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Author: Subject: Responsible Chemical Waste Disposal
PrussianBlue
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 04:12
Responsible Chemical Waste Disposal


Before I seriously begin to do some home experimenting, a major concern I have is the safe and environmentally responsible disposal of chemical waste. At this point, I do not plan on using any chemicals that I cannot obtain from OTC products (thinners, pool chemicals, etc.). Will my local hazardous waste facility be my best bet?

Their accepted waste list includes:

Paints
Stains
Varnishes
Solvents
Garden pesticides
Flammable products
Poisons
Adhesives
Aerosol cans
Lawn care products
Cleaners
Automotive chemicals

I want to take safe waste disposal quite seriously, so any added insight will be greatly appreciated.
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woelen
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 04:30


I myself do the following:
- Evaporate organic solvents in air, outside, or burn them away, outside.
- Solutions of toxic metal salts I put in a bottle. I label this bottle with text, telling that it contains heavy metals in solution (the chemical symbol of each of the metals in the solution I put between parentheses in smaller script), and when I bring it to our local hazardous waste facility I tell them it is waste from my photography dark room. Never any questions asked, and still safely brought away with right label. I bring at most a few liters, do not bring big jerry cans full of waste!
- Common inorganic acids I flush away with a lot of water.
- Common strong bases I flush away with a lot of water.
- Solutions of alkali metals, earth alkali metals, B, Al, Fe, Cr(III), Si, Ge, Mn, Sn, Bi and Ti I also flush with a lot of water.
- Cr(VI) I reduce with dil. HCl and Na2SO3 and then flush away.
- Most inorganic simple anions can be flushed away (if the counter ion is not a toxic heavy metal). There are a few which I do not flush away: selenium-based, tellurium-based, arsenic-based, antimony-based, lead-based, most transition-metal anions, such as vanadates, molybdates.

I work in micro quantities (test tubes). In that way, the amount of waste is very small and that's why I feel no issue with flushing a few tens of mg or maybe 100 mg of e.g. Cr(3+) or Mn-salts away. The really toxic stuff, however, I keep.




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CobaltChloride
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 04:56


A few basic rules I adhere to when dealing with inorganic waste:
1) If your waste only contains alkaline, alkaline-earth metals (besides barium), aluminium and non-toxic anions (Cl, Br, I, SO4, SO3 etc.), it can be safely disposed down the drain. You can also dispose of small quantities (a few grams or so) of iron and chromium III this way.

2) If your waste has a toxic cation and a non-toxic anion, see if there is a way of recycling the metal. For example, I collect all my copper waste in a big PET bottle. After it is filled 2/3 of the volume, I add sodium carbonate to precipitate the copper. This also applies to Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Zn, Ba and other metals. The carbonate can be heated together with crushed coke or charcoal to recover the metal (besides BaCO3).
For silver you can just add table salt and thus recover the valuable silver.
For lead I can't really say for sure what you should do as I haven't used it yet, but I think you could add some sort of sulfate and then recover the PbSO4. I'm not sure if the remaining liquid contains enough lead to be an environmental threat, so you'd better ask someone else.
I haven't dealt with tin yet so I can't say what you should do with that.
For mercury there are multiple procedures online (see Cody'sLab video and NileRed's video)

3) If your waste has a benign cation but a dangerous anion, try to see if there's any way to neutralize the anion in any way. For example, cyanides react with hypochlorites to make harmless products. Also, chromates and dichromates react with reducing agents (thiosulfates, sulfites, metabisulfites etc.) to make much less dangerous chromium III.

4) If you're dealing with a nonmetal/ metalloid in elemental form or as molecular compounds, research how to deal with it yourself as the people at the hazardous waste facility are not equipped to deal with them and all nonmetals/metalloids are treated differently. There are some completely harmless ones, like silicon and carbon, but there's also some dangerous ones, like sulfur, selenium, arsenic and antimony.

5) If your waste is strongly alkaline or acidic, you can pour it down the drain in small quantities. If there's a lot of waste, you'd need to at least partially neutralize it.

A few rules I adhere to when dealing with organic waste:
1) Collect all solvents in separate containers, label them and bring them to the local hazardous waste facility

2) If your waste only has non-toxic carboxylic acids (formic, acetic, citric, oxalic and others) and their salts of non-toxic cations (the ones mention in the first point in the inorganic category), you can dispose of it down the drain

3) Disposal of all other organic waste has to be researched before the experiment to see if it is possible to safely do it. If it's not doable by an amateur, then I don't attempt the reaction.

If I'm wrong on any of these, please inform me as I don't want to be unknowingly destroying the environment.

[Edited on 26-3-2018 by CobaltChloride]
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PrussianBlue
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 05:04


I've been informed (but have not confirmed) that the EPA prohibits the open evaporation of any non-aqueous liquid waste in the US. I don't plan on using any heavy metals, highly toxic substances, etc., so I'm not too worried about the disposal of those. My primary concern is the disposal of halogenated organic waste as this will likely come up in the near future. My thoughts are that since some OTC solvents are halogenated organics (e.g. DCM), the hazardous waste facility can likely properly dispose of them.
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woelen
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 05:16


Evaporation of liters of organic waste is not good, but if you produce e.g. 10 ml of DCM waste, then I would not worry about that and simply evaporate it outside.

