Storage and Handling of Hazardous Materials

The University Safety Manual gives an overview of the University Hazard Communication Plan, Flammable Liquids Outside of Laboratories, and Compressed Gases.

6.1 Handling of Laboratory Trash

Regular Trash

Household type trash that goes into the waste cans. Custodians will remove this from the laboratory on a regular basis. If you have large items or excess trash that will not fit in the cans, please place it next to the trash can, preferably with a note “Trash” on it.

Custodians will only empty waste cans lined with large black garbages. These waste cans should be close and easily visible from the entrance into the lab. Additional smaller waste cans must be emptied into the large waste can by lab personnel as needed.

Excess Regular Trash

As noted above, place next to the trash can. No trash may be placed in the hallway. If the trash needs to be emptied in a timely manner fill out a work order.

Boxes, other recycling

Shipping boxes and other recycling should be as compact as possible (i.e. break down boxes) and placed near the trash cans for facilities pickup. If you plan to produce a large amount recycling, i.e. an office clean out, you can request a recycling tub.

Excess recycling may not be placed in the hallway. If you have excess recycling that will not fit next to your trash can, please move it to a loading dock.

Custodial Services

If you do not want custodial services in your laboratory. The lab workers are responsible for moving the trash to the dumpster. No trash may be placed in the hallway. 

Chemical Wastes/Hazardous Wastes

Chemical and other hazardous wastes are disposed of through Environmental Health and Safety. See the University's Hazardous Waste Collection and Disposal Procedures for additional details.

Biological Wastes (not medical wastes or sharps)

Wastes decontaminated by the autoclaves must be cooled, placed in an opaque trash bag and moved to the trash dumpster by lab personnel.

Dumpster locations

  • Outside first floor (lake level) and sixth floor (Cliff Drive) loading docks of Dow
  • Outside basement door of MEEM
  • Outside of loading dock of GLRC

Sharps and other Medical Wastes

Needles and other “sharps” must be collected in approved sharps containers that have a lid and are leak proof and puncture proof. Sharps pickups are coordinated every 90 days. 

Broken glass

Broken glass that is not contaminated with chemical, infectious or other hazardous materials can be collected in either approved broken glass boxes or 5 gallon buckets with lids. Lab workers are responsible for moving boxes to the dumpster; the custodians will pick up properly sealed buckets. 

Wastes generated not described above

For wastes not described above, check with the Departmental Laboratory Supervisor for further instructions.

6.1.1 Buckets for broken glass

The new, preferred procedure for collecting broken glass is to use 5 gallon containers that can be sealed. The custodial staff will then dispose of the containers with the regular trash. Used buckets will note be returned. Do not empty the contents of the bucket into the regular trash can or dumpster.

For this option you can either:

  1. Either purchase 5 gallon buckets from University Chemical Stores at 5 dollars per bucket, providing an account index to pick them up.
  2. Repurpose buckets from food service, dissection specimens, or other sources. They must have a lid that will seal them.

All buckets must be labeled with the following:

[Beginning of label]


[Large font] Broken Glass Only [End large font].


Instructions for Disposal of a Full Bucket:

  • Broken Glass Only: not for disposable pipettes, empty unbroken bottles, needles, biohazard waste, or regular trash.
  • Securely Seal: if too full to seal, transfer overflow to a new bucket.
  • Place Next to Laboratory Trash Container.


[End of label]

You may print and use one of the Broken Glass Labels from the right sidebar.

6.1.2 Boxes for broken glass

If you continue to use a box for collecting broken glass instead of a bucket please keep the following in mind:

Lab personnel are responsible for moving broken glass containers to the dumpster. If you need assistance contact the Departmental Laboratory Supervisor.

You must use purchased collection boxes, not homemade cardboard collection containers. The purchased ones are designed to take weight, not leak, have protective tops and appropriate labeling.

  • Do not over fill the boxes.
  • No glass should be sticking out of the top.
  • They must be less than 50 lbs; if you are collecting dense glass items like microscope slides, use a smaller box.
  • Do not let the boxes get wet.

Only broken glass goes in the boxes:

  • No"sharps,” that is, no needles that might go through the side.
  • No fluorescent bulbs (see below). Unbroken glass, such as rinsed acid bottles, can go through the normal waste stream.
  • Note that if you are collecting biohazard wastes in the boxes, they need to be labeled and managed properly; if you are doing this it is recommended that you review it with the Departmental Laboratory Supervisor or University Biosafety Officer. See the right sidebar for Disposal Labels.

