Laboratories can produce a variety of different wastes, including:
- gas and dust
- liquid solutions that contain chemicals
- solid wastes
- wastes that contain radioactive substances
- animal by-products.
What you must do
You must ensure that anyone dealing with your laboratory waste complies with the duty of care for waste.
You must carry out a risk assessment before working with materials which are potentially harmful to human health or the environment. This includes work with certain chemicals, radioactive substances, biological agents and any laboratory work that creates waste containing animal by-products.
You should use a fume hood or other local exhaust ventilation system when carrying out work which can result in the release of gases or dust. If the process could result in the release of particularly hazardous material then you should carry it out in a glove box or glove bag. You can use filters to remove harmful materials from emissions to air.
If you use or supply a potentially hazardous chemical, you must make sure that it is accompanied by a Safety Data Sheet. The Safety data sheet gives information on how you should handle, store and dispose of hazardous chemicals. If you do not receive an MSDS, you must contact the supplier and ask for one. Suppliers who fail to provide adequate information for the safe use of their products are breaking the law.
Most businesses produce some waste that is harmful to humans and the environment. In Northern Ireland you may need to treat this waste as hazardous waste. In Scotland, you may need to treat this waste as special waste.
You must follow regulations for dealing with hazardous/special waste.
Before you reuse, recover, recycle or dispose of waste containers, you must check whether their contents are classified as hazardous/special waste. Read the label on the container or the relevant Safety Data Sheet to help you do this.
If the contents are classified as hazardous, then you must treat the entire container as hazardous/special waste.
You must ensure that staff who use hazardous materials in the course of their work receive training in the hazards and risks. You must also ensure that you make suitable protective clothing and equipment available. Anyone working with potentially hazardous materials must sign an acknowledgement of training received and protective equipment supplied.
Before you discharge trade effluent into a public sewer you must have a trade effluent consent or enter into a trade effluent agreement with your water and sewerage operator. Once you have a consent or agreement, you must comply with its conditions.
You can only store or dispose of waste that contains radioactive substances if you have:
- In Northern Ireland: a certificate of authorisation from your environmental regulator, unless an exemption order applies.
- In Scotland: an authorisation at the appropriate level.
Your authorisation will contain limitations and conditions that control how you must store or dispose of radioactive waste. The limitations and conditions require you to minimise the radioactive waste that you produce and only dispose of radioactive waste via an authorised route or to an authorised person.
Animal by-products from laboratory experiments are classed as category 1 (very high risk) animal by-products. You must make sure that they are removed by a registered waste carrier and disposed of by incineration or by rendering followed by incineration or landfill.
You must separate waste and store hazardous/special waste in secure labelled containers.
Disposal costs for laboratory waste can be high. Plan in advance and minimise the amount of waste you produce.
Where possible replace hazardous materials with materials that pose a lower risk to health and the environment.
You should locate waste storage areas on an impermeable surface. Use bunds to prevent leaks or spills entering drains, surface water or surrounding ground.
You should regularly dispose of wastes and not allow a build up of material.
Keep spill kits with absorbent materials close to storage areas and ensure that staff are trained in their use.