With all these things you must put your waste in perspective. If your neighbour is stripping the paint from his wood panels and uses a liter of paint stripper, based on DCM, and you use a few tens of ml of DCM in chemical experiments, then you can draw your own conclusion. The laws you mention are not about tens of ml, not even about liters, otherwise no one could use the product in a home/hobby setting. These laws are for tonnes of chemical waste, produced by factories/big companies on an annual basis.

I work with something like a toxicity-volume product. If I have very toxic waste (e.g. mercury salts, thallium), then I have near-zero emission to the sewer system or into the air (just a granule, the size of a table salt granule may get into the sewer, but not much more), if the waste is not that toxic (e.g. DCM), then a few tens of ml for my few experiments with it on a yearly basis is no issue for me.

Of course, if you use 50 ml of e.g. DCM every day, then things become another matter, but I expect you to use a certain chemical only once or twice for an experiment and then you do not use it for a long time.




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Ubya
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 08:18


Quote: Originally posted by woelen  
Evaporation of liters of organic waste is not good, but if you produce e.g. 10 ml of DCM waste, then I would not worry about that and simply evaporate it outside.

With all these things you must put your waste in perspective. If your neighbour is stripping the paint from his wood panels and uses a liter of paint stripper, based on DCM, and you use a few tens of ml of DCM in chemical experiments, then you can draw your own conclusion. The laws you mention are not about tens of ml, not even about liters, otherwise no one could use the product in a home/hobby setting. These laws are for tonnes of chemical waste, produced by factories/big companies on an annual basis.

Of course, if you use 50 ml of e.g. DCM every day, then things become another matter, but I expect you to use a certain chemical only once or twice for an experiment and then you do not use it for a long time.


evaporating 10ml of DCM once in a while outside won't do much of a harm, you are right, but also 1 can of freon won't harm anyone once in a while, i know this is an exaggerated example but if everybody thinks like this we would have a worse enviroment. if you make 10ml of solvent waste just keep it until you got a reasonable amount to dispose, it's the best enviromental solution





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aga
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[*] posted on 26-3-2018 at 11:19


It's pretty much the same no matter what you're doing: don't make a lot of mess/waste to deal with after the fun is over.

My one big gaff (so far) was getting all excited about gold recovery.

Still processing the gallons of waste that got made needlessly - takes all the fun out of it.




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[*] posted on 27-3-2018 at 03:44


I worked in the hazardous waste industry for some time so I could go into detail about what should be done and how you could accomplish it.

That being said, they do a yearly 'clean sweep' event in my city where you can bring in whatever chemicals you want to dispose of. I do oil painting and I usually bring in several jars just labeled flammable. They never ask what they are (mineral spirit, turpentine, etc) they just take them away. I usually point out that it contains cadmium, chromium, etc., but they don't bat an eye. I also bring in containers of paper towels, again containing cadmium, chromium, and other metals from the pigments and they take those away as well. My point being that they usually don't have any questions because most people don't have answers, if they have an event like this in your area you can probably take advantage of it. When my mother-in-law passed away I had plenty of random chemicals that were not identified. Things like pool chlorinator (I would guess by the smell) in a random plastic bottle and they took those as well. Use sane judgment but at least for flammables and metal waste it might be a viable disposal method.




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MrHomeScientist
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[*] posted on 30-3-2018 at 07:32


Something that would be interesting and enlightening is to research how the official disposal companies deal with various wastes. As a potentially bad example: If they simply incinerate everything, then you're fine doing the same.

BromicAcid, if you have some documentation you could point us to I'd love to read it! This is a very important topic for amateur chemists.

[Edited on 3-30-2018 by MrHomeScientist]
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RawWork
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[*] posted on 30-3-2018 at 07:51


This topic is not only chemistry problem, but general problem. Disposal of any waste. Bio, nuclear, electronic, natural, animal, whatever we call it. I would not call it disposal but management. Energy or mass is never destroyed or produced. Being able to live with a plan, knowing how to manage everything in advance, first for yourself, than for whole world.

Good starting point is wikipedia, i always start learning from templates:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Waste
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Environmental_technol...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Wastewater

[Edited on 30-3-2018 by RawWork]
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[*] posted on 29-4-2018 at 19:12


Could be a possible business opportunity?
Create/buy a high temperature industrial furnace
Offer small-scale/one-off disposal services
Profit!

Most of the disposal companies I have worked with are not interested in one-offs or small scale but there is an obvious need as small companies and hobbyists don't have rotovaps or want to keep buckets of waste around to be picked up by a disposal company.

Now that I think of it, how do most modern disposal companies tend to do it? I imagine furnaces don't scale up well but neither does solvent evaporation.

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