While most colleges don't typically consider themselves to be large generators of hazardous material, they do often generate it. Whether your college is dealing with chemicals associated with the aquatic center or fertilizer from the grounds keepers, colleges produce hazardous waste that needs to be specially dealt with. 

For that, you need to turn to experts in hazardous waste management, but before you do, it’s important to know enough about the process to ask good questions before signing on the dotted line.

01   /   Types of Hazardous Waste

What exactly is hazardous waste? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the regulations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provide information and guidelines regarding how hazardous waste is to be identified and disposed of.

Be aware of ‘listed’ hazardous wastes, such as those found on the F, K, P, and U lists of the EPA. A ‘characteristic’ hazardous waste is anything that is ignitable, corrosive, toxic, or reactive in nature. Such wastes may be produced by numerous departments of college campuses around the country and include:


Art departments (including photo and printing activities)


Science labs


Maintenance departments


Housekeeping/janitorial services


Healthcare facilities

In addition to the EPA and the RCRA rules, be aware that your state may also have a division of waste management or hazardous waste and compliance branch. ALL rules at state and federal levels must be followed. This is where an experienced hazardous waste management company can help ensure compliance.

02   /   Consulting with Hazardous Waste Management Companies

Interviewing various hazardous waste management companies can be a bit daunting. The stakes are high and you certainly don't want to end up selecting the wrong company. You need to ensure that all regulations are followed to the letter in order to avoid possible fines and penalties for non-compliance. We’ve put together this helpful list of questions you should ask during any interview with prospective waste management companies.


Do you have insurance, permits, and proper training?

Before you commit to any hazardous waste disposal company, establish is if it's a reputable, experienced, and approved hazardous waste and legally permitted company. Transporting hazardous waste requires special permitting, and because you assume cradle-to-grave liability when you generate hazardous materials, you need to make sure that everyone you work with is legally following federal and state guidelines. Otherwise, liability (financial and otherwise) could fall back on you. The company should also have adequate insurance and trained employees, including their drivers. Don’t hesitate to ask about this and request proof if you like.


Are you the end facility for the waste? If not, can you tell me about the receiving facility?

It's quite common for a waste management company to not actually run the waste treatment facility where the waste is treated. That shouldn't throw up any red flags. What would be troubling is if the waste management company is vague about what treatment facility they use or cannot provide specifics about that company. The waste treatment facility used should also be permitted by the state to treat hazardous waste prior to final disposal.

Again, you're ultimately responsible for what happens to your waste—all the way until treatment and ultimate disposal—so the more you know about who is handling your waste at every stage, the better.


Will your employees be coming on-site? Will they be doing the actual packing of the hazardous materials in preparation for transport?

Any employee of the waste management company who actually comes onto your campus to preform waste management services—such as lab packs, for example—must have proper and current OSHA training. (Any employee performing a lab pack must also have the proper credentials and experience to perform this identification, packing, and preparation for shipment.)


Can you provide three references to confirm the quality of your work within the waste management industry?

Whenever seeking out professional services, it's always good to get firsthand references that can speak to the professionalism and expertise of that company. Three is a reasonable amount to request.

Make sure the references confirm the company's ability to do the exact work you need done. After all, performing a lab pack and knowing how to properly dispose of regulated medical waste are two very different things. Hazardous waste management is a potentially dangerous job. Providing and verifying a proven track record of success is important.


Do you have the proper equipment to perform college or university waste management tasks?

Small-town colleges or large universities can be logistically difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to parking. If the company you're considering only has forty-eight-foot long eighteen-wheelers, it might be difficult to easily and safely navigate around campus. Opt for companies with the flexibility and diversity of equipment to accommodate your needs.


Can you talk me through what paperwork you'll provide with every shipment?

Paperwork is your way to prove you're doing everything by the book, should you have to undergo a hazardous waste audit. Make sure the company you're considering can intelligently and confidently walk you through every piece of paperwork they'll provide, including (but not limited to) the following:


Hazardous waste labels


Shipping manifest


Bill of lading

At the state and federal level, all paperwork should be accurate and complete. Colleges and universities have additional liabilities because of the presence of students on campus. Take your time when selecting a university waste management company. Get three quotes if you're unsure where the average price point falls, and then review pricing, qualifications, history, and reputation. This will help ensure you get a cost-effective solution that still provides quality services.

For more information about how to go about selecting the right company to deal with your college needs for a hazardous waste management plan, feel free to reach out to a representative of MCF Environmental Services.

Robert Losurdo

President, COO