue virus||1:10 bleach||20 minutes|
|Dengue virus||5:1 of 1% bleach||1-6 hours|
|Escherichia coli||25% BacDown||24-48 hours|
|Escherichia coli||1:128 Vesphene||min 8 hours|
|Escherichia coli||1:64 Vesphene||30 minutes|
|Fusobacterium nucleatum||10% bleach||30 minutes|
|Hepatitis A||1:100 Virkon||30 minutes|
|Hepatitis C||1:100 Virkon||30 minutes|
|Histoplasma capsulatum||1:64 Vesphene||30 minutes|
|HIV||10% bleach||1-6 hours|
|Japanese Encephalitis virus (attenuated vaccine strain)||1:10 bleach||20 minutes|
|Klebsiella pneumonia||1:64 Vesphene||30 minutes|
|Moloney Murine Leukemia Virus (MMLV)-based retroviral vectors-based retroviral vectors||10% bleach||1-18 hours|
|Mycobacterium smegmatis||1:128 Vesphene||min 8 hours|
|Pseudomonas aeruginosa||25% BacDown||24-48 hours|
|Salmonella typhimurium||1:64 Vesphene||30 minutes|
|Staphylococcus aureus||25% BacDown||24-48 hours|
|Yellow Fever (attenuated vaccine strain)||1:10 bleach||20 minutes|
|Y. enterocolitica, Y. pseudotuberculosis||1:64 Vesphene||30 minutes|
|Zika virus||1:10 bleach||20 minutes|
Frequently Asked Questions
- I can’t autoclave my liquid microbiological waste. Can I use the treatment procedures detailed in the approvals above?
- The treatment procedures listed in the approval documents may be used by your laboratory to chemically treat the waste prior to disposal in the sanitary sewer (autoclaving not required)only if you generate liquid waste as described in the approved procedures (e.g. concentrations and quantities that do not exceed those listed in the approval).Variations from the treatment procedures including quantity and concentration of waste being generated, disinfectant type, and contact time outlined in the approvals are not approved and will require a separate request for approval. If you choose to use one of the approved chemical treatment procedures in your laboratory, please document this in your Lab Safety Plan under Schedule F (Biological Hazards), submit the updated Schedule F to EHS (campus box #1650) with an explanation of the change, and place a copy of the approval documents in your laboratory safety notebook with your Schedule F.
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 pick-up request page. 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
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 pick-up request page. 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.
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 pick-up request page.
All waste must be segregated by waste type and half-life category. Radioactive waste types include:
- Biological materials and animal carcasses
- Dry solids
- Scintillation vials
- Source vials
- Mixed wastes
- 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.
- Use drip pans, keep lids on and repair equipment leaks to prevent spills and avoid the need for absorbents.
- Use the minimum amount of absorbent to complete the job.
- Keep absorbent materials nearby or in a well-placed spill kit to quickly clean up any spills.
- Clean up any spilled material immediately. If the spilled material is hazardous, then submit the collected waste for pickup after labeling the container properly.
- Do not put used absorbents into drains or on the ground.
- Do not mix non-hazardous material with absorbents containing hazardous waste.
- Recycle your antifreeze through a recycling service.
- Keep antifreeze containers closed at all times except when adding material.
- Keep antifreeze containers protected from the elements.
- Label antifreeze containers as “Used Antifreeze” or “Reconditioned or Recycled Antifreeze.”
- Use dedicated antifreeze collection equipment, including funnels, transfer pans or buckets, and well maintained storage containers.
- Do not dispose of antifreeze on the ground, in a storm drain, septic tank or well.
- Do not mix radiator flush chemicals with used antifreeze. Dispose of it separately.
- Consider replacing brake and carburetor cleaners that contain chlorinated solvents with non- or less hazardous cleaners.
- Keep brake and carburetor cleaner in their original containers, and keep them closed when not in use to avoid evaporation.
- Manage your spent chlorinated brake cleaners, carburetor cleaners and cleanup residue as hazardous wastes.
- Collect chlorinated brake cleaner residue separately from other waste to avoid cross contamination.
- Keep waste containers closed and labeled as “Chlorinated Waste.” Request a pickup of your container.
- Do not dispose of brake or carburetor cleaner down any storm drain, septic system, sanitary sewer, dumpster, or on the ground.
- Do not use chlorinated brake or carburetor cleaners in or around other solvents. Do not mix them with any other solvents by spraying them near or over open parts washers, or open pans used to collect antifreeze or used oil.
- Accumulate all sludges and spent solvents from caustic (alkaline) degreaser containers in a closed, labeled container.
- Consider alternative cleaning methods such as detergent-based (aqueous) parts washers.
- Do not dispose of spent caustic cleaner down any drain or on the ground.
- Do not dispose of caustic cleaner in a dumpster.
- Recover or recycle waste Freon on the premises using EPA-approved recycling/recovery equipment with a certified operator.
