Chemical Waste Minimization Program

Federal and state regulations governing hazardous waste require that all generators who create hazardous waste adopt a plan to reduce both the volume and toxicity of hazardous waste.  Waste minimization is any action that reduces the amount and/or toxicity of chemical waste that are sent off site for disposal.

In reducing both the toxicity and volume of hazardous waste you are contributing to increased safety of personnel and benefiting our environment. Waste reduction practices also help control increasing expenditures of hazardous waste disposal and can decrease purchasing cost as well.

Each department that generates hazardous waste is required to review their process and implement waste minimization techniques where possible. All Principal Investigators (PI), Supervisors and staff are required to make waste minimization an active and ongoing component of their operations. 

The guidelines listed below are some good examples on how to minimize chemical waste.

Purchasing Control

  • Check your inventory first to see if you have the material already.
  • Use the Chemical Redistribution Program to obtain free chemicals.
  • Use CEMS (Universities online chemical inventory system) to locate and borrow chemicals for first time or one time use.
  • Purchase the smallest quantity of chemicals needed. The cost savings for larger quantities is lost if disposal costs are included for unused material.
  • Purchase smaller lots of materials on a more frequent basis. Purchase only volumes that can be utilized during a defined period of time (ex. Every 3 or 6 months).
  • Utilize suppliers that can offer quick delivery of needed materials.
  • Be aware of any physical properly of the materials or chemicals that may preclude long-term storage of the materials (ex. Peroxide formations.)
  • Investigate the possibility of returning unneeded and unopened material to the supplier.
  • Establish a system for your area to monitor chemical purchases and avoid duplicate orders.

Operational Control

  • Review experimental protocols to assure that chemical usage is minimized.
  • Implement a department/lab waste minimization plan and train all employees and students.
  • Reduce volumes in experiments-use microscale procedures.
  • Use less hazardous or non-hazardous substitutes when feasible.
  • Instead of wet chemical techniques, use computer modeling or instrumental techniques-these generally require smaller amounts of chemicals.
  • Consider using off-site analytical services
  • Reuse spent solvents for initial cleaning, use fresh solvent only for final rinse.
  • Substitute specialty detergents for sulfuric acid/chromic acid cleaning solutions.
  • Eliminate arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium or silver
  • Distill and reuse solvents
  • Neutralizing corrosive waste as a final step of an experiment or procedure.
  • Promoter sharing among common users.
  • Avoid mixing hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
  • Attempt to redistribute unused chemicals to other users.
  • Use waste generation as a criterion in the selection of new equipment.
  • Review literature for additional techniques applicable to your particular process.

Inventory/Storage Control

  • Store chemicals properly; poor storage may allow a chemical to deteriorate, become unstable, to leak or spill, increasing the amount of waste and cost of disposal.
  • Use CEMS (Universities online chemical inventory system) to maintain an accurate and up to date inventory of your chemicals and discard those that are no longer in use. This will also prevent duplicate purchases.
  • Segregate waste materials properly; mixing of waste types (such as chlorinated waste and PCBs) increase the amount of waste and the cost of disposal.
  • Check your chemical inventory regularly; use older material before newer to prevent an expiration date from passing before an item can be used.
  • Ensure that containers (virgin and waste) are in good condition and labeled; damaged containers and unknowns are expensive and difficult to dispose.