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Environmental Bulletins

A page within Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)


Waste Disposal Procedures

In an effort to continuously improve regulatory compliance, campus recycling, solid and hazardous waste programs please take the following steps if you want to dispose of any of the below listed wastes. Thanks for your cooperation.

Contact Environmental Health and Safety to arrange for pickup of wastes listed in this bulletin or any hazardous material/waste questions. 

Waste Oil: Place all used engine oil, gear oil, lubricating oil, hydraulic oil, cutting oil and tempering or quenching oils in a leak-proof, sealable non-glass container. Make sure the container is labeled "used oil".

Mercury: Mercury in switches, gauges, devices or any other source of waste liquid mercury must be recycled. Mercury should not be removed from devices/articles. Mercury must be stored in sealed packing.

Batteries: Alkaline batteries can be disposed in normal trash. All rechargeable batteries shall be recycled. Small sealed dry cell rechargeable batteries can be sent through campus mail to Environmental Health and Safety, Graff Main Hall 235. Tape terminal ends prior to shipping batteries through campus-mail.  

Waste Spray Cans: Any waste spray cans containing a flammable or combustible material must not be disposed in trash containers or dumpsters unless it is empty and all of the compressed gas is exhausted. Do not intentionally release contents of the spray can to meet this criteria.

Waste Laboratory, Studio, Process or other Chemicals: Any hazardous materials, chemicals or other similar products and their residues, by-products, contaminated equipment or clean-up supplies may have to be treated as a hazardous waste if being disposed. Contact Environmental Health and Safety to conduct a hazardous waste survey if you generate any of these materials or similar substances that are designated as wastes.

Furthermore, Campus Policy regarding hazardous materials/waste include the following declarations.

  1. Do not provide waste chemicals or similar materials to Building Custodial Staff for disposal.
  2. Do not dilute waste chemicals or similar materials and dump them in the sanitary sewer unless this is a component of a laboratory experiment.
  3. Do not accept chemicals from off-campus unless you have a demonstrated use for the materials.

UW-System policy prohibits disposal of personal items on campus property.

Lamp Disposal Procedures

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has declared that various types of lamps must be recycled because they contain mercury. If these lamps are burned or thrown into landfills, the mercury in them can be released into the environment, where contamination problems occur. The four type of lamps of concern are:

  • Fluorescent lamps
  • High- and Low-pressure mercury vapor lamps
  • Sodium-vapor lamps
  • High intensity discharge (HID) lamps

Effective immediately all such lamps can not be placed in dumpsters or other waste receptacles for disposal. The methods to be used by all campus employees and students for recycling lamps is as follows:

  • All lamps shall be placed in the cardboard sleeve or box in which replacement lamps arrived, preferably without packing material. Care should be taken in packaging all lamps to reduce breakage during further handling and transport. Different length lamps should be packaged in separate containers. When boxes are full end tabs should be folded over and taped shut. The container shall be labeled in large, visible and legible letters with the following information: USED LAMPS, total number of lamps in container, type (e.g. 4 foot fluorescent) of lamp and UW-La Crosse. For example, a label could read: "24 Used 4' fluorescent lamps, UW - La Crosse". Lamp recycling labels can be requested by contacing Environmental Health and Safety.

  • Lamps shall not be purposefully broken. When accidently broken use appropriate techniques and personal protective equipment to prevent cutting yourself. Place the broken lamp in a corrugated box wrapped in a plastic bag or in a plastic five-gallon pail with a tight fitting lid. In addition to the above information the statement: "Warning: broken glass enclosed - cutting hazard" or similar warning should be placed on the outside of the package.

  • Custodial Staff shall collect all labeled "USED LAMPS" which they replace or are given by other staff and store them in their lamp storage area. When receiving a delivery of new lamps from Campus Stores personnel, the "USED LAMPS" will be collected for recycling.

  • Custodial Staff Supervisors shall collect all labeled "USED LAMPS" and transport them to the designated storage location in the Maintenance Building.

  • Electricians or other Maintenance personnel that replace lamps shall transport the labeled "USED LAMPS" to the designated storage location in the Maintenance Building.

  • All other UW - La Crosse employees that replace lamps shall give the labeled "USED LAMPS" to a member of the Building Custodial Staff.