- Make sure technicians obtain EPA-approved training.
- Manage filters from Freon recovery equipment as hazardous waste.
- Keep records of the dates and quantities of Freon recovered and recycled.
- Do not evaporate or vent Freon to the atmosphere.
- Do not perform service on motor vehicle air conditioners without the proper refrigerant recovery/recycling equipment.
- Properly manage discarded solder and dross by placing the material in a container with a lid. Label the container as “Lead Solder Waste for Recycling.”
- Keep the lid on and closed unless adding material.
- Manage rags that have been used to wipe solder spills as hazardous waste.
- Use solder made from less hazardous materials, such as silver and nickel, whenever possible.
- Request the pickup of your containers of solder and dross waste.
- Do not place lead solder and dross in the garbage.
- Do not place rags used for wiping lead solder spills in the garbage.
- Solvents used in cleanup operations,
- Leftover paint after completion of a project, and
- Volatile Organic Compounds emitted to the atmosphere.
- Use paint and solvents with the lowest possible VOC content. Avoid oil based paints and paints containing metals. Use latex paints whenever possible.
- Limit your use of thinner to the maximum extent possible. Use cleaning solvent the maximum number of times before disposal.
- Try to practice good inventory control. But only enough paint to complete the job.
- Keep all paint and solvent containers closed when not in use to minimize evaporation and prevent spills.
- Use an industrial rag service to avoid having to treat solvent rags as hazardous waste.
- Contact EHS for assistance with disposal of paint and paint related material.
- If you collect paint or solvent waste in drums, keep the lid closed at all times, unless adding material, and label the container “Used Paint” or another applicable name.
- Do not discharge any paint, solvent, or paint cleanup wash water into storm drains, surface water or onto the ground.
- Do not dispose of paint filters in a dumpster if you are using oil-based paints.
- Utilize the services of a reputable waste hauler.
- Call EHS for help in determining if the sludge and spent solvents are hazardous.
- If you have not already done so, consider switching to a water-based parts washer that does not use petroleum-based solvents.
- Keep accurate records of spent solvent shipments and disposal for a minimum of five years.
- Do not dispose of spent parts washer solvents by pouring them on the ground or into drains, or by evaporating them in the air.
- Do not mix parts washer solvents with any other wastes, including used oil.
- Do not use aerosol spray cans near your parts washer.
- Keep soiled rags in a closed container labeled “Used Shop Rags.”
- Use less hazardous cleaning solvents whenever possible.
- Keep lids closed on all containers to prevent spills.
- Set up a system to limit rag use and reuse whenever possible.
- Do not use disposable paper towels, wipes, or rags if the materials are expected to come in contact with a hazardous waste.
- Do not throw dirty wipes or rags into a dumpster if they have come in contact with hazardous waste.
- Do not saturate rags.
- Do not add shop rags containing free liquids to the rag collection bin.
- Do not dispose of solvents by pouring them into containers of used shop rags.
- Make sure you understand the chemical properties of the solvent you are using and whether safer, non- or less hazardous, solvents are available.
- Use solvents with the lowest possible volatile organic compounds (VOCs) content.
- Install drip racks, pans or other devices to prevent spillage.
- Do not discharge any solvents into a septic tank, sanitary sewer, storm drain, surface water or on the ground.
- Do not clean parts unnecessarily.
- Do not mix hazardous and non-hazardous solvents.
- it has not been mixed or contaminated with hazardous wastes and
- it is sent offsite for recycling or burned for energy recovery.
The exemption is available only if proper records are maintained. Transmission fluid and most other equipment lubricants are crude-based petroleum products and therefore can be mixed with used oil. Used oil must not be contaminated with hazardous solvents. If used oil is not recycled, it must be tested to determine if it is a hazardous waste.
- Keep used oil in a separate container, clearly labeled “Used Oil.”
- Recycle used oil through the services of a used oil recycler and transporter registered with North Carolina.
- Keep accurate records of used oil testing and shipping for five years.
- Clean up any spilled used oil immediately. Then submit the collected waste for pickup to EHS.
- Keep drums closed unless adding material.
- Do not mix used oil with even small amounts of hazardous wastes or solvents, such as degreasers or carburetor cleaner.
- Do not pour used motor oil onto the ground or dispose of used oil in a storm drain, septic tank, sewer or a Dumpster.
- Puncture the filter anti-drainback valve or the filter dome end and hot drain for 12-24 hours;
- Hot drain and crush; or
- Dismantle and hot-drain.
Filters that have been gravity hot-drained by one of these methods can then be placed in the trash.
- Hot-drain, crush, split and/or process oil filters by other means to remove the oil from the filter.
- Keep processed filters in a separate container labeled “Used Oil Filters.”
- Put oil drained from filters into your used oil container.
- Do not put undrained filters into the trash.
- Do not put terne plated (an alloy of tin and lead) oil filters in the dumpster. They are considered hazardous waste due to the lead content.