Hazardous wastes can cause death or serious, irreversible illness and has the potential to seriously damage the land, water and air. The U. S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) have categorized hazardous wastes as characteristic wastes or listed wastes.
Characteristic wastes are materials that may be hazardous if they have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Ignitable waste (Flash point at or below 60· C (140· F); oxidizers)
- Corrosive waste (pH less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5).
- Reactive waste (Unstable or undergoes rapid or violent chemical reaction with water or other material and releases toxic gases).
- Toxic waste (If an extract from the waste is tested and found to contain high concentration of heavy metals or specific organic compounds that could be released into ground water).
The EPA and DHEC identify approximately 500 chemicals and hazardous wastes by technical name in four different lists. If the name of the waste material generated by your operation appears in any one of these four lists, you must consider the waste as a hazardous waste. If you need a copy of the listed wastes, contact the hazardous waste manager at 803-777-2839.
Regulating Hazardous Waste
Regulations pertaining to the disposal of hazardous wastes originate from the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). These regulations specify that hazardous wastes can be legally disposed of at EPA-approved disposal facilities. Hazardous waste generators have direct control over how efficiently hazardous wastes are managed within their laboratories or work-place. Each hazardous waste generator should develop standard operating procedures in their laboratories or workplace, in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, to identify, segregate and temporarily store hazardous wastes. This can help protect their operation from any regulatory actions by the EPA and/or DHEC. EPA and DHEC can levy substantial fines or prison sentences against persons handling and/or disposing of hazardous wastes improperly. The Hazardous Waste Management Team of the university will provide oversight to assist you in achieving compliance with the regulations.
Responsibilities of Hazardous Waste Generators
All personnel generating hazardous wastes have the following responsibilities with regard to hazardous wastes in their laboratory or workplace:
- To select chemicals carefully, become familiar with their individual hazards, and manage and dispose of all hazardous wastes in compliance with all mandated regulations and University of South Carolina policies.
- To properly identify, segregate, collect and label all hazardous wastes.
- To contact our office if they need containers to collect and store hazardous wastes in their workplace or laboratory.
- To ensure that the hazardous waste containers are always kept closed, except when adding or removing waste from the container.
- To ensure that all hazardous waste containers are properly labeled and stored in a safe location.
- To ensure that different waste streams (radioactive, chemical or biological) will not be mixed together.
- To initiate a meaningful waste minimization plan through substitution, scale reduction, purchase control and/or recycling.
Deciding which wastes are hazardous and which are non-hazardous can present some difficulties. It is the responsibility of the generator to determine if their wastes are hazardous. If you need assistance, contact the hazardous waste manager.
Collecting and Storing Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste liquids must be collected in shatter proof containers provided by the Hazardous Waste Management Team. The contents of each container must be properly identified.
The hazardous waste tags provided by the Hazardous Waste Management Team should be used and should include approximate quantities of each material present. You must use the chemical name or the trade name, not chemical formula or any other abbreviation.
- Do not mix dissimilar waste streams (e.g., organic solvents and aqueous solutions). To save money, the Hazardous Waste Management Team tries to consolidate similar waste streams whenever possible. We cannot consolidate and ship organic solvents contaminated with aqueous solutions. Waste organic solvents containers with more than one layer will not be accepted for disposal.
- Every hazardous waste container must be closed and sealed with a proper lid, at all times. The Hazardous Waste Management Team will not accept containers closed with rubber stoppers, corks or para-film wrappers.
- Do not fill liquid waste receptacles to more than 80 percent capacity. This is to prevent spillage out of containers. The top and sides of the container must be free of hazardous waste residues.
- Contaminated solid waste materials like gloves, paper towels and glass rods may be collected in cardboard boxes and/or plastic containers. All needles, syringes and razors must be placed in containers specifically designed for sharp objects. Never use the liquid waste container to dispose of such contaminated solid wastes.
- Pipettes and other glassware must be placed in separate containers provided by the Custodial Services and discarded like regular household trash, unless contaminated with extremely toxic compounds. Contact the hazardous waste manager if you need any additional information.
Labeling Hazardous Waste Containers
To comply with applicable federal and state regulations, every hazardous waste container must be tagged properly using the hazardous waste tags furnished by the Hazardous Waste Management Team. There will be no exception to this requirement.