  • Students in resident halls or academic settings that replace lamps shall give the labeled "USED LAMPS" to the Custodial Staff, a staff member or a Resident Assistant.

  • The cost of recycling lamps will be billed by usage to major users - Physical Plant, and Whitney Centers and Residence Life.

Peroxide Formation Potential

Peroxides: Potentially explosive crystals formed due to chemical changes in volatile organic materials over time caused by, but not limited to evaporation, storage conditions, or breakdown of inhibitors. The crystals can be detonated by shock, heat or spontaneously if the right conditions exist.

Could a suspect compound be a peroxide former? Review the list of questions below to determine if a suspect compound could be a peroxide former.

1) Determine if suspect compound can form peroxides. Review the following list of materials that are the most common  peroxide formers.


The most hazardous compounds - those that form peroxides that may explode even without being concentrated - are in List A. Compounds forming peroxides that are hazardous only on concentration, such as distillation or evaporation, are in List B. List C is made up of vinyl monomers that may form peroxides that can initiate explosive polymerization of the bulk monomers. Each list contains the recommended storage period in parenthesis.

List A - (Three Months) - Peroxide Hazard on Storage

  • Divinyl acetylene
  • Isopropyl ether
  • Potassium metal
  • Sodium amide
  • Vinylidene chloride

List B - (Twelve Months) - Peroxide Hazard on Concentration

  • Acetal
  • Cumene
  • Cyclohexene
  • Diacetylene
  • Dicyclopentadiene t-butylalcohol
  • Dioxane
  • Ethylene glycol dimethyl ether (glyme)
  • Ethyl ether
  • Methyl acetylene
  • Methylcyclopentane
  • Methyl i-butyl ketone
  • Tetrahydrofuran
  • Tetrahydronophthalene
  • Vinyl ethers

List C - (Twelve Months) - Hazard Due to Peroxide Initiation of Polymerization*

  • Acrylonitrile
  • Butadiene
  • Chlorobutadiene (Chloroprene)
  • Chlorotrifluoroethylene
  • Dibenzocyclopentadiene
  • 9,10 Dihydroanthracene
  • Indene
  • Styrene
  • Tetrafluoroethylene
  • Vinyl acetate
  • Vinyl acetylene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Vinyl pyridine

*When stored as a liquid, the peroxide-forming potential increases and certain of these monomers (especially butadiene ) chloroprene and tetrafluoroethylene) should then be considered as List A compounds.


  • Bis (2-chloroisopropyl) ether
  • Bis (2-ethoxyethyl) ether
  • Butyl-lithium
  • Cyclopentadiene
  • Ethylene Glycol Dimethyl Ether
  • Methyl Isobutyl Ketone
  • Methyl Lithium
  • Phenyl Lithium
  • Tetrafluoroethylene

2) How old is suspect materials?

  • Try to determine when material was purchased. The longer a chemical is stored, the better chance it has to form peroxides.

3) Check storage conditions.

  • Stored in sunlight - good promoter of peroxidation.
  • Stored in heated area (e.g. above room temperature) - good promoter of peroxidation.
  • Shape of container - Are they dented, in bad shape? - Could lead to peroxidation.
  • Are containers free from contamination? - Contamination by metals or metal oxides can help promote peroxidation.
  • Have containers been opened? - Containers that have been opened are more of a threat to form peroxide.
  • Is cap on container secure? - Unsecured cap can cause air to be let into container, could lead to peroxide formation. If compound is suspect, do not open, friction can cause enough shock to detonate the material.

4) Visual inspection of containers.

  • Increased or unusual viscosity.
  • Color changes.
  • Pale or brown crystal formation around rims or caps.
  • Do not shake bottles or cans upon inspection.

If any of the above problems are identified upon inspection, do not touch material, contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office for assistance.


1) Store in cool area.

2) Store away from direct sunlight.

3) Purchase materials only as needed.

4) Protect containers from physical damage.

5) Monitor with the use of log.

  • Purchase date
  • Opening date
  • Open only when needed, eliminate unnecessary opening. Do not expose to air unnecessarily.

6) Keep container tightly closed or stoppered.

Pollution Prevention in Laboratories

What is a hazardous waste?

