Carnegie Mellon University

Chemical Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined a hazardous waste as any material that no longer has a use and is either specifically listed in the regulations or meets defined hazard characteristics.

Chemicals that do not meet the characteristic of “Hazardous” (applicable to the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act) are also collected in this program.

Characteristic Waste - Wastes exhibiting any of the following characteristics.


  • Liquids that have a flash point less than 140°F (60°C)
  • Flammable solids
  • Flammable compressed gases
  • Oxidizers


  • Aqueous solutions with pH less than 2 and greater than 12.5
  • Corrodes steel


  • Water reactive substances
  • Unstable or explosive chemicals
  • Cyanide or sulfide containing chemicals that generate toxic gases when exposed to corrosive substances


  • Materials that have certain heavy metals or organic constituents above regulated limits (EPA D List) (see 40CFR 261)
  • Materials that meet or exceed TCLP laboratory testing
  • Contact EH&S for additional toxicity information

Specifically listed chemicals: (see 40CFR 261)

The EPA has specifically listed approximately 500 chemicals as hazardous waste.

  • EPA P List
  • EPA U List
  • EPA F List
  • EPA D List
  • Hazardous waste containers must be in good condition and must not leak.
  • Contents must be compatible with each other and the container.
  • Use properly fitting screw caps, lined with a material that is chemically resistant to waste (do not use corks or rubber stoppers).
  • Hazardous waste containers must be kept closed except when adding or removing waste. (Remove funnels after use.)
  • Do not fill bottles to top, leave 10% expansion space.
  • Clearly label containers "HAZARDOUS WASTE” and indicate contents.
  • Remove or completely deface manufacturer's labels, if reusing bottles for waste
  • Keep hazardous waste in secondary containment to prevent accidental release.
  • *Secondary containment should be chemically resistant and be able to contain a leak of up to 10% (by volume) of the largest container.
  • Hazardous waste can be accumulated up to 6 months, after which a request should be submitted for disposal and a new container started.

*Secondary containment may be obtained from the Environmental Health & Safety Office.

  • A person knowledgeable with the generation of the waste should complete the tags.waste tag
  • Write out complete chemical name. Chemical formulas are not acceptable.
  • Include ppm or percentage for each component, which should add up to 100%.
  • If identity and quantity of waste is completely unknown, mark this on the tag.
  • Use back of tag if more space is needed.
  • Do not tape tags to container.
  • Date submitted is date waste is picked up.
  • Write clearly and complete all fields except those that are shaded.
  • Tags must be signed and dated.

Tags are available in the EH&S office and can be sent to you through campus mail.

All hazardous wastes are picked up at the point of generation (laboratory, studio or shop.)

  • Do not leave wastes outside of hazardous waste vaults
  • Do not remove waste from the area where it was generated.

All waste pickups must be requested by filling out the online Hazardous Waste Pickup Request Form. Wastes are then picked up by CMU's Waste Contractor, according to a yearly waste pickup schedule.

Pickup Guidelines

  • Request forms must be submitted by Friday before the scheduled pickup date.
  • Someone MUST be present during the scheduled pickup hours, unless prior arrangements have been made.

Carnegie Mellon Hazardous Waste Certification Tags must be attached to each container of hazardous waste scheduled for pickup.

Incorporate these steps when starting a project where hazardous materials will be used:

When designing your experiment, activity or project:

  • Micro-scale whenever possible, to reduce amount of hazardous materials used
  • Substitute less hazardous materials where possible (i.e., latex for oil-based paint, biodegradable cleaner for solvent)
  • Include bench-top neutralization as part of experimental protocol, where possible
  • Consider recycling, re-use or reclamation of hazardous materials as part of your work; contact EH&S for assistance
  • Eliminate arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium or silver

When obtaining your chemicals:

  • Check your inventory first, to see if you have the material already
  • Contact EH&S to use the campus inventory to locate and borrow chemicals for first time or one time use
  • Purchase the smallest quantity of chemicals needed; the cost savings when buying larger quantities is lost if disposal costs are added for unused material
  • Investigate the possibility of returning of unneeded and unopened material to the supplier

When handling or storing your chemicals:

  • Store chemicals properly; poor storage may allow a chemical to deteriorate, become unstable, to leak or to spill, increasing the amount of waste and cost of disposal
  • Segregate waste materials properly; mixing of waste types (such as chlorinated wastes and PCBs) increases the amount of waste and the cost of disposal
  • Check your chemical inventory regularly; use older material before newer to prevent an expiration date from passing before the item can be used
  • Ensure that containers are in good condition and properly labeled; damaged containers and unknowns are expensive and difficult to dispose of.

Carnegie Mellon is required by law to train all those people who may generate hazardous waste or handle hazardous chemicals. 

Initial Hazardous Waste Training Class: (1 hour)

Required for ALL new laboratory employees. This training class covers the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and Carnegie Mellon's policies on hazardous waste. Class topics include hazardous waste determination, proper containment and segregation, labeling, waste minimization and disposal procedures.

Annual Hazardous Waste Refresher Training:

EH&S recommends that all generators of hazardous waste annually review the EPA requirements.