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Environmental Compliance

Environmental Affairs at UW Oshkosh

The Environmental Affairs Program, an element of the campus Environment, Health and Safety office, is dedicated to assuring the health and safety of UW Oshkosh students, staff and the environment.

Our mission is to provide environmentally-sound safety and compliance services to the faculty, staff and students of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Services include diverse functions such as chemical recycling and waste management, hazardous materials management, and local chemical emergency planning and response.

Chemical Spills

Chemical spills may be cleaned up without assistance if the spill is manageable and has not spread. See the flowchart for help in making that decision.

Chemical spill flow chart (.pdf)

If a spill is beyond your capabilities or poses a threat to the health, welfare, or safety of personnel, you must contact University Police and the Risk and Safety office immediately and keep others away from the spill area.

Waste Disposal at UW Oshkosh

Wastes commonly generated on campus by academic departments or campus services include such items as non-alkaline and rechargeable batteries, fluorescent lamps, unwanted electronics, chemicals, and biological materials. The disposal of these items is regulated by state and federal regulatory agencies.  If your department generates these wastes, you should have a designated satellite accumulation area and have an employee coordinate pick-ups of the waste with the Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Materials Manager in the Risk & Safety Department.  Click on the “Waste Pick-up” box on the home page of this website to arrange for a pick-up.

Hazardous waste, biological waste, universal waste and controlled substances/pharmaceutical waste all have specific regulations and policies covering storage and accumulation which must be followed.

The Quick Disposal Guide can answer basic questions about how to dispose of a waste. If you need to dispose of  materials that are ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic, please see our Hazardous Waste page. See below for directions on how to dispose of specific types of waste.


Dry cell batteries are batteries used in many common items—including power tools, watches, video cameras, calculators, flashlights, toys and hearing aids.

They include:

  • Alkaline
  • Alkaline rechargeable
  • Lead acid sealed
  • Lithium
  • Metal hydride
  • Mercuric oxide
  • Nickel-cadmium
  • Silver oxide
  • Zinc-air batteries


The materials in these batteries—mercury, lithium, silver cadmium, lead and acids—all have the potential to be hazardous wastes. If batteries are burned or landfilled, the heavy metals in them can be released into the environment. These batteries also contain valuable metals that can be recovered for reuse.

On the UWO campus we categorize batteries into alkaline, and heavy metal.

Alkaline batteries such as AA, AAA, C, D, 6 Volt, 9 Volt are currently not recyclable and should be thrown out in the normal trash.

All other heavy metal batteries should have both of the electrodes covered with tape and delivered to a central collection area for disposal or recycling.

Vehicle batteries should be stored in a designated collection area. On the UWO campus we have a contract with a certified scrap battery hauler that picks up used vehicle batteries weekly.

Biohazardous Waste

Proper treatment, handling and disposal of cultures and items contaminated by potentially biohazardous agents is a vital step toward protection of laboratory and physical plant personnel from infectious disease. This waste-handling process is also necessary to prevent the release of potentially infectious agents into the community at large. Treatment and disposal of biological waste is regulated by several federal and state agencies. General guidelines for handling this waste stream are provided below. A decision tree and a poster for disposal guidance have been developed by UW Milwaukee, and used with permission at UW Oshkosh.

Proper segregation, storage, treatment and disposal of biohazardous waste are essential not only to comply with waste regulations, but more importantly to reduce personnel exposure to potentially infectious materials. An exposure occurs when potentially infectious materials are permitted to enter a person’s bloodstream through a break in the skin or contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Examples of exposure related to biohazardous waste handling include incidents such as:

  • Splashing liquid biological waste into the eye during pour-off for disposal
  • Puncturing the skin with a biologically contaminated needle
  • Spilling liquids from a ruptured biohazard bag onto broken, unprotected skin.

In the event of an exposure to potentially infectious materials, take the following actions:

  • Wash the exposed skin or flush the mucous membrane for 10–15 minutes.
  • Notify the lab director or supervisor and the Department of University Safety and Assurances (229-6339).
  • Contact your health care provider to determine the need for evaluation and/or possible treatment.



Sharps are generally agreed to be the most hazardous items in the potentially infectious waste stream.

A high degree of caution should always be used when handling any sharp object, contaminated or not. All disposable sharps (hypodermic, intravenous or other medical needles and syringes; Pasteur pipettes; scalpel or razor blades; blood vials; glass test tubes and centrifuge tubes; microscope slides and coverslips; and any other laboratory glassware that has had contact with infectious agents) must be placed into an approved sharps container immediately following use to reduce puncture risk.

An approved sharps container is one that is leak proof, puncture-resistant, closeable and bears the biohazard symbol. Once filled, the container should be permanently closed and disposed of through the UW Oshkosh Hazardous Waste Program.


Solid Non-Sharps Biohazardous Waste

All non-sharp laboratory materials utilized in experiments with biological materials (e.g., microorganisms, recombinant DNA, cell cultures, etc.) must be treated prior to disposal by an approved decontamination method such as autoclaving.

These wastes should be stored in bags bearing the biohazard symbol prior to decontamination. While in use for waste storage, biohazard bags must be secured in a manner that will eliminate spillage. If a bag is used primarily for disposal items that are not likely to release liquids (i.e., pipette tips, Kim-wipes, etc.), a wire bag rack or rigid container is an acceptable means of securing the bag to eliminate spillage.

