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Environmental Health and Safety

Hazardous Waste Guidelines

Hazardous waste must be handled according to national and local guidelines. No amount of hazardous waste may be thrown into the regular trash or poured down the sink. Please contact Environmental Health and Safety to arrange disposal of all hazardous waste.

The following provides a summary of how to handle each hazardous waste stream at American University.

Facilities and Maintenance Operations Waste

Smoke Detectors

Store smoke detectors in a closed container that is labeled with the collection start date and the contents. Contact EH&S to arrange for proper disposal.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Transformers, capacitors, suspect used oil, etc.

Label known and suspect PCB-containing oil containers with a hazardous waste label provided by EH&S. Store in designated waste collection area and contact EH&S for pick-up.


Label and bag asbestos-containing waste according to all federal and local regulations. Contact EH&S for proper disposal.

If asbestos waste is generated by a contractor on university-owned property, the waste manifests must be forwarded to the EH&S office.

Heavy Metals

Lead, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, Selenium, or Silver containing material (e.g. lead paint).

Handle all materials containing heavy metals as hazardous waste. Store waste in appropriately labeled drum or container. Contact EH&S for proper disposal.

If heavy metal waste is generated by a contractor on university-owned property, the waste manifests must be forwarded to the EH&S office.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

Keep containers securely closed to reduce the likelihood of accidental environmental release and/or human exposure. Label with a hazardous waste label and contact EH&S for proper disposal.

Aerosol cans

Canisters under pressure, such as spray paint, WD-40, Goof-Off, etc.

Most aerosol cans, or canisters under pressure, are flammable and classified as hazardous waste.  Store cans in a cool, dry place. Label with a hazardous waste label and contact EH&S for proper disposal.

Paints and Solvents

Latex paint waste is non-hazardous. Allow the paint to dry and throw away in the regular waste stream. Non-rusted metal paint containers may be recycled. Contact the Zero Waste Coordinator at ext. 2351 for more information about recycling.

Oil-based paints must be disposed of as hazardous waste through EH&S.

To determine whether a paint is latex or oil-based, look at the ingredient list. If water is listed as the main solvent, then it is likely latex paint. If something other than water is listed as the main solvent or if you are unsure, contact EH&S for disposal.

Universal Waste

Intact batteries, fluorescent lamps, waste oil (non-PCB containing)

Universal waste is recycled by Facilities Management within a year of generation and must be:

  • Segregated. No co-mingling of waste streams (i.e. lamps only with lamps, batteries only with batteries).
  • Contained. Waste must be kept in closed containers/boxes.
  • Labeled. Labels are provided by EH&S and include content identification and date information.

To dispose of universal waste, contact the Zero Waste Coordinator at ext. 2351.

Leaking batteries and broken/crushed bulbs are disposed of as hazardous waste. Contact the EH&S office for proper disposal.

Waste vehicle oil is managed by Transportation Operations and Maintenance.

Research and Laboratory Waste


Broken glass, sharp plastic, plate glass, pyrex.

If not contaminated with an infectious agent, dispose of material in a glass waste box. When full, close it securely and bring it to the designated waste accumulation area for pick-up.

Glass pipettes, needles, syringes, scalpel blades, razor blades, glass microscope slides and coverslips.

These items must be disposed of in a sharps container. When a container is 3/4 full, close it and place it in a medical waste box provided by EH&S. Prior to the scheduled medical waste pick-up, tape the medical waste box closed and label it "sharps". Sharps waste and other pathological waste must be in separate boxes and may not be mixed. No box may exceed 40 pounds.

Animal Bedding

Soiled animal bedding generated from IACUC-approved research activities.

Soiled animal bedding that is non-infectious (Biosafety Level 1) should be double-bagged, knotted or taped closed, and placed in the designated waste bin to be disposed of via the regular trash. No bag should exceed 40 pounds. 

Biosafety Level 2+ labs must dispose of all animal bedding waste as medical waste, with red bags and biohazard boxes. Biohazard boxes are picked up by EH&S at pre-arranged times and upon request.

Biological Waste

Experimentally cultured stocks, plates, ethidium bromide gels, (non-sharps) materials contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials, materials contaminated with human mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, or federal listed Select Agents.

Place medical waste in red bags only. When full, close bags and place in cardboard medical waste box provided by EH&S. Contact EH&S to schedule pick-up. Prior to a scheduled medical waste pick-up, tape boxes shut. 

Boxes must be under 40 a piece. Boxes exceeding 40 pounds will not be picked up.

If material can be autoclaved or otherwise sterilized so that it no longer presents a biological or sharps hazard, it may be disposed of as regular waste.

Pathological Waste

Animal carcasses, tissues, and organs generated from IACUC-approved research activities.

Bag and store all animal carcasses in the designated freezer only. 

Within 6 hours of a scheduled medical waste pick-up, pack bags in the biohazard boxes provided be EH&S and tape shut. Boxes must be under 40 a piece. Boxes exceeding 40 pounds will not be picked up.

Medical waste disposal guidelines

Medical waste disposal guidance document

View Page


Characteristic hazardous waste chemicals (flammable, reactive, corrosive, toxic), such as solvents, acids, bases, water/air sensitive materials, and heavy metals.

Collect waste in a chemically compatible container. Ensure that the waste container is labeled appropriately with an AU hazardous waste label. When full or more than 120 days have passed (whichever comes first), securely close the container and place it in the laboratory's designated waste storage area.

Research Equipment

Any apparatus used in the laboratory for research purposes, such as liquid scintillation counters, gas chromatography instruments, refrigerators, incubators, and chemicals storage cabinets. This includes filters from biosafety cabinets, ductless fume hoods, air purifications units, etc.

Research equipment contaminated with any hazardous material must be decontaminated by a qualified individual prior to recycling or disposal. If the equipment cannot be decontaminated, it must be disposed of as the hazardous waste in contains.

Radioactive Materials

All waste containing materials that emit ionizing radiation.

No amount of radioactive material may be discharged into the sewage system (including all drains and toilets) or otherwise released into the environment.

Store in the restricted laboratory's waste accumulation area and segregate by the isotope's half-life.

For isotopes with half-lives less than 125 days, the Radiation Safety Officer will transfer waste to the decay-in-storage area at quarterly intervals and upon request.

Isotopes with half-lives greater than 125 days cannot decay in storage. The Radiation Safety Officer will transfer waste to the waste storage area on a quarterly basis and upon request.

Do not mix solid/dry waste products with liquid waste regardless of the isotopes involved.

Waste containers will be provided by the University's Environmental Health and Safety office or must meet the specifications set by the Radiation Safety Officer. 

Controlled Substances

Substances and chemicals controlled by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Controlled substances not dispensed and rendered irretrievable during the course of their useful life may be disposed of through Environmental Health and Safety. Contact the individual listed at the bottom of this page to schedule a controlled substance disposal.

Per DEA regulations, two employees of the registered license holder must be present to observe the handling of the controlled substance until it is rendered non-retrievable. Contact the EH&S office for more information on proper destruction and recordkeeping techniques.


For more information, please contact:

Leanne Wright, MPH, CSP
Assistant Director, Environmental Health and Safety
Phone: 202-885-2007