1. What are Lab Packs?
Laboratory packs aka lab packs are small containers of hazardous waste material packed in drums. They're used by hospitals, laboratories, college campuses, factories, veterinarians, embalmers — anywhere small quantities of hazardous chemicals need to be carefully stored before professionally transported and disposed of by a medical waste disposal service.
According to the EPA, even field laboratories or chemical stockrooms that provide support services to research laboratories must be classified as “labs.”
There are generally three ways to transport hazardous waste:
- Bulk - Big shipments moved by tanker trucks. These containers hold more than 119 gallons of hazardous waste.
- Non-Bulk - Smaller shipments, under 119 gallons, moved in drums.
- Lab Packs - Separately packaged hazardous materials in drums.
Several Huntsville, Alabama, area laboratories are large sprawling campuses. However, many labs in Huntsville are small businesses serving our local doctors’ offices and clinics. All labs are testing facilities, and they handle potentially deadly chemicals and biohazardous materials every day.
- Depending on the size of the operation, some facilities need to transport only a few lab packs every year, while others must fill a few drums every day.
Below, we’ll discuss the importance of proper lab pack disposal and provide tips on choosing the right lab pack disposal provider.
2. Why Should My Company Hire a Lab Pack Disposal Provider?
Lab Packs are considered hazardous waste. They need to be labeled correctly and handled with care because of their toxicity levels.
The main benefit of using lab packs? By shipping "like" chemicals together in one drum, you'll use one shipping name in the regulations like “waste flammable liquids n.o.s” or (not otherwise specified). The shipping name that best fits all of the materials in a drum won’t be a specific chemical name. You won't need to fill one drum with “waste acetone” and another with “waste methanol.” Instead, your lab pack can include "like" items such as methanol, acetone, and Isopropanol, all packed into the same drum.
Under 40 CFR 262. 210 (b)(1), 262.211 (e) (1), and 262.212 (e)(1), an academic authority must label the individual lab packs as “hazardous material” if immediate packing into a drum isn’t possible. This brings us to the two main reasons for hiring a lab pack disposal provider:
- Your operation may need to dispose of fewer drums of hazardous waste.
- Although you may be considered a “small quantity generator,” disposing of highly-contaminated wastes safely is still a critical responsibility. According to the EPA, each type of waste generator (there are three) has targeted accumulation levels, holding times, disposal options, and reporting criteria.
3. What Should I Look For in a Lab Pack Provider?
As a regulated medical waste or hazardous waste generator, your business is responsible for the proper transportation and disposal of hazardous materials. Even when the drums have left your facility on a truck, you are liable for them. We call this responsibility "cradle to grave."
The lab pack disposal provider you contract with should offer:
- Complete compliance with federal and state regulations and guidelines for the transportation, treatment, and disposal of medical waste.
- An excellent record of safe operations
- A local treatment facility, so your waste is transported within a smaller geographic area, which means fewer liabilities for your organization.
- Excellent record keeping. It's important to know that waste has been appropriately disposed of.
- Responsive staff members who provide fast, accurate communication.
Additionally, a good lab pack disposal company will provide you with many scheduling options and do their best to work around your staff or client schedules.
4. Why Shouldn't Labs Dispose of Waste by Themselves?
Medical waste and hazardous materials are dangerous. By allowing untrained staff to handle them, you may be exposing your company to a huge risk. At worst, a flammable chemical combination may result in a tragic loss of lives. Additionally, lab packs may only be incinerated if they don’t contain any of the wastes listed in 40 CFR Part 268, Appendix IV.
So, don't let untrained staff handle medical wastes or hazardous materials.
Even minor mistakes can lead to injuries, such as:
- chemical burns
- respiratory irritation leading to pneumonia
Like a pebble tossed into a pond, the effects of chemical mismanagement can ripple through your entire organization, especially if an employee is injured. Consider these costs:
- Increased workers compensation expenses
- Increased liability insurance costs
- Decreased employee morale and productivity levels
- Damaged reputation, which can lead to decreased business viability and hiring challenges
You're Legally Obligated to Transport Medical Waste Properly
In many cases, it's illegal to transport and dispose of chemical waste without the proper HAZWOPER training and certifications. Correct labeling and chemical identification are crucial, as are trained professionals who can handle spills and situations that arise on the road.
Since your organization is responsible for these chemicals, you are liable for their transport and disposal, even after they've left your facility.
Check out these resources if you’d like to know more about the legal ramifications of hazardous waste disposal:
- OSHA's regulations for transporting hazmat
- Alabama regulations for medical waste disposal
- Tennessee regulations for medical waste disposal
Explore to find a certified, professional lab pack disposal service, that can safely and efficiently address your waste removal needs.