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What are the Rules for Proper Chemical Waste Disposal?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chemicals are commonly used and fairly easy to obtain, but they are not always as easy to dispose of safely. Many of the substances used every day can do a great deal of harm to the environment and the health of humans and animals. To prevent this, it is important that people follow chemical waste disposal guidelines.

Proper chemical waste disposal can only occur if people know which substances pose a risk. Guidelines regarding chemical waste disposal vary around the world, and the information may not always be readily available. This leads to many people endangering themselves and their environment without knowing.

In the United States, however, there are many sources to assist people. There are several factors that can cause substances to be classified as hazardous waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains lists that can be consulted. Many common chemicals such as acetone and methanol fall into this category. People must be careful because some chemicals that are not listed actually are hazardous.

Normally, any substance that is poisonous, reactive, corrosive, or flammable is subject to chemical waste disposal regulations. Pouring such substances down the drain, burying them, or tossing them into the garbage are not considered proper disposal in the US. Since many people can be tempted to choose unsafe options that easily get unwanted materials out of their sight, many municipalities have easy hazardous waste collection programs. Most programs allow people to simply give their waste to those who are qualified to deal with it.

Chemical waste disposal should begin with unwanted substances being stored in a sealable container. It is important to make sure that the container and the waste are compatible. Not all waste is created equal, so not everything can be stored in the same type of containers. Also, when storing substances for later disposal, it is not advisable to mix different types of waste if there is not complete confidence that the substances are compatible.

Once chemical waste is placed in a container, it should be firmly closed to prevent spills or any other sort of accidents. Most guidelines warn against leaving tubes or funnels in a larger container for later use. It is considered best to take the time to open and close the container each time.

Containers holding chemical waste need to be thoroughly rinsed. This prevents negative reactions from occurring with things that the container comes into contact with. The container should also be clearly labeled as hazardous chemical waste. When known, the type of waste should also be clearly displayed on the container. This will prevent any confusion or mistakes on the part of others who come into contact with it.

Once these steps have been followed, the unwanted materials can normally be taken to a chemical waste disposal site. Certain materials may have to be taken to special sites, because special consideration for their disposal is necessary. When disposal sites cannot be readily found, it is best to contact local public works authorities for further instruction.

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Discussion Comments

By cougars — On Apr 06, 2011

@GlassAxe- I do not think your waste management company will dispose of your batteries. Disposal of hazardous waste is tricky because not all facilities have the capability to deal with the myriad of chemicals that people need to dispose of.

Batteries are recyclable. I would advise you to take the battery to an auto parts store or a mechanic. The mechanic or auto parts store may even compensate you for returning the battery because it has some value to it. At the very least, you will be able to recycle them free.

By GlassAxe — On Apr 04, 2011

How do I dispose of batteries? I have a few old car batteries that I need to get rid of, but I do not know what to do with them. Will my waste management company take them? I want them out of my garage, but I do not want to throw them in the dumpster because they are filled with lead and caustic acids. Please help!

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