It is vital that every college has a researched, thorough, written hazardous waste management system in place for several key reasons. One, universities and colleges, whether they realize it or not, tend to generate a lot of hazardous material that needs to be properly disposed of. Two, failing to properly dispose of hazardous materials can lead to serious fines, and three, improper storage and disposal could pose health and safety risks—to the staff and students.

With so much on the line, what does your university need to do to ensure it has the right hazardous waste management system?

What Every University and College Should Know about a Hazardous Waste Management Plan


Having a Waste Management Plan Is Step One


Before anything else, it's imperative your college or university acknowledges the importance of having a written plan. It's not enough to say you're going to do the right thing. The process—and the people designated to implement that process—need to be explicitly identified and written into the plan.


Proper Identification of Waste


The next step in any waste management plan is ensuring you know exactly what types of waste you generate. This means identifying and separating all nonhazardous waste from anything deemed hazardous.

While the federal and local rules are less stringent when it comes to non-hazardous waste, it still must be handled properly, including accurate identification and correct storage, containerizing, labeling, and so on. If you're unsure about what you have, turn to SDS sheets for guidance, and then, if necessary do the definitive lab work to make your determinations.

Proper identification also extends to pinpointing the departments or areas within the college or university that generate this waste. The most common places to look are the maintenance department, the aquatic center, medical research areas, and labs.

Determine Your EPA Generator Status

According to how much waste you generate per month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assigns you a certain generator status.

  • Conditionally exempt small quantity generator—less than 220 pounds per month
  • Small quantity generator—between 220 and 2,200 pound per month
  • Large quantity generator—more than 2,200 pounds per month

This status is important because it determines how you need to report and ship your waste. For example, a small quantity generator can only store waste for 180 days (270 if transporting that waste more than two hundred miles). A large quantity generator, however, must ship every ninety days in order to be in compliance.

If you don't accurately know your generator status, it can inadvertently lead to violations and EPA fines for noncompliance.

Use the Appropriate Hazardous Waste Containers

One trap for many colleges and universities is the belief that if you're storing your hazardous materials at all, that means you're in compliance. This is not the case. You need to be using the proper hazardous waste container for the type of waste you're storing. The container must be officially approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and all your hazardous waste labels need to be properly filled out and affixed—even while storing.

Contact Local Hazardous Waste Management Companies

As you can see, a lot goes into proper waste management at any college or university. With so many laws and rules to abide by—and with safety and money on the line—it's important to reach out to companies that can help.

Working with a qualified, reputable local hazardous waste management company can make all the difference. If you're confused about any aspect of your waste system (what hazardous waste label to use, what hazardous waste container is safe for your generated waste type, and so on), the right company can offer you peace of mind and help you avoid any hefty EPA fine.

Remember, when you generate waste, you assume cradle to grave liability, and any mistake with your waste—at any point in the disposal process—can quickly become an expensive, dangerous mess.  

To ensure you're working with the right company, do the necessary homework:

  • Check the company's permits, insurance, and training. They must be legally qualified and covered to deal with your waste needs—from hazardous to non-hazardous waste disposal.
  • Confirm the end facility the company uses to treat the waste is similarly permitted and insured.
  • Ask lots of questions, including what paperwork they'll provide. (If they've never heard of a certificate of destruction or a shipping manifest, that's a huge red flag!) Paperwork is your way to prove you're in compliance, so it has to be complete and accurate.
  • Confirm the company doesn't have any violations on its record.

For more information about how to successfully navigate your university waste management, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a waste management Atlanta company.