The following information must be provided by the generator on each tag:
- Name of Principal Investigator
- Phone number, room number and building
- Names of chemicals inside the container
- Quantity (in pounds or grams for solids, and in ounces or gallons for liquids)
- Container type and size
The Hazardous Waste Management Team is required to provide the above information to the hazardous waste disposal contractor. This information will help the hazardous waste contractor to plan packing requirements prior to arriving at our accumulation point.
Gas Cylinders and Aerosol Cans Containing Hazardous Material(s)
Disposal cost of compressed gas cylinders and aerosol cans are very high. The best way to control the cost associated with disposal of these two items is to buy only the necessary amount and use them as soon as possible. If the pressure in a lecture bottle is equal to atmospheric pressure, the generator can legally declare the container to be empty and discard that with other non-regulated wastes.
Compressed gas cylinders containing corrosive materials; like HBr, for example, tend to corrode the valve and trap the gas inside. If the valve mechanism is not in good condition, disposal companies will not accept the lecture bottle from the Hazardous Waste Management Team for disposal.
Unknown Hazardous Waste Materials
Hazardous waste management regulations specifically prohibit transportation, storage and disposal of unknown waste materials. Every effort must be made by the generator of the unknown to determine the container’s contents. Should you need assistance in properly identifying your unknowns, the hazardous waste manager may be able to assist you.
Waste Minimization/Source Reduction Waste Minimization
Federal and state regulations concerning hazardous wastes mandates large quantity generators like USC to develop and implement waste minimization programs. Departments and operational units can significantly reduce the amount of hazardous wastes generated through material substitution, recycling, purchase control and scale reduction. Waste minimization results in lower disposal cost and fewer regulatory constraints. All hazardous waste generators must implement the following methods at their worksite to minimize the amount of hazardous waste generated by their operation.
Whenever possible, substitute hazardous materials with less hazardous ones.
Micro-scale experiments are becoming popular not only in research laboratories but also in teaching laboratories. Scale reduction of experiments and procedures will reduce the quantity of hazardous waste generated.
Controlling the Purchase of Hazardous Materials
More than 50 percent of the hazardous waste disposed through the Hazardous Waste Program over the past four years has been unused chemicals. These chemicals were commonly found in the original containers provided by the vendors. When considering this specific “waste stream,” there are two separate costs involved: the cost of the unused chemical(s) and the cost associated with the disposal of the chemical(s) as a hazardous waste. Although initially it may be cheaper to buy hazardous materials in large quantities, the costs associated with the disposal of the subsequent waste (i.e., hazardous waste) are very high. Proper planning can control the amount of chemicals purchased and effectively reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated.
When feasible, materials should be reused until they can no longer be used for their intended purpose.
Services Provided by USC Hazardous Waste Team
- Provide consultation and technical information on hazardous wastes and their appropriate disposal methods upon request.
- Supply containers to collect different types of hazardous wastes.
- Furnish tags to properly identify hazardous wastes.
- Pick up properly identified and packaged hazardous wastes from work areas for proper disposal.
- Coordinate the removal of large amounts of hazardous waste from a work place through an external contractor when necessary.
- Assist you to develop your own waste minimization plan.
- Monitor the amount of hazardous waste generated from each laboratory and work place.
- Assist you to develop an emergency response plan for your work site, in the event of an accident or a chemical spill.
- Act as a liaison between you and the regulators, like the EPA and DHEC, if necessary.
If you have questions about proper disposal, consult your hazardous waste manager
or contact us at 803-777-5269.
Roles and Responsibilities
- Identify all departmental activities that could result in the generation of hazardous waste.
- Be aware of university policies and procedures for proper disposal of hazardous wastes.
- Distribute information on hazardous waste disposal (including pickup schedules) to all applicable parties.
- Ensure all individuals involved in activities that generate waste understand and follow the waste disposal policies and procedures.
- Periodically review current practices to minimize the quantities of hazardous waste generated.
- Ensure that all chemical wastes are disposed of properly at the conclusion of a project and that wastes are properly identified for disposal before the responsible individual leaves the university.
- Administer hazardous waste disposal services contracts.
- Provide technical advice on proper waste classification, storage and disposal practices.
- Maintain disposal records and generate state-required reports of hazardous waste activity.
- Follow established practices for disposal of chemical wastes.
- Properly dispose of all wastes at the conclusion of a project and before leaving the university.