If your university has any laboratory—especially anything associated with a chemistry department—it’s extremely likely you have expired samples and chemicals that need to be dealt with through proper lab pack disposal. This protocol is extremely important to both understand and follow because improperly disposing of those hazardous materials makes your university vulnerable to hefty fines and, depending on the severity of the offense, even harsher penalties.

Lab Pack Disposal: An Overview for Every University

What Is a Lab Pack?

In the broadest sense, this is the entire process that goes into identifying, segregating, containerizing, storing, and packaging hazardous materials and nonhazardous waste found in a laboratory for transportation and ultimate disposal.

What’s Improper Lab Pack Disposal Protocol?

While it’s less common now than in years past, there are still universities that are egregiously noncompliant 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 to avoid any unwanted environmental impacts.

Lab Waste: Identification and Segregation

The first important step to any proper pack job is accurate, thorough identification of the materials in your university lab.

If you work with a reputable hazardous waste disposal company, that institution will send a chemist to your laboratory to identify everything you have—from nonhazardous to hazardous material.  

Once you know what kinds of waste you’re actually dealing with, you will know definitively what needs to be segregated and/or specially containerized.

Keep in mind, 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 fine avoidance, you need an experienced third party to facilitate this process, and that starts with accurate identification.

Packaging and Shipment: Laboratory Waste Disposal

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

That is, a university chemist knows the product but not from a waste standpoint. For that, you need a qualified employee who’s in the waste management industry.

Laboratory Pack Pricing

The cost to complete a thorough pack job in your laboratory varies wildly with the size and contents of your particular laboratory. It can be as little as $500 or as extensive as $40,000.

Because there are so many contributing factors to the final cost, there is really no coverall figure. You must simply contact a reputable waste management company to come onsite to your university and provide a personalized quote.

Why Universities Should Consider Turnkey Service for All Laboratory Waste Management

A turnkey service means one company performs every aspect of this job—from identification through to disposal. Dealing with one company rather than many often has multiple benefits:

  • More cost-effective.
  • Less wasted time scheduling and coordinating.
  • Familiarity with your university and its entire waste stream rather than one aspect.
  • Experience in multiple waste arenas and ability to handle anything beyond hazardous waste, including waste from the maintenance department and regulated medical waste (if the lab performs medical work).

Any reputable turnkey service will also provide (at the appropriate time) the labor to perform the actual packing, the paperwork of that job for your records, and the materials to safely pack the contents of your lab (from five-gallon pails to fifty-five-gallon drums, depending on your needs).

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, unidentified vials. Those items could be reactive materials that damage a water system or catch fire when dumped. The uncertainty breeds this lack of safety because there’s no way of knowing what’s reactive waste and not without taking the steps to properly identify it.

Lab Waste Disposal Company: Why to Choose Carefully

The company you choose to perform this service can greatly affect your university.

  • First, it’s a dangerous job involving dangerous chemicals. There are very real safety issues to consider as well as environmental impacts if the job is done incorrectly.
  • Second, your university is liable for that waste until it’s properly disposed of. You want, therefore, to select a company that complies with all transport and disposal procedures to ensure you’re not needlessly financially vulnerable to spills or accidents involving your waste.
  • Third, choose a company that’s insured for at least $2 million. (Some universities require $5 million.)
  • Fourth, lab packs are typically done during breaks when students are gone. However, they can occur when school is in session, so the company should be experienced and professional enough to conduct themselves well when students and teachers are around.

For more information about lab waste disposal and how your university should approach this, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management Atlanta company.