Waste Disposal Guidelines

This document is designed to help the Rice University community distinguish between municipal and hazardous waste and help elucidate how the waste should be disposed of properly.  


Municipal Waste

Municipal Waste is waste of a non-hazardous nature that does not inherently pose a threat to people or the environment.  Municipal waste items include packing materials, paper, office supplies, non-contaminated lab materials and food or drink containers.  Rice University encourages all the members of our community to recycle, reuse or repurpose.  Recycle bins are available in all building on campus. http://facilities.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=2654


Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste is unwanted material that poses an inherent danger to personnel or the environment. This waste cannot be disposed in a municipal landfill and requires special handling, manifesting and packaging prior to disposal.  


Classrooms and Offices

Offices and classrooms all have ordinary trash cans readily available to all occupants.  However, not all waste should be placed into the ordinary trash.  Wastes from these areas that are of concern include sharps (razor blades, syringe needles) or broken glass. Sharps in the ordinary trash can create hazardous conditions in an otherwise safe environment. These materials if not disposed of correctly could result in someone being stuck or cut by a piece of glass or needle.  If you need to throw away glass  or objects that may become sharp if broken please place these items in a cardboard box and close or tape the box shut and mark it as trash. Sharps containers, for needle disposal, are available from the Environmental Safety Department free of charge.


Electronic Disposal

Unwanted/obsolete electronic equipment, machines, or batteries, also known as “E” waste should not be disposed in the ordinary trash.  For the disposal of unwanted computer equipment please contact your IT division representative. For the proper disposal of batteries or other e-waste contact EHS by completing a waste pickup form. http://safety.rice.edu/Waste/Waste_Pickup_Request/

IT Hardware Disposal Process


Laboratory Waste 

Not all laboratory waste should be considered hazardous and disposing of this waste properly can sometimes be confusing. This document is designed to help you distinguish between different types of waste and the proper disposal of each waste stream.  


Municipal Laboratory Waste

Municipal lab waste includes office supplies, packing materials, other disposal lab materials and boxes that were received or used in a laboratory. These items can go into the normal trash or recycle bin. Other materials that can be thrown away in the normal trash are non-contaminated gloves and any other non-contaminated disposable lab supplies.


Biological Waste

Biological waste includes any unwanted material which may be composed of or contaminated with biological or biohazardous material that may pose a threat to the general public and environment.  Biological waste can be derived from any materials that have come in contact with bacteria, virus, toxins, rDNA, bloodborne products e.g. human and none human primate tissues, organs, bodily fluids, cell lines as well as OPIM (otherwise potentially infectious materials)..  All biological waste must be treated before general disposal.


Liquid Biological Waste

All liquid waste must be appropriately treated prior to disposal by either chemical disinfection or thermal sterilization to ensure complete sterilization of the material.  The Center for Disease and Control  and Prevention(CDC) provides guidance on sterilization and disinfection protocols published in the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories. Once sterilized, the solution can be poured down the laboratory sink followed by copious amounts of water.  If the solution contains other hazards such as chemicals or radioactive materials, ensure the sterilization agent is compatible with the underlying hazard first.  Once sterilization is complete, the waste can be safely disposed into the appropriate hazardous waste stream.


Solid Biological Waste

Solid biological waste includes but not limited to plastic-ware, petri dishes, eppendorf tubes or any other materials used to culture or transfer biological materials. Any materials contaminated with a biological hazard must be autoclaved prior to normal disposal or placed in a regulated medical waste box (RMW) container.  


Solid biological waste can be autoclaved for a minimum of 30 min at 15psi and 121°C.  Place a strip of autoclave tape on the bag or on the biohazard symbol if applicable of the waste before beginning the sterilization cycle. Following the autoclave process, the material is considered non-biohazardous waste and can be disposed of in the general trash.  All biohazard symbols must be defaced or marked out prior to disposal.


Wastes to be transported offsite for treatment must be packaged securely in RMW container available at the George R Brown loading dock or BRC loading dock. Waste containers must not weight more than 40lbs. The red interior liner must be handtied closed and the top of the box must be securely folded shut. Each box should be marked on the outside with the lab  name and phone extension.


If the waste material is frozen or had the potential to leak, you must use two red bed liners before securing the box. Please do not place the box in the collection area until the day of or night before shipment. On campus these boxes should be placed inside the loading dock at George R. Brown or the cold storage room at the BRC. 

Ethidium Bromide Waste

The 5 gallon bucket, as described in the chemical waste section, should be used for any gels and other material that comes in contact with the ethidium bromide. Do not use a red biohazard bag to line the buckets.   For the liquid ethidium bomide waste such as buffers, please use a 5 gallon carboy and label the container appropriately. 


