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Hazardous Waste Disposal

Academic departments and campus services generate several types of waste, not all such waste is hazardous. For a waste to be considered hazardous waste it must be an EPA listed waste or exhibit one of the characteristics of a hazardous waste listed below. If you are unsure if a waste meets the criteria for Hazardous Waste, please contact Environmental Affairs at 424-1488 or

  • Ignitability: A liquid with a flash point less than 140 Fahrenheit, an ignitable compressed gas or oxidizer, or other material that can cause fire through friction absorption of moisture or spontaneous chemical changes. Common examples include used oil-based paint, used paint thinner, adhesives and mineral spirits. See NR 661.21 Ignitability characteristic
  • Corrosivity: A water containing liquid with a pH less than or equal to 2.0 or greater than or equal to 12.5, or a liquid that corrodes plain carbon steel at a rate greater than 6.35 mm per year. Examples include waste rust removers and waste battery acids. See NR 661.22 Corrosivity characteristic.
  • Reactivity: A waste that is normally unstable, readily undergoes violent changes without detonating, reacts violently with water, forms a potentially explosive mixture with water, or generates toxic gases or fumes when mixed with water or noncorrosive materials, is incapable of detonation or explosive reaction, or is a forbidden Class A or Class B explosive. See NR 661.23 Reactivity characteristic
  • Toxicity: A waste is TC hazardous if (according to the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure) it exceeds the regulatory levels for any of the eight metals, six pesticides or 25 organic chemicals listed in the appendix under toxic substances. This list includes metals like chromium, lead, mercury, silver and organic chemicals like benzene, chloroform, methyl ethyl ketone, and butadiene. See NR 661.24 Toxicity characteristic

University Hazardous Waste Disposal Rules

In addition to State and Federal Law, generators of hazardous waste at UW Oshkosh must abide by the hazardous waste rules set by the Univeristy. These rules include: Minimizing Hazardous Waste, Proper Container Selection and Filling, Proper Labeling of Hazardous Waste, and Proper Storage Practices.

Minimizing Hazardous Waste

Minimization of hazardous material is the easiest way to reduce hazardous waste. There are several ways to reduce the amount of hazardous material, thus reducing the need for hazardous waste disposal.

  • Order only what you need: Although this can be difficult, it saves money on both ends by spending less on the initial order and spending less on disposal.
  • Substitute hazardous material with non-hazardous material: Use latex paint instead of oil based paint. Substitute mercury thermometers with alcohol or digital thermometers. Use environmentally friendly chemicals.
  • Take advantage of the Surplus Chemical Redistribution Program: Unwanted chemicals that are not highly hazardous and still usable will be viewable in chemical inventory and made available to University staff for reuse. You must have a username and password to view the inventory. Contact Environmental Affairs at 424-1488 or if you would like more information on the Surplus Chemical Redistribution Program.

Proper Container Selection and Filling

Hazardous waste must be stored in a sturdy, sealable container, free of leaks. Nearly any leak-free container that is compatible with the contents is acceptable, the exception being containers that once held food or drink. Re-using empty chemical containers is a perfectly acceptable practice. Environmental Affairs has a wide variety of free waste containers for almost every need. Contact us at 424-1488 or if you are in need of containers.

  • Containers should have some “head-space” in them. A container should never be more than 90 percent full. Overfilled containers will not be picked up. The most common waste containers available are repurposed 4 liter glass or high density polyethylene bottles (for liquid wastes) and 1 gallon wide mouth polyethylene jars for solid waste. Plastic containers are preferred, as they weigh less and waste disposal is charged by weight. Choose an appropriately sized container for the amount of waste that will be generated over the foreseeable life of the process generating the waste.
  • Wastes may be co-mingled in a container so long as they are compatible (based on primary hazard).
    Never mix incompatible chemicals such as acids and bases, flammables and oxidizers, or oxidizers and acids.
    Mixing of incompatibles could result in a reaction causing severe injury or death.
  • Waste containers must be tightly capped when not in use. It is unacceptable to leave a container open to the atmosphere longer than is necessary to fill that container. Containers may be left open for the duration of a lab period when used in a laboratory course.

Proper Labeling Practices

Labeling of hazardous waste is the one of the most important rules for waste generators to follow. Environmental Affairs will not accept any waste that is unlabeled or unknown.

Hazardous waste containers will be accompanied with a hazardous waste label (see example below) which is securely affixed to that container. Call 424-1488 if you need labels delivered via campus mail or pick them up in Halsey Science Center room 449. Alternatively, labels can be downloaded as a Word document below and printed on Avery 5163 (2” x 4”) labels or Avery 5164 (3.33” x 4”) labels.

Avery 5163 Hazardous Waste Labels (2″ x 4″)
Avery 5164 Hazardous Waste Labels (3.33″ x 4″)

The waste generator must fill out:

  • The known hazards. These may be copied from the SDS.
  • The department, and principal investigator generating the waste. If the waste is generated by a class, the course number should be used.
  • The contents of the container must be identified. The proper chemical names and/or CAS numbers must be used. The use of formulas, abbreviations, or symbols to identify a material is unacceptable.
  • The container I.D. number. This corresponds to an entry on the Hazardous Waste Log
  • Fill out the contents on the label as they are being added.
  • If you cannot identify an unknown chemical, contact Environmental Affairs to arrange for the hazardous waste contractor to identify the chemical during the next hazardous waste shipment. This is very costly to the university.
  • When a waste container is full, write in the date and initial the label. PLEASE NOTE: full containers should have some head space. Filling a container to the very top is dangerous for the person that has to unpack your waste!
  • Drop the full container off in an approved satellite accumulation area or call for a pick up.

Proper Storage Practices

All waste containers in the accumulation area must be capped and labeled. Containers of incompatible wastes must be separated from each other using secondary containment tubs.

The stored waste must be logged on a Hazardous Waste Log Sheet. This sheet is collected when the waste is picked up and used to assist in preparing the waste for shipment.

Hazardous Waste Log Sheet

Hazardous waste is to never be stored in public areas. If you notice what looks to be hazardous waste in or near a trash receptacle, please call Environmental Affairs immediately.

Every waste generator should identify a location in the lab, studio or shop where waste can be stored until a container is filled. The storage area should be labeled Hazardous Waste Storage. This will serve notice that everything in the area is waste for disposal. Only store waste in designated locations. If you are having difficulty identifying a suitable location, contact the staff in Environmental Affairs for guidance on an appropriate location and the requirements for proper signage.

If waste is generated infrequently or space is limited, you can contact Environmental Affairs at 424-1488 or whenever a container is filled.

Your department may designate a satellite accumulation area. Make sure that others in the area lab, studio or office know the location of the accumulation site and the rules that govern a satellite accumulation area.

For additional information or for help with any questions regarding accumulation or pick up of hazardous waste, please contact Greg Potratz at 424-1488 or Dan Strey at 424-7008.

Additional Resources

Quick Disposal Guide — a printable (pdf) reference guide that breaks down the type of waste and what to do with it.
Art-Theater Waste Disposal Guidelines — a printable (pdf) reference guide produced by UW Milwaukee, for the Art and Theater Department and used with permission, that breaks down the type of waste and what to do with it.