Hazardous Waste Management

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.


The following types of waste are regulated by either the federal or state government, and require special handling restrictions:

  • Biowaste – Infectious organisms, pipettes, syringes and other sharps in contact with infectious organisms, and other sharps such as broken glass, syringes, and razor blades
  • Radioactive waste – Radioactive material that no longer has a use
  • Universal waste –  Batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, PCB-containing materials, and mercury-containing equipment, such as light switches and thermometers (but not manometers)
  • Chemical Waste – Spent or unused chemicals no longer needed for research

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

Labels for Hazardous Waste - Request Form 

Pick-Up Hazardous Waste - Request Form

Biological waste is regulated by the New York Department of Environmental Protection (NYDEP) and must be disposed via Rensselaer's waste request system.

Biological waste includes, but is not limited to, the following items:

  • Animal carcasses
  • Blood and other body fluids
  • Culture flasks, plates, and tubes
  • Sharps and syringes that are biologically contaminated
  • Tissues
  • Any other item contaminated with biological materials

The New York Department of Environmental Protection defines radioactive waste as radioactive material that no longer has a use. Items collected as radioactive waste include, but are not limited to:

  • Dry radioactive waste
  • Liquid radioactive waste
  • Sealed radioactive sources
  • Other items contaminated with radioactive materials

Universal wastes are common hazardous wastes that include such items as batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, and fluorescent lamps. New York also regulates oil-based finishes and photographic solutions as universal waste. All of these wastes, which are subject to streamlined regulation under the EPA and NYDEP, should be properly collected, stored, and managed through the University’s Hazardous Waste Program to ensure regulatory compliance and to divert these wastes from landfills.

Categories of Chemical Waste


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


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


  • 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 EHS&RM for additional toxicity information.

Most laboratory spaces on campus which generate hazardous wastes are considered to be “Satellite Accumulation Areas," and as such there are specific requirements regarding the proper storage, handling and labeling of these wastes. It is the responsibility of each individual who generates hazardous wastes at these areas to insure that they observe the following requirements.

  • Ensure that all hazardous waste containers are in good condition, leak-free, and closable with a threaded cap or lid.
  • Be sure to label hazardous waste containers with a “Hazardous Waste Label," which includes the constituents in the container (noted in names, not chemical formulas) and the appropriate percentages. Simply writing the word “waste” on a container is not sufficient.
  • Keep hazardous waste containers closed except when adding or removing waste. (Remove funnels after use.)
  • Make sure that all waste contents are compatible with each other and the container.
  • Leave 10% expansion space at the top when using bottles to store waste.
  • 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.
  • Remember that hazardous waste can be accumulated up to 60 days. After that, submit a request to have the waste collected.
  • Store no more than 55 gallons (208 liters) of hazardous waste in any one “Satellite Accumulation Area” (laboratory) at any one time. Of that 55 gallons, no more than one quart (947.5 milliliters) of the hazardous waste materials may be “Acutely Hazardous."

All hazardous waste is picked up at its point of generation, be it a laboratory, studio or shop.  Do not leave hazardous waste outside of hazardous waste areas, and do not remove any such waste from the area where it was generated.

Waste collection guidelines

All waste pickups must be requested by submitting the online Hazardous Waste Pickup Request Form by 5:00pm on the Wednesday of each week. (All waste form submitted after 5:00 pm on Wednesday will be processed for the following week.) Hazardous waste is then picked up by Rensselaer's Waste Contractor every Thursday. 

Please note that hazardous waste will not be collected if Rensselaer is officially closed on a Thursday, so members of the campus community should plan accordingly. In addition, someone must be available during the scheduled waste collection hours unless prior arrangements have been made.

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