Biosafety Officer, Compliance, Integrity, and Safety Office

David Dixon

David Dixon

  • Director of Biological Laboratory Operations

6.1.3 Fluorescent bulbs

Many labs are using fluorescent bulbs for plant growth experiments. Please keep the following in mind:

No fluorescent bulbs are to go in the trash or in the broken glass containers. The University is prohibited by their contract with Waste Management from putting fluorescent bulbs in their waste stream.

To dispose of unbroken bulbs, contact the Departmental Laboratory Supervisor to get help setting up bulb recycling boxes. Note, while you can collect unbroken, burned out bulbs in the original shipping boxes, Michigan Tech has an account with a company in which we have to purchase their shipping boxes for sending out bulbs.

Broken bulbs have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. They should be collected in a leak proof and puncture proof container (the container will not be returned). See the section on hazardous waste for additional details.

6.2 Disposal of laboratory chemical wastes—a brief summary from EHS

Some wastes are regulated and forbidden from disposal in the regular trash or down the drain. Examples are:

  • oil
  • most lab chemicals
  • radioactive materials
  • biohazard materials.

Because something is not regulated does not mean it is acceptable to dispose in the trash or down the drain. Check with EHS first. For example, though solid sodium hydroxide is not regulated, it is too hazardous to be disposed of in the regular trash or down the drain. The most common types of lab wastes are regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (also known as RCRA regulated wastes).

Determine the regulatory status before you begin to generate waste. Some wastes require you to be trained before you handle them, and some wastes are extremely costly or impossible to dispose of and must be stored on-site indefinitely.

If a waste is RCRA regulated it must be managed according to strict rules for the container, the label, the location of the container and when it must be removed. It also requires training for those who generate or handle the waste. Lab waste must always be labeled as non-RCRA or labeled with the required RCRA label information. RCRA regulated wastes must be removed by OSHS within 12 months of the generation start date.

A detailed guide to RCRA waste rules and codes can be found in the EHS Hazardous Waste Disposal Procedures.

Occupational Safety and Health Services can assist with waste management questions and waste disposal.

You must send a request to OSHS for waste removal from your lab. The pickup request form can be found at the EHS Waste Chemical Collection Request Form.

6.3 Disposal of sharps and biohazards

The investigator should check with the University's Biosafety Officer for guidance before starting any new research involving potential biohazards, including:

  • viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents capable of infecting plants, animals or humans
  • recombinant DNA in any organism (including vectors, plasmids, etc)
    plant, animal and human parasites
  • human blood, cells, tissues
  • in some instances exotic species.

Information on disposal of biohazards, including “sharps” (needles whether they have been used with biohazards or not), microbiological, animal or plant biohazards and human bi-products (including blood and cell culture) can be found in the University’s Laboratory Biosafety Manual. Note: there are additional training requirements for working with biohazards in addition to reading the manual.

Note that sharps must be collected in a puncture proof, spill proof and appropriately labeled container which includes the “biohazard symbol” and the start date. Using commercially produced sharps collections boxes is the best way to meet these requirements. Sharps containers must be disposed of 90 days after their start date even if they are not full. There are several campus collection points for sharps; contact the Biosafety Officer for the most current location listing.

All biohazardous waste must be made biologically inactive before disposal. Depending on the amount and nature of the material (such as solid vs. liquid, melting point, associated chemicals, and so on), there may be more than one way to inactivate the material before disposal.  Possible methods include (and it is unlikely that all will be appropriate):

  • steam sterilization
  • high temperature dry heat sterilization
  • incineration
  • chemical disinfection (such as the use of hypochlorite solution)
  • ethylene gas sterilization
  • disposal through a bio-hazard disposal company.

Because the effectiveness of these processes depends the nature of the biological waste generated by your project, you should perform a full hazard analysis before starting the work. This includes:

  • reviewing any federal, state or University rules and regulations specific to the wastes you are generating
  • deciding how the wastes will be collected and stored
  • determining what technique(s) will be used to inactivate the biological waste
  • learning what to do if there is a spill or personnel contamination.

See the right sidebar for Disposal Labels.

6.4 Disposing of radionuclides

There are a number of training requirements before ordering, using, or disposing of radionuclides. See the EHS Radiation Safety Manual.

Chapter 7