If Your Experiment Goes Down the Drain, Where Does it End Up? Safe Chemical Disposal

Lab Safety

Without naming names, we all know of someone who has flushed a goldfish down a toilet, hoping it would end up happy and free in the ocean. Sorry to break it to you, but things that go through drains don’t exactly dump straight into the ocean – and that’s a good thing! The oceans are saturated enough with man-made waste, and we don’t need to add any more in.

No matter what kind of waste your work generates, it’s important to ensure proper disposal to maximize the salvageable portion and minimize the environmental harm. This is especially true for chemicals used in research and industry.

We know how it goes – sometimes it feels easier to pour a chemical down the drain instead of properly pouring into a waste bottle and attaching a detailed label. It’s tempting to think, little bit can’t hurt, right?

Unfortunately, chemicals or metals in the drain can wreak havoc! First, they may not be treated, or may survive treatment in a state that is still harmful to the environment. Second, they can kill microorganisms normally used in the water treatment process. Third, corrosive chemicals can weaken drainage pipes and cause safety risks for workers in the rest of the building. And fourth, toxic chemicals can mix and react to create even more toxic substances.

How do you know when to avoid pouring old chemicals down the drain? The key is to keep close track of your chemical inventory and the relevant local and national laws about chemical disposal! In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has established an organization called NPDES, or the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. In conjunction with the EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management, the NPDES website provides ample information on the guidelines for disposal. Your organization, whether it is a university, manufacturing plant, or any other institution, must submit waste disposal information to the EPA.

All of this preventative work minimizes the amount of time that has to be spent clearing out the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Instead of paying to clean up chemical contamination that may have already damaged the ecosystem and threatened public health, it is much preferable to prevent spills and contamination from ever happening.

Being a responsible citizen means knowing what you take out of and put back into the environment. Make sure you aren’t putting things down the drain that should be sequestered in toxic waste containers!

Prevent environmental contamination by organizing your entire chemical inventory and knowing exactly how each item needs to be stored, used, and disposed of. ChemSW has all of the tools you need for best practices inventory management. Please visit our website for more information today!

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