Knowing what chemicals are regulated as hazardous wastes provides a starting point for waste minimization. Wastes are classified as hazardous if they meet at least one of the following characteristics:

  • ignitable - they have a flash point < 140 degrees Fahrenheit or are oxidizers
  • corrosive - pH<2.0 or pH> 12.5
  • reactive - to air or water, explosive, or are a cyanide or sulfide containing compound
  • toxic - they have levels of certain metals, solvents, or pesticides greater than prescribed limits

A number of chemicals are also listed as hazardous if they become wastes. There are the P-list of acutely toxic materials and the U-list of toxic materials. Metals of concern for the toxic characteristic are arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium and silver.

How to start - Setting up a new lab

  1. Think about the potential hazard of every chemical you intend to use
  2. Keep a clean house
    • Keep an updated inventory with locations indicated
    • Label and date chemicals
    • Keep the lab orderly and clean
  3. Centralize chemical purchases through one person in lab
    • Check chemical recycling list first
    • Purchase in smallest quantity needed
    • Share with other labs
  4. Manage wastes properly
    • Establish an area for storing chemical waste
    • Segregate waste streams as much as possible
    • Label wastes properly
  5. Consider waste generation a factor when planning experiments.

How to start - Improving an existing lab

  1. Clean-up house
    • Review all chemicals in stock for: outdated, off-spec, unneeded items
    • Dispose properly
    • Organize shelves for proper chemical storage
    • Label and date all containers
    • Prepare or update chemical inventory (include location)
    • Keep lab orderly and clean
  2. Review laboratory procedures
    • Can less hazardous or non-hazardous reagents be used?
    • Are there safer alternatives to highly toxic, reactive, carcinogenic or mutagenic materials?
    • Review procedures annually to see if quantities of chemicals and/or chemical waste can be reduced
    • New protocols and procedures
    • Consider kinds and amounts of waste
    • How can they be cut?
  3. Establish centralized purchasing system
    • One person reviews order for duplication
    • Check chemical recycling list
    • Check other labs
    • Order smallest quantity needed
  4. Evaluate disposal practices
    • Is the waste hazardous?
    • Is more segregation possible?
    • Are wastes labeled properly with names and quantities?
  5. Guidelines for planning experiments
    • The following is a brief description of chemicals to avoid when planning laboratory experiments for research, analytical or instructional purposes.

Recommendations (in order of priority):

  1. Eliminate or reduce the use of reactive chemicals, where possible, for both safety and hazardous waste reasons. If wastes from laboratory work are reactive, deactivate their reactive characteristic as part of the experiment.
  2. Eliminate or reduce the use of halogenated solvents, where possible. Many halogenated solvents are carcinogens or suspected carcinogens. If such solvents must be used, investigate redistillation to minimize disposal requirements.
  3. Reduce or eliminate the use of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver where possible- If silver must be used, recover for reclamation.
  4. Eliminate or reduce the use of oxidizers, where possible.
  5. Eliminate or reduce the use of non-halogenated flammable solvents, where possible. Try to find non-flammable, biodegradable substitutes. If such solvents must be used, investigate redistillation to minimize disposal requirements.
  6. Eliminate or reduce the use of highly toxic chemicals, where possible.
  7. Neutralize all corrosive solutions as part of the experiment. Waste acid or base may be neutralized to a pH between 6 and 9 and then disposed of down the drain, provided that the solutions do not contain toxic materials that would classify them as hazardous wastes.


Replace hazardous or toxic materials with non-hazardous or less hazardous products.

Use the following substitutions where possible:

  • Acetamide
    • Substitute: Stearic acid
    • Comments: In phase change and freezing point depression
  • Chromic acid cleaning solutions
    • Substitute: Detergents
    • Comments: Last resorts: KOH/Ethanol bath, acid bath, or NoChromix
  • Ethyl Ether
    • Substitute: Methyl t-butyl ether
    • Comments: Avoid forming explosive peroxides
  • Formaldehyde
    • Substitute: Ethanol
    • Comments: For storage of biological specimens
  • MercuryThermometers
    • Substitute: Red liquid thermometers
    • Comments: None
  • Xylene
    • Substitute: Limonene based extract
    • Comments: For histology uses


