Environmental Health and Safety

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Chemical Waste Disposal

Q: What is a hazardous waste?

A: A hazardous waste is any chemical waste which is not otherwise approved for drain or trash disposal.

Q: How can I see if my chemical waste is approved for drain or trash disposal?

A: The chemicals listed in Appendix A of the Drain and Trash Disposal Procedures (see WCMC PDF icon Waste Disposal Procedures) have been determined by EHS to be approved for drain or trash disposal.

Q: What if my chemical waste is not listed for drain or trash disposal?

A: You can request for EHS to review the chemical waste to determine if it is approved for drain or trash disposal or manage the chemical waste as a hazardous waste.

Q: What is an appropriate container?

A: The container must be compatible with the chemical waste and have a leak-proof lid (e.g., screw-top). Stopper tops and paraffin wax are not acceptable lids.

Q: Where can I set up a chemical waste satellite accumulation area?

A: This area can be a small section of a chemical hood, bench top, cabinet or any combination depending on storage requirements.

Q: How do I designate a chemical waste satellite accumulation area?

A: Chemical waste satellite accumulation areas are designated with a CWSAA poster (available online or by contacting EHS) in conjunction with the use of a secondary containment.

Q: What is secondary containment?

A: Secondary containment could be a bin or tray which is utilized to store containers of hazardous chemical waste. The bin or tray would contain the waste chemicals in the event of a spill and must be large enough to contain the contents of the largest container.

Q: How do I request a hazardous chemical waste collection?

A: Personnel must submit an online Chemical Collection Request Form which is available on the EHS website.

Q: What is a chemical waste satellite accumulation area?

A: A Chemical Waste Satellite Accumulation Area (CWSAA) is the area where chemical wastes are stored prior to EHS collection. The CWSAA must be at or near the point where the waste is created (e.g., within the laboratory). This area can be a small section of a chemical hood, bench top, cabinet or any combination depending on storage requirements. Certain requirements must be met to maintain this designation. More information can be found at the Chemical Waste Satellite Accumulation Area Signs page of the EHS website.

Q: What is considered a chemical waste?

A: A chemical waste is any chemical (e.g., unused, spent, samples, etc.) which the generator no longer utilizes and wants to dispose.

Q: Who is considered a chemical waste generator? Am I?

A: A chemical waste generator is anyone who possesses a chemical (e.g., unused, spent, samples, etc.) which they no longer need and want to dispose.

Q: How can I receive more hazardous waste labels?

A: You can request additional labels by contacting EHS, or indicate your need for labels in the comments section at the bottom of the online Chemical Collection Request Form.

Q: How should I label chemical waste containers?

A: Self-adhesive hazardous waste labels printed by Environmental Health and Safety should be used for all chemical waste containers. Contact EHS for labels free of charge.

Q: When must I label chemical waste containers?

A: The waste container labeling requirements must be met once the first drop of chemical waste is placed into a storage container.

Q: What information should be on a chemical waste label?

A: The contact name and the full chemical names of all the waste constituents must be written on the label utilizing permanent ink. Abbreviations, chemical nomenclature and molecular formulas are not acceptable means for identifying the constituents of the waste container.

Q: What is an acutely toxic hazardous waste?

A: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified specific chemicals for which they deem acutely toxic and thus extremely hazardous to human health and the environment. APDF icon list of acutely hazardous waste chemicals is available on the EHS website.

Q: How do I dispose of empty containers of acutely toxic hazardous waste?

A: Empty containers of acutely toxic hazardous waste containers may still contain residual amounts of the acutely toxic chemical and as such cannot be disposed in the normal trash. Submit a Chemical Collection Request Form via the EHS website for the disposal of these containers.

Q: Can my x-ray and photo processing wastes be disposed down the drain?

A: Most x-ray and photo processing wastes are contaminated with silver, a regulated toxic metal, and cannot be disposed down the drain without first being processed via a properly installed, maintained, and functional in-line silver recovery unit. For further information, refer to the EHS Update entitled PDF icon Photographic Processing Waste Management.

Q: What training must laboratory personnel receive to work with chemical waste?

A: All laboratory personnel generating or working with chemical waste must complete laboratory safety training initially and annually thereafter. A component of the laboratory safety training covers appropriate chemical waste disposal procedures.

Q: What training must clinical personnel receive to work with chemical waste?

A: All clinical personnel generating or working with chemical wastes must complete clinical and general safety training initially and annually thereafter. A component of the clinical and general safety training covers appropriate chemical waste disposal procedures.

Q: I want to be sure I am in compliance with all hazardous waste requirements. What should I be doing?

A: Hazardous waste requirements include assurances that chemical waste are:

  • in an accumulation area close the point of generation
  • in waste containers that are not leaking and are appropriately labeled
  • stored in secondary containment and segregated so as to avoid incompatibility

For a more complete listing of requirements, see the "Chemical Waste Satellite Accumulation Areas Safety and Compliance Requirements" web page.

Q: How can I dispose of chemical wastes?

A: The waste generator must complete and submit an online Chemical Collection Request Form to EHS.

Q: How can I dispose of my compressed-gas cylinders?

A: Contact Shipping & Receiving: (212) 746-1647 in order to coordinate the removal of the cylinder by the distributor. If original distributor is unknown, or you are unable to arrange collection by a distributor, contact EHS for assistance in arranging the removal of cylinders.

Q: How can I dispose/replace my electrophoresis gel waste container?

