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Jessica_B
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 11:50
Chemical Waste


Hello,

I just began working in a biology lab at a community college where we prep and deal with educational labs and there is a huge issue that has come to my attention. The Lab Technician has left open beakers of waste (lugols iodine, benedicts reagent, buirets reagent, methylene blue, and a few others) around the lab prep area. I worry that having these open containers of waste could be detrimental to my own health, but overall it does not seem professional, the containers take up valuable space, and they need to be taken care of.

I have worked in a chemistry lab before where all of the waste was sorted and put into labeled containers, where it was then picked up by the appropriate waste management employees. However given that much of the waste is in open containers and has actually solidified, I am not sure what to do about this.

If there is any advice that you can give regarding this please do so. As of now the Lab Technician has suggested that we bleach the containers and pour them down the drain, which I do not believe is appropriate or legal, however she is my superior and I must do what she says regarding this issue. I will advise her based on the responses given in this forum.

Thank you so much for your help!!
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Loptr
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 11:53


They have suggested that you bleach every collection of waste? That doesn't sound safe or prudent towards a safe outcome.

I would raise this issue again with your supervisor, the Lab Technician.




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Melgar
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 13:44


For most of my waste that I don't want to send down the drain, I mix with cement, pour it in an old juice bottle, and throw it away in the regular garbage. Obviously, heavy metals like lead and mercury are treated differently.

If you don't want to throw the containers away, try rinsing first with water, then with isopropanol, then acetone. Whatever's left you should be able to scrape most of it out, then rinse again with whatever solvent seemed to do the most the first time around. Anything left can probably be soaked off in bleach in the fume hood overnight. Definitely try to get as much out as possible before bleaching though.

From the sounds of it, nothing you've described is very hazardous, and it's perfectly fine and legal to send it down the drain. Remember, the two most corrosive chemicals we amateurs have easy access to, sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid, are both sold OTC as drain openers.




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JJay
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 14:00


In all seriousness, most of that stuff probably ought to be stored in bottles, but I wouldn't worry too much about it as long as you don't eat your lunch by the open containers. It might be ok to treat the methylene blue with bleach and put it down the drain... it really depends on how concentrated it is, and if it is highly concentrated, it should be incinerated. The others probably ought to be recycled.



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Jessica_B
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 14:40


I figured that it all wasn't too harmful, but it's definitely reassuring to get a second opinion on that. Thank you all for the prompt replies now I have a much better idea of how to go about this!
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[*] posted on 10-7-2017 at 20:59


> lugols iodine, benedicts reagent, buirets reagent, methylene blue, and a few others

I think it's harmless to pour it down the drain without special processing. The biuret reagent and Benedicts' have copper 2+, lugol's iodine has iodine, and nothing of it has exceptional toxicity or corrosiveness. Methylene blue is just harmless organics.




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[*] posted on 10-7-2017 at 22:39


Why the hell would even consider dumping any of these things, its likely they are all recyclable by yourself or another lab techi.
If they have all been open for a while then i suspect the only contaminant is dust which is easily filtered out.
The Lugols reagent could be oxidized with a bit of H2O2 and the iodine filtered off sublimated and used in some students experiment somewhere down the track.
Benidicts reagent tends to be rather robust in that as long as no reducing agents are present, then the stuff still works like a charm.
Biurets reagents im not so sure about but its only got some KOH/NaOH and a bit of copper sulfate in it, so pouring it down the drain aint gonna hurt.
A methylene blue solution should also be perfectly recyclable, just filter off any potential dust contaminants.

As for dumping all of this stuff down the drain, the Lugols, benidicts and biurets aren't in anyway waste water polutants, they all just contain iodine or copper sulfate or KOH or some citrate salts.

Fuck knows about methylene blue but its used medicinally so i doubt its gonna be bad for the environment in any way.
I just don't see the point of wasting all these reagents when they are still good and usable.
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[*] posted on 11-7-2017 at 05:07


We used to leave the lid off of the waste bottles... but they were kept in the fume cupboard anyway, so no problem.



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[*] posted on 11-7-2017 at 09:40


Copper isn't something that should go down the drain. Its a lot more toxic to aquatic life than it is to us.

As for the iodine, if its earmarked for disposal, beg it off them for your own recycling, and either reclaim the I2 as I2, or convert it into something useful like iodine monochloride, iodine trichloride, periodic acid/periodates, iodine pentoxide etc.

You might as well beg the benedict's as well, and either use it for the analytical detection of aldehydes or reducing sugars, or use the latter detection ability to reclaim the copper content as the oxide by tossing some glucose in there, to precipitate the copper oxide (and if its to go down the drain, this should certainly be done IMO given the aquatic environmental toxicity of bioavailable copper. Hell you may as well smelt it down to copper again with some charcoal and keep it for scrap metal until you have enough copper scraps to trade in, its worth a fair bit for scrap, and the charcoal could be had for free from dead wood. Or if you have an element collection then you could have it serve as your Cu sample, since IMO its definitely better where possible to produce the elements yourself from some compound or natural source, for the challenge and then its in a way, more meaningful, since you worked for it yourself rather than just skinned some wire, or cut up/melted a piece of piping)
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ave369
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[*] posted on 11-7-2017 at 11:49


If someone is a radical environmentalist, they can always precipitate copper 2+ with sodium carbonate and filter out the resulting azurite/malachite.



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[*] posted on 28-9-2017 at 15:40


This seems like a little bit of an overkill... I understand why an institution may want to minimize waste: They produce a large amount of it annually and have a reputation to maintain, but why must individual amateurs do the same?



