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

No chemical shall be disposed of down any sink or drain without prior approval from Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) or the Office of Research Safety (ORS). 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?

Campus locations can submit a request by using the EHS Assistant program.  If you need to be set up on the EHS Assistant program or have difficulties, please contact EHS at 773.702.9999 or

University of Chicago Medicine clinical and maintenance locations should contact the University of Chicago Medicine - Environmental Health and Safety Office to request a pick-up at 773.702.1733 or

For off-campus locations, please contact EHS at 773.702.9999 to set up a special pick-up.

Waste pick-up requests will require your name, department name, contact number, room number that you would like the chemicals to be picked up from, type of chemical (exact name, concentration, hazard, state), quantity (five liters), and container type (glass bottle).  All waste containers should be labeled with the words "Hazardous Waste" and be marked with the contents, hazards, and location from where they were generated.

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How often do waste collections occur?

Hazardous waste collections occur on Wednesdays for the medical center buildings and on Thursdays for the rest of campus.  All waste pick-up requests should be submitted by 3 p.m. the previous day.  For large facility/laboratory 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.  Empty reagent bottles may be reused to collect chemical waste for disposal as long as the containers are compatible with the waste material they are being used to store.

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.  Please note it is improper to dispose of volatile liquids by evaporating, only containers with residual amounts of contamination shall be air dried.

Note: If the chemical is on the list of acutely hazardous wastes or if the material is known to have high acute toxicity, do not rinse the container.  Instead, the container itself will need to be disposed of as hazardous waste.  If the container needs to be saved for reuse, then the rinse water shall be collected in a separate container and disposed of as hazardous waste by requesting a chemical pick-up through the online EHS Assistant program.

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How do I dispose of laboratory glassware?

Intact laboratory glassware free from any biohazardous, radioactive, and chemical contamination may be recycled or disposed of with the general trash. 

Broken glass free of biological, radioactive, or chemical residue shall be placed in broken glass receptacles or placed in a puncture resistant container, such as a rigid plastic container or lined corrugated cardboard box and taped shut.  The container shall be marked with the words "broken glass".

This includes the disposal of the following uncontaminated items:

  • Broken glass; and
  • Glass vials.

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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. Once a container is free of hazardous residues, all hazard warning labels/markings shall be removed or defaced, then it may be placed in the regular laboratory trash or recycled.  

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How do I dispose of secondary containers?

Containers that were used as overpack for the primary chemical container should have any hazard warning labels removed or defaced and may then be placed in regular trash or with recyclables. 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”; and
  • 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:

  • Broken glassware;
  • Glassware with sharp edges or point;
  • Pasteur pipettes; and
  • Glass slides.

If you are located in the following campus buildings, please contact the appropriate facility manager to make arrangements for pick-up:

  • Knapp Center for Biomedical Development;
  • Cummings Life Science Center; or
  • Biological Sciences Learning Center.

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; and
  4. Number of “empty” bottles.

If you are located in the University of Chicago Medicine 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 the collection of hazardous waste, but the disposal contractor will provide five-gallon, 15-gallon, 30-gallon, or 55-gallon pails/drums for collection if requested by the laboratory when scheduling for hazardous waste pick-up.

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