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Health & Safety Manual - Environmental Safety

3.4 Special Waste Streams

3.4.1 Aerosol Cans
3.4.2 Batteries
3.4.3 Computer Monitor Recycling
3.4.4 Controlled Substances
3.4.5 Dark Room and Photo Processing Waste
3.4.6 Ethidium Bromide Waste
3.4.7 Fluorescent Lamps
3.4.8 Mercury-Containing Devices
3.4.9 Nanotechnology Waste
3.4.10 Piranha Waste
3.4.11 Reactive materials
3.4.12 Refrigerant Reclamation
3.4.13 Solder Waste
3.4.14 Solvent contaminated rags and debris
3.4.15 Solvent Recovery
3.4.16 Used Oil

3.4 Special Waste Streams
Certain waste streams generated at Columbia University have alternate handling procedures, compared with those listed in section 3.3.3.

3.4.1 Aerosol Cans – All empty/unwanted aerosol cans generated at Columbia University must be handled as Hazardous Waste, as outlined in section 3.3.3.  Many aerosols contain hazardous constituents that can damage the environment when improperly disposed of in the trash or can explode if compacted or incinerated.

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3.4.2 Batteries – Used batteries are collected for recycling at various locations throughout Columbia University and are managed as Universal Waste.  Please visit the EH&S Universal Waste webpage for information on where to deposit unwanted batteries throughout campus.  Leaking or damaged batteries must be handled as Hazardous Waste, as outlined in section 3.3.3 and must not be deposited with other batteries.  If the battery is leaking, place it in a container and label it as hazardous waste per the above requirements in section 3.3.3.2.  Federal regulations require covering electrical contacts on batteries other than alkalines prior to transportation.  One such method of compliance is taping the battery terminals to prevent contact and the generation of heat which could cause a potential for fire.    Therefore, EH&S has installed tape dispensers on all battery collection containers to facilitate compliance with this requirement, please see photo.

3.4.3 Computer Monitor Recycling – Computer monitors and other cathode ray tube devices contain quantities of lead that can be harmful to the environment. Most municipal landfills will no longer accept computer monitors for disposal, as EPA considers them hazardous waste.  Columbia University maintains a recycling program to prevent this hazardous waste stream from entering landfills.  If you have a non-functional or obsolete computer monitor that can be recycled, please contact Facilities Operations (212) 305-3753 at CUMC or 854-2222 at MS) for assistance.  For LDEO please contact the Safety Office at 1-845-365-8860 or x8862.  For Nevis contact the Facilities Safety Manager onsite to arrange for removal.

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3.4.4 Controlled Substances – Controlled substances require specific management procedures detailed on the Columbia University Use and Management of Controlled Substances website.

3.4.5 Dark Room and Photo Processing Waste – Effluent fixer from photo processing contains silver halide, a hazardous material that must be excluded from the sewer discharge.  EH&S coordinates installation of maintenance-free silver-recovery units on all photo processors; if you suspect a problem with the unit attached to the processor, or are missing a recovery unit, please contact EH&S.  A Darkroom Log sheet is required to be completed with each use of the darkroom for tracking and maintenance purposes.  Scrap film must also be collected in specially marked containers.  Contact EH&S to obtain a Scrap Film Container.

3.4.6 Ethidium Bromide Waste – Ethidium bromide is mutagenic, requiring gels and debris to be managed accordingly.  This waste must be collected in a EH&S provided, pre-labeled container marked as such:


“Nonhazardous Waste label:  Ethidium Bromide Gels & Debris”

3.4.7 Fluorescent Lamps – Fluorescent lamps, including the germicidal lamp in Biological Safety Cabinets (see section 2.4.1) may contain mercury and must be handled carefully.  Contact Facilities Operations (212) 305-7367 ext. 3 at CUMC or (212) 854-2222 for MS and Nevis.  At LDEO please submit a chemical waste pickup request to arrange for the disposal of fluorescent lamps.