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[*] posted on 28-9-2017 at 17:44


What you describe Jessica_B is not only neglectful but it may be outright illegal. I go to a large university so your community college may not be subject to the same regulations as my school, but I bet they are. At my school, we have to follow strict guidelines for hazardous waste disposal based on the EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). All hazardous waste has to be stored in appropriately labeled containers that must stay closed unless waste is actively being added to them. If we are inspected and a waste container is not closed, we get fined. If the waste is considered hazardous and the container is not labeled "hazardous waste", just “waste” is not enough, we get fined. If the container is filled above a certain level, we get fined. You cannot pour anything other than water down the drain. You cannot dispose of volatile organics by letting them evaporate in the fume hood. You can only keep certain compounds like diethyl ether for so long before you have to dispose of them. The list goes on and on.

These are not just good practices, they are the law. I suggest you read up on the RCRA laws and regulations and present your findings to your lab technician. If she dismisses you, go to her superiors. Your school can get into serious trouble if they are found to not be handling hazardous waste properly.

[Edited on 29-9-2017 by Plunkett]
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[*] posted on 29-9-2017 at 01:49


It would be interesting if one day bacteria are genetically engineered to render lab waste safe. You would only have to put sugar/starch into a vat of lab waste and then dispose of the resulting oxides,carbonates, and sulfides later.



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Melgar
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[*] posted on 29-9-2017 at 03:19


Quote: Originally posted by Plunkett  
What you describe Jessica_B is not only neglectful but it may be outright illegal. I go to a large university so your community college may not be subject to the same regulations as my school, but I bet they are. At my school, we have to follow strict guidelines for hazardous waste disposal based on the EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). All hazardous waste has to be stored in appropriately labeled containers that must stay closed unless waste is actively being added to them. If we are inspected and a waste container is not closed, we get fined. If the waste is considered hazardous and the container is not labeled "hazardous waste", just “waste” is not enough, we get fined. If the container is filled above a certain level, we get fined. You cannot pour anything other than water down the drain. You cannot dispose of volatile organics by letting them evaporate in the fume hood. You can only keep certain compounds like diethyl ether for so long before you have to dispose of them. The list goes on and on.

These are not just good practices, they are the law. I suggest you read up on the RCRA laws and regulations and present your findings to your lab technician. If she dismisses you, go to her superiors. Your school can get into serious trouble if they are found to not be handling hazardous waste properly.

[Edited on 29-9-2017 by Plunkett]

From her description, none of the waste is actually hazardous, and thus probably wouldn't be considered "hazardous waste".




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[*] posted on 29-9-2017 at 04:30


Quote: Originally posted by Melgar  
Quote: Originally posted by Plunkett  
What you describe Jessica_B is not only neglectful but it may be outright illegal. I go to a large university so your community college may not be subject to the same regulations as my school, but I bet they are. At my school, we have to follow strict guidelines for hazardous waste disposal based on the EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). All hazardous waste has to be stored in appropriately labeled containers that must stay closed unless waste is actively being added to them. If we are inspected and a waste container is not closed, we get fined. If the waste is considered hazardous and the container is not labeled "hazardous waste", just “waste” is not enough, we get fined. If the container is filled above a certain level, we get fined. You cannot pour anything other than water down the drain. You cannot dispose of volatile organics by letting them evaporate in the fume hood. You can only keep certain compounds like diethyl ether for so long before you have to dispose of them. The list goes on and on.

These are not just good practices, they are the law. I suggest you read up on the RCRA laws and regulations and present your findings to your lab technician. If she dismisses you, go to her superiors. Your school can get into serious trouble if they are found to not be handling hazardous waste properly.

[Edited on 29-9-2017 by Plunkett]

From her description, none of the waste is actually hazardous, and thus probably wouldn't be considered "hazardous waste".


You are right. I jumped the gun. After reviewing the list, the only chemicals on it she is likely to encounter are solvents like acetone, DCM, and a few alcohols. Furthermore, if you generate less than 100 kg of hazardous waste a month, you are considered a conditionally exempt small quantity generator and do not have to follow a lot of the rules. The list is here if anybody is interested.
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[*] posted on 6-10-2017 at 17:41


I contacted my university's environmental health and safety office and here is what they said:

"After sitting down and looking at the materials you listed, I realized that none of them are RCRA regulated. I have attached the MSDS for each of the chemicals you listed. They can be disposed in the sanitary sewer. I would flush them really good with water while doing so. As far as the 'few others' go…. I would tell them to try and find out if they are regulated or not. Proper disposal is expensive, but it’s much cheaper than a fine from a regulatory agency."

Attachment: Benedict's Reagent SDS.pdf (397kB)
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Attachment: Biuret Reagent SDS.pdf (323kB)
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Attachment: Lugol Solution SDS.pdf (373kB)
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Attachment: Methylene Blue SDS.pdf (341kB)
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[*] posted on 7-10-2017 at 14:37


Meth Blue is used a great deal in aquariums for white spot etc, so a large amount of it is often thrown down the loo. Its one of those aquarium chemicals that seemed to be a cure all for everything! I dont use it personally as it stains the silicon sealer used to hold the glass together.


i dont like copper being thrown into the environment, i know its used as a water herbicide etc, but its harmful to alot of water molluscs, and well thats just me.

Harmful or not, i dont think its a great example to students to throw stuff down sinks etc. i would have thought it better to teach best practice.
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