Ways to reduce quantities of hazardous or toxic chemicals

  1. Automation/Instrumentation
    • Purchase equipment that enables the use of procedures that produce less waste.
  2. Reduced scale
    • Scale down experiments producing hazardous waste wherever possible
  3. Microscaling (in teaching labs)
    • Consider use of microscale experiments. Consider demonstrations or video presentations as a substitute for some student experiments that generate chemical wastes.
  4. Conservation of raw materials
    • When solvent is used for cleaning purposes, use spent solvent for initial cleaning and fresh solvent for final cleaning.
    • Perform work in batches


Reusing material (after processing, if needed) in original process or reclamation for use in other processes

  1. Participate in the chemical recycling program (if don't have one, get it started).
    • Examine, your waste/excess chemicals for other uses in your lab, other lab areas
    • Review list of pre-owned chemicals before purchasing chemicals
    • Inform chemical recycling coordinator of recycled chemicals you can use
    • Arrange to set up a locker or shelf of excess chemicals in a lab or stockroom in your department.
  2. Evaluate other wastes for reclamation in labs.
    • Recover silver, mercury, other heavy metals.


Rendering the products of a chemical process non-hazardous or reducing the volume of the hazardous material.

  • Look into the possibility of including detoxification and/or waste neutralization steps in laboratory experiments.
  • Neutralize wastes that don't contain heavy metals.
  • Incorporate these steps into experimental procedure.
82 Ways to Reduce Hazardous Waste in the Lab

1. Include waste reduction as part of student/employee training.

2. Use manuals such as the American Chemical Society (ACS) Less is Better" or "ACS Waste Management for Lab Personnel" as part of your laboratory preparation.

3. Centralize purchasing of chemicals through one person in the lab.

4. Inventory chemicals at least once a year.

5. Indicate in the inventory where chemicals are located.

6. Update inventory when chemicals are purchased or used up.

7. Purchase chemicals in smallest quantities needed.

8. If trying out a new procedure, try to obtain the chemicals needed from another lab or purchase a small amount initially. After you know you will be using more of this chemical, purchase in larger quantities (unless you can use some someone else doesn't need any more).

9. Date chemical containers when received so that older ones will be used first.

10. Audit your lab for waste generated (quantity, type, source and frequency). Audit forms are available from the Environmental Health and Safety Office.

11. Keep MSDS's for chemicals used on file.

12. Keep information about disposal procedures for chemical waste in your lab on file.

13. If possible, establish an area for central storage of chemicals.

14. Store chemicals in storage area except when in use.

15. Establish an area for storing chemical waste.

16. Minimize the amount of waste kept in storage. Request a chemical pickup as often as you need.

17. Label all chemical containers as to their content.

18. Develop procedures to prevent and/or contain chemical spills - purchase spill clean-up kits, contain areas where spills are likely.

19. Keep recyclable waste/excess chemicals separate from non-recyclables.

20. Keep organic wastes separate from metal-containing or inorganic wastes.

21. Keep non-hazardous chemical wastes separate from hazardous waste.

22. Keep highly toxic wastes (cyanides, etc) separated from above.

23. Avoid experiments that produce wastes that contain both radioactive and hazardous chemical waste.

24. Keep chemical wastes separate from normal trash (paper, wood, etc.).

25. Use the least hazardous cleaning method for glassware. Use detergents such as Alconox, Micro, RBS35 on dirty equipment before using KOH/ethanol bath, acid bath or No Chromix.

26. Eliminate the use of chromic acid altogether.

27. Eliminate the use of uranium and thorium compounds (naturally radioactive).

28. Substitute red liquid (spirit-filled), digital, or thermocouple thermometers for mercury thermometers where possible.

29. Use a bimetal or stainless steel thermometer instead of mercury thermometer in heating and cooling units. Stainless steel lab thermometers may be an alternative to mercury in labs, as well.

30. Evaluate laboratory procedures to see if less hazardous or non-hazardous reagents could be used.

31. Review the use of highly toxic, reactive, carcinogenic or mutagenic materials to determine if safer alternatives are feasible.

32. Avoid the use of reagents containing: barium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver.

33. Consider the quantity and type of waste produced when purchasing new equipment.

34. Purchase equipment that enables the use of procedures that produce less waste.

35. Review your procedures regularly (e.g., annually) to see if quantities of chemicals and/or chemical waste could be reduced.

