Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Lab Waste Disposal

zenosx - 28-10-2012 at 16:47

I did a rudimentary UTFSE and didn't find any posts specifically dealing with lab waste.
After just this summer I have amassed a bit more than 5 gal of laboratory waste. Since I am on a septic system (and even if I wasn't), I would not feel comfortable just "dumping" it down the drain.

I have used HCL or NaOH or other bases/acids to neutralize the contents of the waste to between 6-8 pH, however, the possible toxic contaminants of the waste are what concern me.
Most of the population of my area live on well water (which included myself until recently). My waste may/does contain at least some of the following trace elements (Mercury(Hg), Uranium (U), Thorium, Manganese, copper, organic solvents, etc).

(For those wondering, I do some nuclear chemistry but not on a large scale, total of at max mg scale of the nuclear contaminants as the rest are in jars for my collection :)

Mercury and other heavy metals (like Uranium) are the most worrying. Living next to an entire city dedicated to nuclear weapon development, we have enough of that in our water already (and digestive cancer is rampart).
So, other than those home chemists that just dump their experiments down the drain or dispose of in your local landfill, what are other more Safe ways, preferably non-expensive ways, of disposing of your lab waste.

I had considered asking my college chem professors to use their waste, however, I am unfortunately in a state where meth labs are VERY abundant and there is no way they would not find it fishy for a student to be bringing in Outside laboratory waste. Regardless that I am doing nothing illegal in my lab, and take rather stringent methods to make sure I do not even have intermediates developed as precursors, I think everyone on this forum can agree that undue attention to a home chemist is for the best.

Any Ideas?

ScienceHideout - 28-10-2012 at 17:07

Check the website for your county. Most counties have a hazardous waste drop off. Here in the Detroit area, usually on the 3rd saturday of the month you can take your waste to the parking lot at the mall, or some days the community college. It is free to get rid of it.

If not, you can convert the chemical contaminant to a solid form. Take the mercury solution and add an excess potassium iodide. Filter the orange goop and throw it away. As long as the mercury was the limiting reagent, you now have a Hg-Free solution.

Alternatively, you can get one of those fancy filters- Brita, zerowater, etc. If it claims to remove heavy metals, you can pass your waste through there :D

BromicAcid - 28-10-2012 at 17:36

Most of these community hazardous waste drop offs are only for 'household hazardous waste' they take things like oil paint, pesticides, lithium batteries and the like. Usually best case is they can find a way to dispose of something and charge appropriately (as was my case) worst case they get the cops involved. I would not go to a household hazardous waste collection and try to drop off uranium thorium or even mercury salts. There are threads on the forum regarding disposal of hazardous waste:

How to dispose of unknown chemical waste?
Subject: Waste Disposal
Disposal of mercury salts (hazardous waste in general)
Chemical Disposal
Professional Laboratories, how waste is dealt with

And many more, just look around. Note that the search engine on this site is horrid, use google with the term after your search term. My own opinion judging by your varied metallic salts would be to treat your waste streams individually and not bulk them up as it makes it harder to specifically remove each potentially hazardous component.

AJKOER - 28-10-2012 at 17:58

I agree with BromicAcid comment "and not bulk them up as it makes it harder to specifically remove each potentially hazardous component".

But if you have too, perhaps using an appropriate amount of Oxalic acid may form various insoluble oxalates.

Magpie - 28-10-2012 at 19:41

You are probably already aware that the disposal of many aqueous salt solutions such as those containing Na+, K+, NH4+, Ca++, Mg++, Cl-, SO4--, etc, at neutral pH in small quantities,with plenty of flushing, down the city sewer is perfectly harmless--- even harmless for a septic system.

Also small quantities of many organic solvents like acetone, ether, alcohol, MEK, can be evaporated off (or burned off) pretty much harmlessly to the environment. Halogenated organic solvents would be an exception.

I suspect that the problem you have is that everything is necessarily contaminated with heavy metals. That is a different kettle of fish and as other posters have indicated you may have to come up with creative ways to remove those metals first. I doubt if your local municipal/county hazardous waste disposal facility is going to be willing to take a dilute aqueous mixed waste containing heavy metals, halogenated organic solvents, and/or regular organic solvents. But you could ask, discreetly.

A reference book that I occasionally find useful is Prudent Practices for Disposal of Chemicals from Laboratories, National Academy Press, 1983.

Endimion17 - 29-10-2012 at 02:12

This is third or fourth thread of the same kind. People, learn to use the search function. This has been beaten to death already...


zenosx - 1-11-2012 at 11:25

Thanks for all the links guys. As I said I did UTFSE before posting, guess I didn't dig deep enough. I'll use googles for more specific searches and post in the previous threads from here out.

morganism - 26-3-2013 at 15:12

Interesting angle here. Using persimmon juice as an adherent for heavy metals

The_Davster - 26-3-2013 at 15:45

"hello, hazmat, this waste drum fell off a truck by my house, the label says its radioactive"

Problem solved. ;)

What city do you live in that digestive cancer is rampant? Hartford?

GammaFunction - 27-3-2013 at 16:21

Could you put this 5 gallon batch into a bucket inside a closed bigger bucket with CaCl2 pellets (like cheap road de-icer). This would desiccate it over a couple of weeks, with occasional exchange and disposal of the harmless CaCl2 water. The remaining sludge might then depleted of volatile organics and remaining water by heating. At that point, perhaps local municipal hazmat disposal as "plating waste" or "battery residue" would work. Both substances are probably more hazardous than what is in the waste bin, and also contain toxic metals.