Environmental Health and Safety

Hazardous Waste Management and Disposal

The aim of Montana Tech's waste disposal program is to assure that minimal harm to people, other organisms, and the environment will result from the disposal of waste chemicals, as well as to ensure compliance with all applicable city, state and federal waste disposal regulations.

Hazardous waste containers (satellite containers) are permitted in laboratories, provided that the subsequent guidelines are followed:

  • Deposit chemical waste in appropriately labeled waste containers (see below). Acceptable containers for waste are:
    • Flammable solvents: glass bottles or metal cans
    • Chlorinated solvents: glass bottles, metal cans (if nonaqueous), or polyethylene containers
    • Contaminated acids: glass bottles or polyethylene containers
    • Contaminated bases: glass bottles or polyethylene containers
    • Solids: glass containers and/or Ziploc plastic bags
    • Silica gel: double plastic bags
    • Broken glass: designated boxes or cans or sharps containers
    • Needles/syringes: approved disposable plastic containers for sharps
    • Solutions of heavy metals: glass bottles
  • Hazardous waste containers must be labeled clearly with the words “HAZARDOUS WASTE” or “ACUTE HAZARDOUS WASTE,” or the substance name with the word “WASTE” such as "WASTE TOLUENE,” whatever is appropriate.
  • A log must be kept of all waste going into the container, including the name of the person adding the waste, the date, and the name, concentration and amount of each chemical added.
  • Original chemical shipping containers may be reused as hazardous waste containers if the container is compatible with the waste materials, and the container is re-labeled.
  • Waste containers must have caps or lids capable of containing materials if the container is tipped over. Aluminum foil or plastic wrap are not adequate.
  • Use the smallest size container possible. Don‟t put 20 g or 20 ml of waste in a 2.5 liter bottle.
  • Leave two inches headspace in liquid containers. Do not fill bottles to the top.
  • Segregate solvent wastes into three separate classes/containers:
    • Halogenated (i.e. chloroform)
    • Water miscible, non-halogenated (i.e. acetone, alcohols)
    • Non-water miscible, non-halogenated (i.e. hexane
  • Do not mix inorganic wastes with organic wastes.
  • Do not mix heavy-metal wastes with organic wastes.
  • NEVER mix mercury compounds with any other wastes.
  • Segregate acid waste from base waste, unless you are neutralizing the material. Do not mix either acids or bases with solvents.
  • Never mix acute (p-listed) hazardous waste with any other waste as it all becomes acute waste and is more expensive to dispose of.
  • Do not accept wastes from outside parties for disposal through Montana Tech.
  • A hazardous waste container must be closed during storage except when adding or removing waste. The regulations allow for a hazardous waste container to be opened at the beginning of a laboratory class period (provided that materials are not volatile) so students have easy access to the container. The waste container must be closed securely when the class is over. This exemption does not apply to the performance of research. Hazardous waste containers in research laboratories must be kept closed at all times.
  • When a waste container is full or the process or study that created the waste is terminated, the waste can then be transferred to the Office of Environmental, Health and Safety for disposal.

Disposal of hazardous waste chemicals by pouring them down the drain or by adding them to mixed refuse for landfill burial is not allowed. Such chemicals include:

  • Concentrated acids or bases
  • Organic solvents
  • Aqueous solutions containing toxic organic solutes
  • Heavy metals
  • Radioactive isotopes
  • Highly toxic, malodorous, or lachrymatory substances
  • Substances that might interfere with the biological activity of waste water treatment plants, create fire or explosion hazards, or cause structural damage or impeded water flow.

If there is any doubt as to what chemicals may go down the drain or into the solid refuse stream, contact EH&S for assistance. Also, refer to the Chemical Disposal Guide, Appendix F and Disposal Procedures by Chemical, Appendix G of the Chemical Hygiene Plan.

Other guidelines include:

  • Fume hoods must not be used for evaporative disposal of volatile chemicals.
  • Unlabeled containers of chemicals and solutions from projects or experiments should undergo prompt disposal. If partially used, they should not be reopened since some substances form unstable decomposition products.
  • Before the termination of a research project, chemicals that have been used or processed during the project must be properly disposed of or returned to storage. This procedure should be coordinated through EH&S. Proper disposal of all accumulated hazardous chemicals will be the responsibility of the department or research project.
  • EH&S-approved disposal by recycling, consolidation, or chemical decontamination or deactivation (neutralization, precipitation, etc.) should be used whenever possible. Empty, uncapped chemical containers, free of visible residue and contamination, can be placed in the regular trash unless the contents were extremely hazardous.

Waste Minimization

As a generator of hazardous waste, Montana Tech is legally required to institute a hazardous waste minimization program to reduce the volume or toxicity of hazardous waste, and all departments and programs must participate whenever possible. Refer to Appendix E, Waste Minimization Guide in the Chemical Hygiene Plan. Montana Tech‟s chemical purchasing plan is designed to reduce the amount and toxicity of chemicals being brought onto the campus. Other waste minimization methods include:

  • Reduce to a minimum the number of different products used.
  • Implement micro-level or small-scale operations.
  • Order chemicals in smaller containers, and order only the amount of material needed for a project.
  • Substitute less toxic materials whenever possible.
  • Properly segregate and consolidate wastes.
  • Recycle, reclaim, and reuse hazardous materials whenever possible.
  • Improve housekeeping practices to reduce the production of waste. For example, arrange for prompt repairs of leaking equipment or spill cleanup.