Sharps Waste

Sharps include any razor, scalpel, syringes and needles and must be disposed in a plastic sharps container available in the EHS office.  Needles should never be recaped or removed from the syringe when disposing.  The entire needle and syringe should be placed in the sharps container for disposal. Once the container is ¾ full, secure the top and place the sealed container in a biohazard waste box. Biohazard waste boxes are available at the George R Brown loading dock or BRC loading dock.  Once the biohazard box is full or no longer wanted in the lab secure the containers by following the procedures for solid biological waste disposal.


Broken Glass Waste

Broken glass waste poses a unique hazard to the custodial staff. Broken glass should only be disposed of in designated broken glass containers. These broken glass boxes can be obtained free of charge from the chemistry or VWR stockroom. When assembling the boxes make sure to use packing tape to secure the bottom of the box.  Due to the weight of the glass only fill the box ¾ full. If the bottom of the box tears open due to moisture in the box, moisture on the floor or weight of the box laboratory personnel are left with a complicated mess to clean up. It is important to note that glass waste boxes are for broken glass and the whole bottles should not contain any liquid or residue. Though it is acceptable to place used pipets in these containers, it is not appropriate to dispose of unwanted chemicals, or vials which contain samples.  Always use a plastic liner (bag) in the box to prevent any moisture from seeping and possibly compromising the integrity of the box. When the box is ¾ full, seal the bag and box and mark if for disposal.  Never place bio hazardous materials in the glass waste boxes.  Contact the Rice Facilities Service Center for custodial issues with broken glass. 


Vial Waste

Vial waste containing chemicals, usually dissolved in a solvent, that are in small plastic or glass containers or eppendorf tubes should not be placed in the glass trash.  Any vial which contains less than 5 ml fits into this category. Vial waste should be placed into 5 gallons buckets for pickup and disposal. Buckets are available from EHS or in the stockroom at the BRC or Space Science.  Place a disposal sticker on the container and write “vial waste” on the label. When the container is full and ready for disposal, place a pickup request on the EHS website. http://safety.rice.edu/Waste/Waste_Pickup_Request/


Empty Chemical Containers

Bottles or containers that contained chemicals are not considered hazardous waste; however they should not simply be thrown away in the trash. Amber glass bottles and 20 Liter steel drums should be rinsed a minimum of 3 times with water and allowed to dry before disposal in general trash. If the contents were a solvent that is not miscible with water or should not be poured down the drain, e.g. acetone, chloroform, dichloromethane, acetonitrile etc. please allow the residual contents to evaporate in a chemical hood. Once the residue has evaporated, the label should be defaced and the empty container disposed in the general trash or glass box.


Chemical Waste

Most laboratories on campus routinely generate hazardous waste and therefore are subject to EPA and TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) rules regulating the generation, storage, and disposal of chemical waste.  Prudent waste management is necessary for resource conversation and pollution prevention. 


Hazardous waste should segregate by reactivity and collected in waste containers supplied by EHS.  Segregation of the waste stream should be based on the underlying hazards (flammable, aqueous acids or basic, chlorinated) and never poured down the sink without consultation with EHS. 


When generating hazardous waste follow these guidelines.:

All waste containers must be capped or closed when not in use.

All waste containers must be labeled with the word “waste” or “hazardous waste”. 

Chemical contents of the waste container should be maintained to prevent non compatible waste from being collected together.

All waste containers must have an EHS hazardous waste sticker affixed to the vessel with the following information filled out.

      Name of generator (PI or Lab).

      Date that the waste began accumulating.

      Type of hazard.

     Bulk constituents.

All hazardous waste containers must be in a secondary container that can accommodate 110% the volume of the waste container. EHS will provide these to the laboratory upon request.

All waste ready for pick up must be placed in a designated area and the generator must fill out an EHS waste pickup request form. http://safety.rice.edu/Waste/Waste_Pickup_Request/



Radioactive Material

If your laboratory is licensed to work with radioactive material, proper management of this waste stream is important to prevent unintended exposure and high cost of disposal of mixed waste. Environmental Health and Safety will assist you with the disposal or decay of all radioactive waste. Contact EHS to obtain a cost for the disposal of radioactive materials. The cost of disposal of these materials is the responsibility of the PI.  Once the material is removed from the lab or has reached its maximum decay it can be subtracted from your radioactive material inventory.


Memo of Understanding - Unbroken Glassware

Certain glassware and chemicals are considered precursors to the production of controlled substances. These chemicals and glassware have special restrictions due to a memo of understanding between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. You cannot dispose of any unbroken glassware or apparatus that is considered a controlled item in the trash. You must submit a waste pickup request to dispose of these. You can view the document here to determine if you have any of these materials.