Skip to main content

Appendix C - Disposal Of Unknown Chemical Waste Containers

Prevention and Management of Unknown Chemicals / Chemical Waste

Personnel must make every effort to provide an accurate description of all chemicals that they dispose of through the hazardous waste management program.

Many unknown chemicals are generated due to a lack of good housekeeping and good laboratory safety practices. ALL containers used to store chemicals must be properly labeled.

There are some easy ways to preventing the generation of unknown chemicals/materials:

  • Ensure that a label is present on all containers of chemicals including containers of wastes. This means all containers even beakers, test tubes, wash bottles and other containers.
  • Use chemical names to identify the contents of containers. For hazardous wastes generated at Cornell this is a requirement. Do not use formulas, abbreviations or chemical structures on waste labels.
  • Containers in which the labels are degrading or falling off should be given a new label immediately.
  • Check laboratory notebooks for information related to vials or test tubes. Many researchers in labs keep detailed notes on what was placed in these containers.
  • Don’t leave waste containers in the lab under the fume hood for extended periods of time. If a container isn’t full but no more waste is anticipated in the near future, submit a waste pickup request to EHS.
  • If chemical wastes cannot be identified, fill out a Cornell two-part Hazardous Waste Label. Write the term "Unknown" in the Constituents section of the label and add any information available concerning the waste. Laboratory personnel in possession of unknown wastes should make every effort, including contacting departed faculty or staff if necessary to determine a container's contents. You must fill out an Unknown Chemical Waste Characterization Form, as well as an online Chemical Waste Pickup Request. The Chemical Waste Pickup Request must be submitted to EHS. Keep the Unknown Chemical Waste Characterization Form with the waste. EHS personnel will take it when the waste is picked up.