Recently, high schools all across the U.S. have started to install high-tech chemistry labs. School districts everywhere are trying to combat lower test scores by providing better facilities in which to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. As the number of chemistry labs increases, so does the need for properly disposing of the waste that they will be producing.
Many districts do not have the proper disposal protocols in place, which can lead to big problems. Not all chemistry teachers will be well-versed in proper chemical waste disposal. There are many environmental implications to improper waste disposal. Education and planning are key.
High school chemistry labs stock a large variety of chemicals. These range from substances suitable for secondary education, to things no one but the professionals should be handling. It is important for high school teachers, school administrators, and district personnel to know that there are certain requirements for properly disposing of these hazardous materials.
The Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) outlines these responsibilities. Basically, the RCRA says that if your facility generates hazardous waste, then you will be held responsible for proper disposal. Schools and school districts are NOT exempt from these rules. They can and will be fined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the event that something is done incorrectly.
When to Dispose
Expired chemicals– Many chemicals come with expiration dates. Be sure to keep a close eye on the inventory at your high school chemistry lab and properly dispose of substances that are past their date.
Degraded chemicals– It can be somewhat difficult to keep track of the exact use of every chemical in high school chemistry labs. If something is improperly sealed or has somehow gotten water in it, get rid of it.
No longer used chemicals– Even if it isn’t expired, if there is a substance in your high school chemistry lab that is no longer used, remove it. There’s no point in keeping chemicals that won’t even be used.
Dangerous chemicals– There are some chemicals that may be found in high school chemistry labs that just aren’t appropriate for that particular setting because they are too dangerous. These chemicals should be removed immediately with extreme caution.
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