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3.4.8 Mercury-Containing Devices – Broken mercury-containing devices, such as thermometers, are a leading cause of chemical spill cleanup responses at Columbia University.  Every effort should be made to replace mercury-containing temperature and pressure sensing devices with safer alternatives.  See 5.4.1.1.1 for information on replacing mercury thermometers with safer alternatives.  Contact EH&S to take advantage of this program or submit a chemical waste pickup form to discard of mercury containing devices through EH&S.

3.4.9 Nanotechnology Waste – Nanomaterials are substances that have at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nanometers. Currently, health effects of exposure to engineered nanomaterials are poorly understood, though recent research has indicated that exposure is likely to cause adverse effects similar to those caused by ultrafine particles with similar chemical and physical characteristics. Nanomaterials should be collected and managed as hazardous waste until the health effects of various nanomaterials are better characterized.  It is recommended that their handling be approached with caution, accompanied by the use of the standard engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment used for manipulating other hazardous materials in the laboratory setting, and that waste streams be managed accordingly as hazardous waste.

3.4.10 Piranha Waste – A highly reactive mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide, piranha solution is commonly used as an etchant in clean rooms. Due to its tendency to evolve gas, piranha solution must always be stored in a plastic waste container outfitted with a vented cap (EH&S can provide vented caps for 5 gallon waste collection containers) to prevent a dangerous buildup of pressure that could cause a sealed container to rupture. Piranha waste must be segregated from all other waste streams and collected in dedicated containers. When collecting waste, the solution should be allowed to cool before being added to a plastic waste container.

3.4.11 Reactive materials – Highly explosive, shock, temperature or friction sensitive materials such as pyrophoric material, water and air-reactive materials or highly toxic compressed gases must be managed with extreme care.  Please consult with EH&S prior to purchasing these materials to ensure the lab is outfitted with the necessary safety equipment such as appropriate fire extinguisher and laboratory procedure specific training.

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3.4.12 Refrigerant Reclamation - Old laboratory refrigerators/freezers, ice machines, window air-conditioning units, and the like may contain refrigerants that are harmful to human health as well as the environment.  Prior to final disposal, it is required that each item is safely vacuumed of its refrigerant.  EH&S has partnered with Facilities Operations to ensure that the safe collection of ozone-depleting refrigerants is performed on each appliance by an EPA Certified Technician using EPA Certified Equipment.  Once complete, each item is “tagged” to identify that the refrigerant has been removed and that it is ready for disposal.

3.4.13 Solder Waste – Labs and shops that use solder must collect the solder waste as a hazardous waste if it contains lead.  All applicable hazardous waste guidelines apply to lead based solder.  Non-lead based solder must be collected for metal recycling through EH&S.

3.4.14 Solvent contaminated rags and debris – Rags and debris contaminated with solvents require a hazardous waste determination to be made by EH&S.  Specific solvents are treated for flammability and others for both flammability and toxicity, therefore, specific containers and labels are required.  Prior to generating this waste please contact EH&S for guidance.  Always use nontoxic, nonflammable solvents whenever possible.

3.4.15 Solvent Recovery - Columbia University laboratories have been recycling several thousand gallons of spent solvent (i.e., xylene and alcohol) annually since 2001.  In 2008, the Morningside campus began recycling acetone and in 2011 methanol and ethanol.  Please see the information posted on the solvent recycling webpage for further information.  Additionally, over the years several newsletter articles have appeared in the Safety Matters EH&S newsletter that further illustrates the details of the successful program.

3.4.16 Used Oil – Used pump oil and other oils must be collected in closed containers marked “Used Oil.”  These containers must be kept closed at all times.  To schedule a pickup of Used Oil, submit a chemical waste pickup form. If the laboratory area requires large volumes of oil, such as >55 gallons, it must also comply with University Storm Water Pollution Control Countermeasures (SPCC) requirements, specifically the use of secondary containment &/or spill containment pallets and weekly inspections.

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