Common hazardous waste mistakes to avoid


EH&S staff had an opportunity to speak with compliance inspector Chad Fisher from the Washington State Department of Ecology regarding three of the most common hazardous waste violations he's encountered at the UW. As it turns out, the majority of these violations are easily preventable and making simple corrections contributes to a safer lab environment. One of the most effective ways to maintain compliance is to regularly review waste containers and management practices.

Here are the top three areas for improvement:

1. Correctly label hazardous waste

The most important part of labeling hazardous waste is marking it as "hazardous" and identifying the risk (e.g., ignitable, corrosive, toxic, etc.). The UW hazardous waste label includes all necessary regulatory information, so completing each section is required for compliance. Checkboxes are sometimes overlooked, so be sure that you fully complete the risk label.

2. Keep containers closed

Waste containers must remain closed at all times unless you are actively adding to the container. Keeping containers closed creates a safer work environment, helps with safe disposal and is easy to do. 

  • If an instrument's waste feeds directly into a container, use a lid with a tube threaded through a hole and it is considered a closed container.
  • Funnels with a locking cap may be used on containers to conveniently add waste. (The funnel top must be closed after adding to the container).

3. Properly dispose of pharmacy waste

The compliance inspector told us, "No meds in the reds!" He has often found pharmaceutical waste in red sharps containers, which is a violation. You must dispose of expired and waste pharmaceuticals as hazardous waste.

For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Ecology pharmaceuticals website.

Please visit the Chemical Waste Disposal page for information about chemical waste.