A: The generator must complete and submit an online Chemical Collection Request Form to EHS. Be sure to indicate that it is a five-gallon container in the weight/volume field on the form. Additional information is available in the EHS Update PDF icon Disposal of Electrophoresis Ges and Solutions.

Q: When do I need to have the lid/cap on my waste container?

A: Waste containers must be properly sealed at all times, except for when wastes are being directed added to or removed from the container.

Q: What is meant by a properly sealed waste container?

A: Waste containers must be properly sealed using its intended screw-top lid or cap (e.g., not parafilm or stoppered container). When properly sealed, wastes should not be able to leak from the container when placed on its side or accidentally tipped over. Containers intended for solid materials should not be used for liquid chemical wastes.

Q: How should I dispose of surplus electronics from off-campus locations?

A: Surplus electronics are to be collected for recycling, and are not to be disposed of with normal trash. To request the collection of surplus electronics from off-site locations, submit an email to ehs@med.cornell.edu. Be sure to include your contact name and telephone number, building address and room number of pick-up location, type and quantity of surplus electronics to be collected, and any access restrictions and office hours. Additionally, refer to the PDF icon Surplus Electronics Recycling Update to ensure all other procedural requirements are met. There will be no charge to your department for the removal of surplus electronics for recycling.

Q: How should I dispose of printer toner cartridges?

A: Used toner cartridges may be recycled or disposed of with normal trash. Many manufacturers and/or distributors of printing supplies will accept used toner cartridges for recycling. If you are unable to make this type of arrangement, then used cartridges can be disposed of via normal refuse collections. Unused toner cartridges must be treated as chemical waste and disposed of using the guidelines of the PDF icon Waste Disposal Procedures. Containers of this type must be labeled as hazardous waste, and a Chemical Collection Request Form must be submitted to Environmental Health and Safety.

Q: How should I dispose of toner collection reservoirs from photocopiers?

A: Collection reservoirs (sumps, bottles, tanks, etc) that contain spent toner from photocopiers should be managed as hazardous waste and disposed of via Environmental Health and Safety. Complete a Chemical Collection Request Form to request a collection. There is no charge for this service.

Q: I have completed my Chemical Collection Request Form. When will my chemical waste be collected?

A: Chemical waste is collected every Tuesday and Thursday. In general, your waste will be collected on the next collection day following the date of your request.

Q: How should I dispose of unneeded x-ray film?

A: All x-ray films, whether spent or unused, should be disposed of via Environmental Health and Safety using the Chemical Collection Request Form as they may contain silver, a regulated toxic heavy metal.

Q: Are household containers acceptable to containerize hazardous waste for disposal?

A: Household commercial product containers (e.g. milk jugs, water and soda bottles, detergent bottles) are not acceptable for the disposal of chemical waste. Containers from household products are not made to the same chemical resistance standards as those used for chemicals, and may not maintain their integrity when used to contain laboratory reagent chemicals or chemical waste. Secondly, the storage of laboratory chemical waste in household commercial containers could cause confusion as to the actual contents of a given container. Therefore, laboratories must use reagent-grade chemical containers for the disposal of chemical waste.

Q: How do I discard old computers and computer-related equipment in the hospital?

A: To discard old computers and computer-related equipment (e.g., printers, scanners, etc.) in the hospital, contact NYP Information Technology.

Q: How do I discard old medical equipment in the hospital?

A: To discard old medical equipment in the hospital, contact NYP Biomedical Engineering. Prior to discarding medical equipment, all contents must be removed and, if contaminated, the equipment must be disinfected.

Q: What advice should I give patients about safe disposal of unwanted medications in their homes?

A: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) no longer recommends disposing of unwanted medications by flushing them into the sewer system due to the negative effects on water quality and aquatic life. Instead, residents are encouraged to place unwanted pharmaceuticals in the trash, after disguising the outer container and/or mixing the medications with other refuse to make them irretrievable. This way, one is both preventing accidental or intentional misuse of these medications by children and teenagers in the home, and preventing negative impacts to the environment.

This topic is discussed in more detail in some very informative articles on the DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/45189.html and http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/45083.html#How

Information for New Jersey and Connecticut residents can be found at http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?Q=335480&A=2708 and http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/rrtp/disposal.pdf.

Q: Is an aerosol can a hazardous waste that must be disposed via EHS?

A: Yes, all aerosol cans are considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As such, they must be given to EHS for proper disposal and never thrown into the regular trash. Aerosol cans contain a chemical component under greater than atmospheric pressure that is often sprayed using the propellants butane or propane. Examples of aerosol cans include duster, which is used to remove dust from electronics, lubricants such as WD40, and spray paint cans.

Q: I have empty bottles of non-p-listed (acutely toxic) liquid waste, ex. methanol. What can I do with these?

A: If these bottles are empty, you can rinse the containers for reuse, or dispose of them in glass trash for glass containers and regular trash for plastic. Make sure to cross out any marking that may indicate that it is a hazardous waste.

If you have any questions as to what constitutes a p-listed, acutely toxic waste, please refer to the EHS PDF icon Waste Disposal Procedures manual, or contact Environmental Health and Safety: (646) 962-7233 or ehs@med.cornell.edu for assistance.

Q: How do I dispose of used EpiPens?

A: EpiPens that have been used for their intended purpose (e.g. an injection) are not regulated as hazardous waste and may be disposed of in a rigid sharps container.

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