Chemical Waste Accumulation Procedures

  • Keep all chemical waste containers closed at all times except when waste is being actively added to the container.
  • Every waste container to which spent waste is added must display a DRS Waste Tag following these instructions.
  • Store incompatible wastes in separate areas. See Chemical Waste Segregation for applicable chemical segregation guidelines.
  • Avoid storing glass containers on the floor where they can be easily broken or on the edge of counters/shelves where they can be knocked over. If glass containers must be stored on the floor, place them in secondary containment, e.g., a plastic tub.
  • Place the Waste Accumulation Requirements poster in your workplace as a reminder of these procedures.
  • Labs are permitted to dispose of rinses through the sanitary sewer if they contain no heavy metals or acutely toxic waste chemicals, but drain disposal of larger quantities must be reviewed by DRS. Some wastes (such as neutralized acids and bases without metals) may be acceptable, but other nonhazardous wastes (such as buffers containing tris) are prohibited. Contact DRS for details. 


Selecting a Chemical Waste Container

  • Reuse chemical containers only if they are in good condition (no cracks or major dents) and have a threaded cap that can seal tightly. DRS will not accept broken or leaking chemical waste containers.
  • Use the chemical's original container if appropriately sized.
  • Use Nalgene® jerricans or poly carboys for common solvents and acid mixtures (not including hydrofluoric, nitric, or perchloric acids). See jerricans for additional information on what wastes can be put in them.
  • All containers must be compatible with the specific chemical waste stored in them. (Example: hydrofluoric acid and solutions of sodium hydroxide must not be placed in glass bottles because they will etch through the bottle.)
  • Plastic milk jugs, juice, soda, or water bottles, or any other beverage or food container are NOT acceptable for any waste. DRS will not pick up waste collected in them.
  • Use a separate container for each waste chemical item or mixture. Refer to the section on Chemical Waste Segregation for additional details.
  • Choose a container that is large enough to hold the amount of waste generated. Avoid using containers larger than 10 liters.
  • DRS may refuse to pick up waste containers (other than drums) that are too heavy (>35lbs).
  • Leave some space at the top of the waste containers. Overfilled containers (including drums) will be refused. Jerricans are marked for the 6- or 10-liter level; do not fill past this line.


Except in high volume situations, 55-gallon drums should not be used for accumulating waste chemicals. If you need to use a drum, contact DRS by email at or by phone at 217-333-2755. Do NOT store more than one drum in any given area. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require that if a site has more than 55 gallons of waste, the excess shall be removed within 72 hours. DRS can provide instructions on how to meet this regulatory requirement. Drums for chemical collection should not be smaller than 55 gallons. If you do not generate enough waste to fill a 55 gallon drum, then use 10 liter jerricans and request frequent chemical waste pickups.



Chemical Waste Segregation

The advantages of chemical waste segregation include:

  • Prevention of unwanted or potentially dangerous reactions,
  • Protection of personnel (including DRS) from potentially unsafe working environments,
  • Ease in handling and disposing of wastes,
  • Reduction of disposal costs,
  • Minimization of chemical waste.

Use the following segregation guidelines to generate manageable waste streams:

  • Collect halogenated and non-halogenated organic solvents in separate containers.
  • Separate organic wastes from metal-containing and/or inorganic wastes.
  • Do not mix solids and liquids unless the waste is a result of a process combining them. Strain all solids (e.g., towels, filters, centrifuge tubes, gloves) from liquids, and handle them as contaminated debris.
  • Separate mercury solutions and mercury compounds from other wastes as much as possible. Do not combine mercury wastes of different concentrations.
  • Separate vacuum pump oil and other machine oil from organic solvents and other chemicals. Used oil cannot be recycled if solvents are present.
  • Labware and equipment that is obviously contaminated with acutely hazardous or toxic chemicals should be handled as contaminated debris. Such items include disposables such as gloves, bench top coverings, and aprons. See the section Decontaminating Empty Containers for decontamination procedures for unbroken glassware.
  • Separate radioactive waste from chemical waste.
  • Separate non-hazardous chemical wastes from hazardous chemical waste.
  • Keep highly toxic wastes (such as cyanides) separate from all other wastes.

Waste Minimization

Waste minimization is any action that reduces the amount and/or toxicity of a chemical waste that must be shipped off-site for disposal as hazardous waste. The EPA ranks the three primary methods for waste minimization as follows:

  1. Source reduction,
  2. Recycling,
  3. Treatment.

The American Chemical Society has also recognized the need for minimizing chemical waste and has written a document on the topic, Less is Better.

Source reduction

Source reduction is the most desirable and effective method of waste minimization. This is any activity that reduces or eliminates the generation of chemical waste at the source. Laboratories can accomplish this by good material management, using the least hazardous materials possible, and good laboratory procedures.

Good material management means purchasing only the amount of chemical needed for a procedure. Buy only what you need. Use all of what you buy.

It is also good laboratory procedure to prepare only the amount of solutions needed for the work anticipated; to consider the types and amounts of wastes to be generated as a factor in choosing techniques and procedures; and to handle and store chemicals so as to minimize spill prevention.


Recycling is reusing a waste material for another purpose, treating and reusing it in the same process, or reclaiming it for another process. This is the second most desirable approach to waste minimization. Solvent redistillation is one example of recycling laboratory materials.


The third waste minimization method is treatment. From a regulatory point of view, this is best done in the laboratory because almost all treatment activities at the DRS waste storage facility require a permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, but if treatment is conducted in the laboratory as part of an experimental or analytical procedure, a special permit is not required. The most common treatment is elementary neutralization. Other kinds of treatment may involve chemical, physical, or biological methods.

Please address any questions about proper disposal of specific waste streams to



    Last Updated: 12/4/2023