Empty Chemical Container Management

Chemical containers that have been emptied (generally this means drained of their contents by normal methods including pouring, pumping, aspirating, etc.) are not regulated as hazardous waste; however they should not necessarily be disposed of in the regular solid waste dumpsters. 

Generally, the primary container (the container that actually held the chemical, as opposed to a container that the primary chemical was packed in), must be triple rinsed with water or other suitable solvent and air-dried before disposal. For volatile organic solvents (e.g. acetone, ethanol, ethyl acetate, ethyl ether, hexane, methanol, methylene chloride, petroleum ether, toluene, xylene, etc.) not on the list of acutely hazardous wastes, the emptied container can be air-dried in a ventilated area (e.g. a chemical fume hood) without triple rinsing.

The waste generator must determine whether the washings must be collected and disposed of as hazardous waste. Generally, if the chemical is on the list of acutely hazardous wastes or if the material is known to have high acute toxicity, the washings must be collected.

Glass Containers

Glass containers must be triple-rinsed with water or other suitable solvent and air-dried to ensure that it is free of liquid or other visible chemical residue. Intact containers (with caps removed) meeting these criteria should be placed in glass recycling receptacles. If a suitable glass recycling receptacle is not available, place the containers in a box marked "recyclable glass" and place the box in the hallway for removal by Building Services personnel. Glass bottle receptacles, consisting of a 20-gallon rubber container with a half lid, are available from Building Services.

If the glass container has visible residue and this residue is hazardous, the container should be disposed as medical waste. Questions about medical waste disposal should be addressed to Meagan Fitzpatrick 609-258-6258. If the residue is not hazardous, the intact container should be placed in regular lab trash.

Broken glass containers that are free of chemical residue should be placed in broken glass receptacles or placed in a puncture resistant container, such as a rigid plastic container or corrugated cardboard box. The plastic container or box should be sealed and placed in regular laboratory trash.

Metal Containers

Metal containers must be triple-rinsed with water or other suitable solvent and air-dried. If the container is free of hazardous chemical residues, it may be placed in the regular laboratory trash. Otherwise, it should be disposed as medical waste.

Secondary Containers

Containers that were used as overpack for the primary chemical container may be placed in regular trash or recyclable trash. Any packing materials, such as vermiculite, Perlite, clay, Styrofoam, etc., may be placed in the regular trash unless it was contaminated with the chemical as a result of container breakage or leak. Packing materials contaminated with hazardous materials should be disposed of as hazardous waste.


Stanely Howell
Sr. Program Manager - Chemical Safety

Steve Elwood
Director for Research Safety