Waste Disposal

Can chemicals be disposed of down the laboratory sink or drain?

No chemical shall be disposed of down any sink or drain. Chemicals must be collected in containers appropriate for that chemical and picked up by the University’s hazardous waste disposal contractor.

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How to I schedule a hazardous chemical waste pick-up?

Although you can submit a request by phone (2.9999) or e-mail (safety@uchicago.edu), Environmental Heath and Safety strongly encourages lab personnel to use the EH&S Assistant program.  You must provide the office with your name, department name, contact number, room number that you would like the chemical to be picked up from.  Also, the type of chemical (exact name, concentration, hazard, state), quantity (5 liters) and container type (glass bottle).  A Waste Disposal Form must be attached to the waste.

Campus and Satellite Locations

Environmental Health and Safety


Hospitals and Medical Center

Safety and Environmental Compliance


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How often do waste collections occur?

Waste collection shall occur each week on Thursdays or as needed. To arrange for collection on a particular week, please contact one of the above listed departments by Wednesday of that week to ensure collection on that Thursday. For large chemical clean-outs, allow at least four weeks notice.

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How do I dispose of empty chemical containers?

Chemical containers that have been emptied of their contents by normal methods are not regulated as hazardous waste. The container shall be triple rinsed with water or other suitable solvent and air-dried to ensure that it is free of liquid or other visible chemical residue before disposal. For volatile organic solvents (e.g., acetone, ethanol, ethyl acetate, ethyl ether, hexane, methanol, methylene chloride, petroleum ether, toluene, xylene) not on the list of acutely hazardous wastes, the emptied container can be air-dried in a ventilated area (e.g., a chemical fume hood) without triple rinsing. Note: It is improper to dispose of volatile liquids by evaporating. If the chemical is on the list of acutely hazardous wastes or if the material is known to have high acute toxicity, the washings shall be collected and disposed of as hazardous waste by contacting Environmental Health and Safety and requesting a chemical pick-up. Note: Empty reagent bottles are excellent for the disposal of laboratory chemical wastes.

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How do I dispose of laboratory glassware?

Laboratory glassware free from any biohazardous, radioactive and chemical contamination shall be disposed of by packing in a cardboard box or other rigid container. This includes the disposal of the following uncontaminated items:

  • Broken glass;
  • Pasteur pipettes;
  • Glass slides; and
  • Glass vials.

Broken glass containers free of chemical residue shall be placed in broken glass receptacles or placed in a puncture resistant container, such as a rigid plastic container or corrugated cardboard box.

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How do I dispose of metal containers?

Metal containers must be triple-rinsed with water or other suitable solvent and air-dried. If the container is free of hazardous chemical residues, it may be placed in the regular laboratory trash.

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How do I dispose of secondary containers?

Containers that were used as overpack for the primary chemical container may be placed in regular trash or recyclable trash. Any packing materials, such as vermiculite, perlite, clay, styrofoam, etc., may be placed in the regular trash unless it was contaminated with the chemical as a result of container breakage or leak. Packing materials contaminated with hazardous materials shall be disposed of as hazardous waste.

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How do I get empty chemical containers and broken glass boxes removed from my laboratory?

To minimize various potential hazards when discarding broken or unserviceable glassware, the guidelines below shall be followed:

  • Dispose of only laboratory glassware in broken glass containers;
  • Completely remove or deface chemical labels using a permanent black marker;
  • Remove any caps from chemical containers;
  • Discard chemical containers and laboratory glassware into a puncture proof, double-lined cardboard box or a container specifically designed for the disposal of glassware not weighing more than 20 pounds when full;
  • When the box is full, securely seal with tape to prevent any leaks;
  • Label the container as “TRASH”;
  • Never use broken glassware boxes for the disposal of sharps, biohazardous materials or liquid wastes;
  • The following items contaminated with medical/biohazardous waste shall be placed in a sharps container:
  1. Broken glassware;
  2. Glassware with sharp edges or point;
  3. Pasteur pipettes; and
  4. Glass slides.
  • If you are located in the following campus buildings: Knapp Center for Biomedical Development, Cummings Life Science Center or Biological Sciences Learning Center/Gwen Knapp, contact the appropriate facility manager to make arrangements for pick-up;
  • If you are located in any other campus building, contact the Facilities Services work order desk at 773-834-1414 to generate a work order for pick-up and provide the following information:
  1. Location;
  2. Contact Information;
  3. Number of broken glass containers;
  4. Number of “empty” bottles;
  • If you are located in the Medical Center or Kovler, follow normal waste disposal procedures; and
  • Do not accumulate mass quantities prior to requesting a pickup.

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Does Environmental Health and Safety supply containers to collect hazardous waste?

Environmental Health and Safety does not supply containers for collection of hazardous waste, but the disposal contractor will provide five gallon buckets for collection if requested by laboratory when scheduling for hazardous waste pick-up.

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