36. Look into the possibility of including detoxification and/or waste neutralization steps in laboratory experiments.

37. When preparing a new protocol, consider the kinds and amounts of waste products and see how they can be reduced or eliminated.

38. When researching a new or alternative procedure, include consideration of the amount of waste produced as a factor.

39. Examine your waste/excess chemicals to determine if there are other uses if your lab, neighboring labs, departments or areas (garage, paint shop) who might be able to use them.

40. When solvent is used for cleaning purposes, use spent solvent for initial cleaning and fresh solvent for final cleaning.

41. Try using detergent and hot water for cleaning of parts instead of solvents.

42. When cleaning substrates or other materials by dipping, process multiple items in one day.

43. Use smallest container possible for dipping or for holding photographic chemicals.

44. Use best geometry of substrate carriers to conserve chemicals.

45. Store and reuse developer in photo labs.

46. Neutralize corrosive wastes that don't contain metals at the lab bench.

47. Scale down experiments producing hazardous waste wherever possible.

48. In teaching labs, consider the use of microscale experiments.

49. In teaching labs, use demonstrations or video presentations as a substitute for some student experiments that generate chemical wastes.

50. Use pre-weighed or pre-measured reagent packets for introductory teaching labs where waste is high.

51. Include waste management as part of the pre- and post-laboratory written student experience.

52. Encourage orderly and tidy behavior in lab.

Use the following substitutions where possible:

53. Acetamide

  • Substitute: Stearic acid
  • Comments: In phase change and freezing point depression

54. Benzene

  • Substitute: Alcohol
  • Comments: None

55. Benzoyl peroxide

  • Substitute: Lauroyl peroxide
  • Comments: When used as a polymer

56. Chloroform

  • Substitute: 1, 1, 1 - trichloroethane
  • Comments: None

57. Carbon tetrachloride

  • Substitute: Cyclohexane
  • Comments: In test for halide ions

58. Carbon tetrachloride

  • Substitute: 1, 1, 1 - trichloroethane; 1, 1, 2 - trichlorotrifluoroethane
  • Comments: None

59. Formaldehyde

  • Substitute: Peracetic acid
  • Comments: In cleaning of kidney dialysis machines

60. Formaldehyde

  • Substitute: "TankGuard" , (EarthSafe Technologies)
  • Comments: For storage of biological specimens

61. Halogenated Solvents

  • Substitute: Non-halogenated Solvents
  • Comments: In parts washers or other solvent processes

62. Sodium dichromate

  • Substitute: Sodium hypochlorite
  • Comments: None

63. Sulfide ion

  • Substitute: Hydroxide ion
  • Comments: In analysis of heavy metals

64. Toluene

  • Substitute: Simple alcohols and ketones
  • Comments: None

65. Wood's metal

  • Substitute: Onion's Fusible alloy
  • Comments: None

66. Xylene

  • Substitute: Simple alcohols and ketones
  • Comments: None

67. Xylene or toluene based liquid scintillation cocktails

  • Substitute: Non-hazardous proprietary liquid scintillations cocktails
  • Comments: In radioactive tracer studies

68. Mercury salts

  • Substitute: Mercury-free catalysts (e.g., copper sulfate, titanium oxide, potassium sulfate)
  • Comments: Kjeldahl digests

69. Polymerize epoxy waste to a safe solid.

70. Consider using solid phase extractions for organics.

71. Put your hexane through the rotavap for reuse.

72. Destroy ethidium bromide using household bleach.

73. Run mini SDS-PAGE 2d gels instead of full-size slabs.

74. Seek alternatives to phenol extractions (eg. small scale plasmid prep using no phenol may be found in Biotechnica, Vol. 9, No. 6, pp. 676-678).

75. Use procedures to recover metallic mercury.

76. Review procedures to recover mercury from mercury containing solutions.

77. Recover silver from silver chloride residue waste.

78. Purchase compressed gas cylinders, including lecture bottles, only from manufacturers who will accept the empty cylinders back.

79. When testing experimental products for private companies, limit donations to the amount needed for research.

80. Return excess pesticides to the distributor.

81. Be wary of donations from outside the University. Accept chemicals only if you will use them within 12 months.

82. Send Environmental Health and Safety other suggestions for waste reduction.