Most universities and colleges, with their laboratories and medical facilities, have hazardous materials on site that need to be stored and disposed of properly. Failure to do so can result in massive fines and punitive actions being taken against the educational institution. Because proper management of these waste streams is so important, the following are some crucial things to keep in mind regarding how to manage hazardous waste within your academic setting.

Managing Hazardous Waste within a University or College


Academic Lab Packs for Hazardous Material

Many teaching universities have laboratories on site, and within those laboratories are a variety of materials and chemicals—none of which can be disposed of safely in the standard trash. If your university or college has expired chemicals just sitting on your shelf or, perhaps, the leftover content of an experiment involving chemicals, you need to undertake a lab pack to ensure safe and legally compliant disposal. Those steps are as follows:

  1. Identify what materials you have.

The first crucial step of this process involves accurately identifying what materials you actually have within your lab setting. Some are going to be hazardous; others will be nonhazardous waste. This identification ensures the waste type is sent to the proper facility to safely treat that particular waste. Remember, non-hazardous waste disposal entails different treatment methods than, say, biohazardous material, so it's important to properly determine what's in your lab, as well as other university departments.

Whatever combination of waste your lab has, it's imperative to know what everything is so that it can be safely stored, packaged, shipped, and treated without any adverse reactions (fire, explosion, toxic fumes, and so on).

  1. Segregate and pack according to waste type.

Expired chemical disposal can be incredibly dangerous if done incorrectly. Proper packing technique ensure that all flammable waste is kept separate from corrosive waste, which is then kept away from reactive waste. Accidentally combining two elements that react together poses extreme health and safety risks to anyone in contact with the waste.

  1. Pack safely and properly for transport.

All small vials should then go into larger containers that contain absorbent material, in the event of a spill or any breakage. These containers should always be approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Work with Hazardous Waste Management Companies

When the safety stakes are so high, your university will likely want to reach out to professionals who have the expertise and know-how to perform this task. In particular, look for a company that can offer a turnkey service, wherein they handle everything from the very beginning of the process (sending in a qualified chemist to identify the materials and create an inventory) to the final transport—and everything in between.

A turnkey lab pack typically involves the following:

  • Identification of all materials within the lab.
  • Inventory creation of those materials.
  • All DOT-certified containers.
  • Necessary paperwork (profiles, shipping manifest, labels, placards, and so on).
  • All labor associated with the pack.
  • All travel expenses associated with transport.


If the lab pack is a particularly small job, a waste management company might simply send step-by-step instructions that the university must then follow to the letter. More than likely, though, the company will perform the actual duties of the pack themselves for one coverall price.

Whatever your university's approach, it's imperative to have a sound hazardous waste management plan in place. It helps ensure the safety of the students and employees, and it protects the university itself against hefty fines and other negative consequences for noncompliance.


For more information about various aspects of university waste management, please feel free to reach out to a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a hazardous waste management Atlanta company.