If the bag is used for storage of items that are likely to release liquids and possibly result in leakage, the bag should be stored in a leak-proof container such as a trash can with a lid that is also labeled with the biohazard symbol.

When transporting waste bags to the autoclave for treatment, secure the bags closed with a rubber band, twist tie or other closure device that can be easily removed and place the bags in secondary container such as a pan or bucket. Always use a cart to move the bags if possible.

After autoclaving, any bag displaying the biohazard symbol should be placed in a non-transparent plastic bag or other secondary non-transparent container (i.e., closed cardboard box, dark colored trash bag) prior to disposal into the normal trash. Bags with the biohazard symbol, regardless of use, must not be placed into the regular waste stream without defacing the symbol or over bagging.


Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Human or animal blood and body fluids can be flushed into the sanitary sewer without prior treatment. However, chemical disinfection is recommended prior to disposal if feasible. All other potentially infectious liquids (i.e., media with growth, cell line waste, etc.) must be autoclaved or chemically disinfected before disposal into the sanitary sewer. Do not autoclave wastes that are chemically treated as this action may create a chemical exposure hazard.

If using a chemical disinfectant, follow the manufacturer’s label instructions regarding concentration and contact time. Also note that disinfectants are hazardous materials that may require the use of additional personal protective equipment to control chemical exposure. Refer to your product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for further information or contact Environmental Affairs.


Electronics are one of the fastest growing parts of the waste stream, with millions of devices discarded each year in the United States.

Computers, TVs, cell phones, and other electronics contain valuable materials that can be recovered through responsible recycling.

Electronics also contain potentially hazardous materials, such as lead and mercury, that can pose a risk to human health and the environment if not properly managed.

Wisconsin’s electronics recycling law keeps many devices out of landfills and incinerators and creates recycling opportunities for state residents. Electronics recycling is a growing industry in the state, creating jobs and preserving valuable resources.

Electronics to recycle

The following electronics can no longer be put in the trash in Wisconsin, or sent to Wisconsin landfills and incinerators. They should instead be reused, donated or recycled:

  • Televisions
  • Computers (desktop, laptop, netbook and tablet computers)
  • Desktop printers (including those that scan, fax and/or copy)
  • Computer monitors
  • Other computer accessories (including mice, keyboards and speakers)
  • DVD players, VCRs and DVRs
  • Fax machines
  • Cell phones
  • Major appliances, including air conditioners, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, stoves, ovens, dehumidifiers, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and microwave ovens


UW Oshkosh Electronics Disposal Process

Items on this list should be surplused. Surplus items on the UWO campus are divided into two categories; computers or peripherals, and all other electronic devices.

Computers and peripherals are funneled through Information Technology where hard drives are cleaned of data and peripherals are determined to be of further use or not.

All other electronic items to be disposed/surplused should be coordinated with your area manager. A non-computer surplus form can be found on the Finance and Administration website.

Controlled Substances and Pharmaceutical Waste

Controlled substances, such as pharmaceuticals, used in research are strictly regulated and require a DEA license. Schedules/lists of controlled substances are available on the US DEA website.  Registrants must work directly with–and receive approval from–the DEA to dispose of controlled substances.  UW Oshkosh has no role in the permitting or disposal process.  See the University of Wisconsin System’s DEA Controlled Substances website for more information about state and national compliance requirements.

Surplus Chemical Redistribution
If you have unwanted chemicals that are still useful, contact with “surplus chemicals” in the subject line.

If you would like to request a material from the surplus, contact to arrange a pick up or delivery. There is no charge to your department for these materials.

Materials are kept in surplus for three years before being disposed of in accordance with the appropriate regulations.

Universal Waste

Within the provisions of the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA), in 1995, EPA issued regulations for certain wastes called universal wastes. Universal waste rules provided regulatory flexibility by allowing longer storage times and reduced record-keeping requirements.

Currently, federal universal wastes are:

  • Batteries as described in 40 CFR 273.2
  • Pesticides as described in §273.3
  • Mercury-containing equipment as described in §273.4
  • Lamps (fluorescent bulbs) as described in §273.5.
  • The State of Wisconsin, as a delegated authority to manage hazardous waste, has added sealed mercury-containing equipment and antifreeze. These are known as state-specific universal wastes. Regulatory status is currently maintained via WIDNR memo.

Requirements for managing universal waste, though relaxed, are similar to your requirements for other hazardous waste.

Container Requirements

Waste must be managed in a way that prevents releases.

  • Containers must be closed, structurally sound and compatible with the contents.
  • Label containers “Universal waste [type] – [date]”
    • Replace [type] with “Batteries”, “Mercury Thermostats”, “Lamps”, “Mercury”, “Sealed mercury-containing devices”, “Antifreeze”, etc.
      • Pesticide labeling varies somewhat – requirements may be found in NR 673.14(2)&(3)]
    • Replace [date] with the date of receipt at the storage facility.



  • Used lamps must be disposed through the State Contract Waste Lamp and Ballast Recycling, and PCB Waste Disposal Services.
  • Vehicle batteries should be stored in a designated collection area. On the UWO campus we have a contract with a certified scrap battery hauler that picks up used vehicle batteries weekly. Smaller lead acid batteries can be picked up by Environmental Affairs as part of a regular waste pick up in your area.
  • Mercury and mercury-containing devices should be disposed through the State Hazardous Waste contract.
  • Pesticides should be applied legally whenever possible or disposed through the State Hazardous Waste contract.
  • Containers must be collected by the contractor no later than one year after arriving at the storage facility.