Waste page

Waste Disposal

Biological Waste

Biohazardous Sharps

Biohazardous sharps is a general term for all types of instruments or materials that have points or sharp edges capable of puncturing or cutting the skin including, but not limited to, needles, razor blades, scalpels, and scalpel blades. Objects like these must always be treated as if it were contaminated and be disposed of in an appropriate container that is:

Biohazardous sharps should be placed in a red rigid container for pickup.
  1. Closable
  2. Puncture resistant
  3. Labeled properly
  4. Leak proof

Biohazardous sharps must NEVER be placed in the regular trash or inside of any container that can be easily punctured by the sharp.

Biohazardous sharps containers are removed by custodial services. In order to schedule a pick-up please contact customer service at (216) 368-2580.

Biological Soft Waste

Materials such as Petri dishes, culture containing materials, stocks of infectious agents, and other non-sharp contaminated materials must be disposed of in a soft biohazard bag. These bags can be red or orange and may have the biohazard trefoil on the outside. Prior to disposal, contaminated material in soft biohazard bags must be autoclaved at appropriate pressure and temperature to ensure decontamination.

After material has been sterilized, bags should be placed in secondary containment (large biohazard bin, second bag, spill tray, etc) to ensure that containers do not leak on floors.

Biological waste containers are removed by custodial services. In order to schedule a pick-up please contact customer services at (216) 368-2580.

Chemical Waste

Chemical waste is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and cannot be disposed of in regular trash or in the sewer system. Most all chemical waste must be disposed of through the EHS Hazardous waste program. In order to have hazardous waste removed from your laboratory, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Store chemical wastes in appropriate containers, plastic bottles are preferred over glass for storing hazardous waste when compatibility is not an issue. Segregate chemical waste by compatibility.
  2. Chemical waste containers must be labeled with the following information:
    • Identity (full chemical name) and quantity of the waste (for mixtures, each chemical must listed)
    • Generation date of the waste
    • Place of origin (department, room number)
    • PIs name and telephone number
    • Bottle number assigned on corresponding waste sheet
    • The tag or label must have the words, “Hazardous Waste”.
  3. A completed Hazardous Waste Information Form must be submitted to the EHS office
    • If the hazardous waste form is submitted by 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, the hazardous waste will be removed by that Friday.

Sewer Disposal

The following chemicals can be disposed of in the sanitary sewers (drains) as long as treatment does not precede disposal. Treatment is defined as adding any material to hazardous waste so that it fits into any criteria mentioned below. Examples include neutralizing an acid solution just so that it can be disposed of in the sewer system, or running copious amounts water in drain to bring concentrations of hazardous waste to acceptable levels for sewer disposal. Also, a log must be kept of the disposal that documents the date, chemicals being disposed, and the amounts of each chemical. This log should be retained with other hazardous waste information.

Ethidium Bromide

Ethidium Bromide is a dye commonly used as a fluorescent tag when performing molecular biology techniques such as gel electrophoresis. This chemical is also a mutagen, teratogen, and suspected carcinogen which must be handled as chemical waste, NOT biohazardous waste. Liquid ethidium bromide and buffer containing ethidium bromide must be disposed of through the EHS hazardous waste program.

Agarose gels must be placed inside of a closed leak proof container (5 gallon bucket, bottle, plastic bag inside a cardboard box, etc) that is labeled in manner such that the contents can be easily identified. A log must be maintained indicating how much ethidium bromide and other chemicals are present in the container. This log should be updated each time a new agarose gel is added to the container.

Chemical Bottles

Chemical bottles (acids, flammables, cell media, buffers, etc) which are empty must be properly handled to ensure that no contaminates are present and the material can safely be placed in a waste site. The following procedure must be followed prior to disposing of any chemical container:

  1. Remove lids from bottle and dispose in regular trash
  2. Rinse bottle three times (3×) with water to remove any chemical or contaminates from the bottle. The rinsate can be poured down the laboratory drain.
  3. Deface the label on the bottle completely by either removing the label or obscuring the label with a black permanent marker.
  4. Write the word “empty” or “MT” on the outside of the bottle

Bottles that contained extremely hazardous materials must have the rinsate collected and disposed of as hazardous waste.

After these steps are taken the bottle is clean and can be disposed of in the regular trash using one of the methods listed below.

Why can’t glass chemical bottles be recycled? Laboratory glassware is typically made with boric oxide (Borosilicate glass) which can withstand higher temperatures. The presence of borosilicate glass, which is indistinguishable from other glass, will cause imperfections in recycled glass which then cannot be used commercially.

Radioactive Waste

Before waste can be picked up from the laboratory, a Radioactive Waste Disposal Form with decay-corrected activities must be completed and faxed to the Radiation Safety Office (RSOF). Also, if you have liquid waste, a “Disposal Listing for Liquid Waste Form” must also be completed for each bottle of liquid waste. The liquid should be listed on the “Radioactive Waste Disposal Form” as well and faxed to the RSOF (fax 216.368.2236). The waste sheet will be reviewed before arranging a pickup date to verify that the activity disposed of is “reasonable,” based on the existing (decay-corrected) inventory for the laboratory.

More information can be found in the Radiation Safety Manual or contact the RSOF at 216.368.2906.

Miscellaneous Laboratory Waste


Glass items (properly cleaned chemical bottles, pipettes, microscope slides) that are NOT CONTAMINATED with may be discarded in a broken glassware box or a regular cardboard box. The boxes must be closed securely with tape and the words “sharps” or “glass” written clearly on the outside of the container. Finally, make sure that the container weight does not exceed 50 lbs (22.7 kgs) to prevent injuries while the container is being removed. Custodial services will remove all properly packaged and labeled containers.

If the glass is contaminated it must be handled as a biological sharp and disposed of in an appropriate container.


Pipette tips (1 µL, 100 µL, 1 mL, etc.) and graduated pipettes (5 mL, 10 mL, 25 mL, etc) have the ability to puncture through plastic trash bags, so these must also be disposed of in a specific manner. NON-CONTAMINATED pipette tips and graduated pipette must be disposed of in a glassware box or a standard cardboard box that is lined with plastic, in order to prevent leaks. Once the box is full, it should be securely closed with tape and the outside labeled "Non-biohazardous SHARPS for biological associated laboratories" or "Non-contaminated SHARPS for chemical related laboratories". Custodial services will remove properly packaged and labeled containers.

If the pipettes are contaminated with a biohazardous agent it must be handled as a biological sharp and disposed of in an appropriate container.


If you have any questions you should contact EHS at (216) 368-2907.

EHS | Service Building, first floor | 2220 Circle Dr | Cleveland, Ohio 44106 | 216.368.2906/2907 | does@case.edu
© 2011 Case Western Reserve University | Cleveland, Ohio 44106 | 216.368.2000 | legal notice