If your university has any laboratory—especially anything associated with a chemistry department—it’s likely you have expired samples and chemicals that need to be dealt with through proper lab pack disposal. This protocol is extremely important to follow. Improper disposal of any hazardous materials increases the risk of hefty fines and penalties for the university or facility.

01   /   What is a Lab Pack?

Lab packs are commonly found in High School and University chemistry or advanced lab practices such as biotechnology institutes. A wide variety of chemicals, solvents, reagents, inks, acid, bases, and other items and products need to be carefully used and disposed of.

A lab ‘pack’ can be a jars, boxes, or containers such as drums that contain or store smaller items such as bags, bottles, ampules, vials, jars, etc., of partially used, expired, mislabeled, damaged, or contaminated chemicals. The smaller chemicals (and self-contained) items are placed in larger containers for proper shipping and disposal. Lab packs must be transported and disposed of properly – or risk criminal fines and penalties.

Such items are to be ‘lab packed’ prior to disposal due to the fact that some of these chemicals or agents can leak, interact with other chemicals and potentially explode or catch on fire, or otherwise prove dangerous as they age.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) have rules for the collection, storage, and transportation or disposal of such items. Every university or research facility as well as state governments also have rules for their disposal.

02   /   Lab Pack Regulations

Specific guidelines and regulations regarding lab pack disposal processes can be found in the Federal Code of Regulations (CFR) Title 40, Part 262, Subpart K. Topics covered in this federal law include:


Section 262.200 - Definitions


Section 262.201 – Applicability


Section 262.205 – Summary of the requirements of this subpart


Section 262.206 – Labeling and management standards for containers of unwanted material in the laboratory


Section 262.208 – Removing containers of unwanted materials from a laboratory

In such scenarios, it is vital to know how to make hazardous waste determinations and where to send lab pack containers for removal before they leave the site.

03   /   What Schools and Universities should know about Lab Pack Disposal

A step-by-step process is required for properly and accurately going through this is entire process – starting with identifying, segregating, contain options, storing, and packaging hazardous materials and non-hazardous waste found in a laboratory for transportation and ultimate disposal. The two most important steps are outlined.

Step 1: Lab Waste Identification and Segregation

The first important step to any proper pack job is accurate and thorough identification of the materials in your university lab. If you work with a reputable hazardous waste disposal company like MCF Environmental Services, an expert visits your laboratory to identify everything you have—from non-hazardous to hazardous materials.  

Once you know what kinds of waste you’re actually dealing with, you will know what needs to be segregated and/or specially packaged in containers. Labs often contain many dangerous materials (alone or when mixed), and these generally can’t be shipped in their current state. Therefore, for safety and avoidance of fines or penalties, you need an experienced third party to facilitate this process, and that starts with accurate identification.

Step 2: Packaging and Shipment for Laboratory Waste Disposal

Waste management companies will often handle the actual packing and preparation of materials for shipment of all relevant laboratory waste. While a university employee might be extremely knowledgeable about the actual chemicals and materials, it’s less likely they will be fully versed in all Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, legally required containers for that waste, and the requirements of what can and cannot be accepted at the receiving center.

Knowledge of the details are important. For example, §262.210 is very specific regarding determinations when any hazardous waste is removed from a laboratory. Both small and large quantity generators “must ensure it is taken directly from the laboratory(ies) to an on-site central accumulation area, or on-site interim status or permitted treatment, storage, or disposal facility, or transported off-site.”

Ensure that a qualified and reputable waste management industry professional deals with such waste, as they will know these regulatory details.

04   /   What NOT to do with Lab Packs

While it’s less common now than in years past, some universities are egregiously non-compliant with their hazardous waste disposal. This involves dumping expired chemicals down the drain or otherwise throwing them (untreated) into the standard garbage. Expired chemical disposal, however, should always involve proper storage, treatment, and disposal processes to avoid dangers to humans and negative environmental impacts.

It is strongly recommended that you contract your lab pack disposal processes with a reputable and experienced hazardous waste management company to ensure compliance with federal, state, and university regulations.

05   /   Laboratory Pack Pricing

The cost to complete a thorough pack job in your laboratory varies. Generally, pricing can range from $500 to thousands of dollars depending on the contents and volume of your particular lab. Contact a reputable hazardous waste management company for a price quote. They will come to your site and give you a personalized quote based on your needs.

06   /   What are Turnkey Services for Laboratory Waste Management?

turnkey service defines a company that performs every aspect of a job like lab pack disposal, from identification through to disposal. Dealing with one company rather than many provides multiple benefits:


More cost-effective


Less wasted time scheduling and coordinating


Familiarity with your university and its entire waste stream


Experience in multiple waste areas and ability to handle numerous waste streams in addition to hazardous waste, including waste from the maintenance department and regulated medical waste (if the lab performs medical work)

A reputable turnkey service will also provide actual packing services, completion of documentation and associated paperwork for your records, and the materials to safely pack the contents of your lab. Waste management companies are also invaluable when laboratories change hands. A new lab director simply might not know what everything in the lab is—especially if there are any unlabeled or unidentified vials. Those items could be reactive materials that damage a water system or catch fire when dumped. Such scenarios breed lack of safety because there’s no way of knowing what reactive waste is without taking the steps to properly identify it.

07   /   Carefully Choose a Lab Waste Disposal Company/span>

The company you choose to perform this service can greatly affect your university. Choose an experienced and certified hazardous waste management waste company to deal with unwanted chemicals. It’s a dangerous job that requires consideration of health and safety issues and potential environmental impacts if the job is not done correctly.

Compliance is essential. Your university is liable for that waste until it’s properly disposed of. Select a company that complies with all transportation and disposal procedures to reduce the risk and financial vulnerability to spills or accidents involving your waste. Choose a company that’s insured for at least $2 million, though some universities require $5 million. This protects your university.

Lastly, lab packing services are typically done during breaks when students are gone. However, they can occur when school is in session. The company you choose must be experienced and professional enough to conduct such services safely when students and teachers are around.

For more information about lab waste disposal and how your university should approach the process, contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services. With over 30 years experience serving schools and universities across Georgia and the Gulf Coast right up to Illinois, Michigan and Indiana, our teams are experts in helping education facilities unpack the complex requirements of lab packing and chemical waste management.

Robert Losurdo

President, COO