Disposal of hazardous waste is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) under the Resource California Department of Conservation (RCRA). This Act makes it illegal to mismanage hazardous wastes. RCRA’s goals are to protect us from the hazards of waste disposal; conserve energy and natural resources by recycling and recovery; reduce or eliminate waste; and clean up waste that which may have spilled, leaked or been improperly disposed of.
EPA regulations, or rulemakings, translate the general mandate of RCRA into a set of requirements for the Agency and the regulated community. The RCRA hazardous waste program regulates commercial businesses as well as federal, State, and local government facilities that generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste.
The Chemical Safety Officer coordinates disposal of chemical waste from Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) operations. The cost of waste disposal is borne by KGI, rather than the individual laboratory, in part to eliminate any hesitation to properly manage chemical wastes. Waste is picked up quarterly by an offsite waste management company.
The RCRA makes it illegal to mismanage hazardous wastes. RCRA’s emphasis is on waste reduction and recycling. You can help reduce the expenditure of University funds (and ultimately your department’s funds) on waste disposal and material procurement by practicing waste minimization.
The first step to effectively minimizing the amount of hazardous waste generated is to maintain a current inventory of all chemicals being used and stored in labs and work areas. Check chemical inventories first before ordering any new chemicals. It may also be possible to borrow small amounts of chemicals from other labs. Please take the time to check with your colleagues. You can access the Chemical Inventory via the KGI public folder/General Office/Chemical Inventory.
When ordering new chemicals, order the amount of chemicals needed for the experiment being conducted. Do not order a larger size container for an experiment that will only last a semester or for an experiment that may occur in the future. Although chemicals usually cost less per unit when purchased in larger containers, when the actual usage, storage, and disposal are factored in, the cost savings diminishes significantly and may result in higher costs overall. In addition, chemicals in large containers that are not used frequently can be rendered useless over time by contamination or degradation. In general, only order the minimum quantity of a chemical needed for the experiment, or one year’s worth of stock at the absolute most. See Princeton University link for an exhaustive list of information regarding particularly hazardous chemicals.
There are many nonhazardous substitutes for hazardous chemicals used in laboratories. Hazardous chemicals should be substituted with nonhazardous alternatives whenever possible, in particular those chemicals that are highly toxic, reactive, contain heavy metals, and are known as carcinogens.