Even when not required by environmental regulations, the following best practices involving Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACM) should be followed during demolition and renovation work:
- Prior to beginning demolition or renovation work, an audit/inventory should be conducted to identify all asbestos-containing material (ACM) in the facility, including laboratory sampling as necessary to support conclusions.
- The inventory should identify materials, locations and condition. Commonly found ACM include insulation, floor tiles, roofing material, valve gaskets and other building materials.
- It is usually recommended that ACM be removed from a facility being demolished or renovated before any disruptive activity begins to minimize potential for release and to streamline contracting.
- If ACM will remain in place during construction activities, all known ACM should be labeled to prevent inadvertent disturbance.
- Keep ACM adequately wet before, during and after removal operations. To “adequately wet” asbestos-containing material means to sufficiently mix or penetrate the material with liquid to prevent the release of particulates or fibers. If visible emissions are observed coming from the material, then it has not been adequately wetted.
- After it is wetted, bulk asbestos waste must be containerized before it is transported. Seal the waste material in leak-tight containers while it is wet and label the containers appropriately. If the waste will not fit into containers, place it in leak-tight wrapping.
- All asbestos related work, including inventory, inspection, abatement work and abatement planning should be performed by qualified and trained personnel that meet the training requirements outlined in the regulations for their areas of responsibilities. In many states specific licenses are required to perform many asbestos related services, including inspections, sampling, analysis, as well as abatement. Check with your EH&S office or your local regulatory agencies to determine licensing requirements in your state.
The proliferation of consumer electronics--think of video games, boom boxes, computers, and similar equipment--has led to electronics waste becoming one of the fastest growing waste streams in America. From an environmental perspective, this is important because most electronic appliances contain hazardous materials, such as lead, mercury, or hexavalent chromium.
Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) in particular contain large quantities of lead, in some cases up to eight pounds of lead in a single CRT. This fact has led EPA recently to propose that CRTs be treated as Universal Waste, which is hoped to increase reuse and recycling of these products.
One of the best management practices for reducing the environmental impact of electronics waste is to buy “greener” electronic products. Reusing and recycling electronics is another way to reduce waste generation. When purchasing new electronics, look for models that:
- Are energy-efficient (e.g., show the “Energy Star” label)
- Are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly
- Use minimal packaging
- Offer leasing or “take back” options
- Have been recognized by independent certification groups as environmentally preferable
- Are made with fewer toxic constituents
- Use recycled content
If you are interested in recycling used computer monitors or television screens (both of which contain cathode ray tubes), consider the following options:
- Contact your town/city hall to inquire about their recycling program.
- Contact a nearby electronics retailer, TV repair shop or electronics recycling company to see if they accept computer monitors and televisions sets for recycling.
- Consider donating your computer or television.
Conservation and Recycling
The amount of waste that is generated at the residential life facilities on your campus can be reduced significantly through the implementation of waste reduction approaches, such as conservation and recycling. Consider the following waste reduction approaches can be incorporated into the waste management systems at your campus:
- Waste Prevention - Also known as source reduction, waste prevention emphasizes designing, manufacturing, purchasing and using materials and products with the intention of reducing the volume of discarded waste.
- Recycling - Recycling is the collection of materials that would otherwise be discarded, so that they may be used as raw materials in manufacturing operations for new products. A best management practice is to reuse items several times and then send them to a recycling center for processing.
- Composting - Composting is a natural process by which food scraps, yard trimmings and other organic materials are collected and allowed to decompose under controlled conditions into a rich, soil-like substance called compost.
There are many environmental and economical benefits to conservation and recycling; strategies for both include:
- Encourage suppliers to minimize the amount of packaging they use to protect their products or investigate alternate suppliers who might use less packaging. Work with suppliers to make arrangements for returning shipping materials such as crates, cartons and pallets for reuse.
- Use durable, reusable products rather than single-use materials. For example, encourage staff and students to use ceramic mugs in place of disposable cups, and reuse common items such as file folders, binders and storage boxes.
- Reduce the use of hazardous constituents in your waste streams by using substitute products that are free of hazardous materials. There are substitutes available for standard cleaning solvents, inks, paints, glues and other materials that might be used in your residential life facilities. Ask your suppliers to direct you toward reformulated products, such as toners with no heavy metals, water-based paints and cleaning solutions.
- Be cautious about over-ordering products with a limited shelf life.
- Design a system of collection that sorts the waste generated on your campus, such as bottles, cans, paper and corrugated cardboard, for recycling.
- Promote recycling efforts on your campus to students, faculty and staff, and periodically report the status of the recycling program and the progress that has been made.
- Establish a campus-wide double-sided photocopying policy.
- Reuse envelopes for intra-campus use or use two-way (“send-n-return”) envelopes.
- Send bulletins via electronic mail or set up a central bulletin board for posted information to reduce the use of flyers.
- Install reusable furnace and air conditioner filters in the residential life buildings on your campus.
What should you do if a fluorescent lamp breaks?
If a fluorescent lamp breaks indoors, close off the room and other parts of the building, open a window and leave the area for at least 15 minutes so that the mercury vapor can dissipate. When you return, scoop up the glass and powder debris with stiff paper and place the material in a sealed container labeled “Broken Fluorescent Lamps.” Never use a vacuum cleaner, which will only disperse the mercury over a wider area (the vacuum cleaner will then need to be handled as a hazardous waste).
How should you dispose of spent fluorescent lamps?
A variety of vendors are available in many areas that are available to recycle fluorescent light bulbs for institutions. In addition, you may often be able to recycle bulbs from your personal (household) use through a local Household Hazardous Waste event or, in some cases, through the Facilities department at your school or university. Always take care not to break these bulbs so as not to release mercury vapor to the air.
Institutions should follow these tips:
- Store unbroken lamps in a box or fiber drum to prevent breakage, and keep that container in a secure, protected area.
- Label the container “Universal Waste - Spent Fluorescent Lamps” and mark it with the date on which you first begin storing the lamps.
- Have these lamps collected by or deliver them to an authorized lamp recycler, hazardous waste transporter, or another universal waste handler within one year of the date marked on the container.
Household Hazardous Materials
“Household hazardous materials” or more commonly “Household Hazardous Waste” (“HHW”) refers to everyday products that are found in residential settings that can cause harm to human health and the environment if not treated properly. These items include a wide range of consumer products, some of which are likely present in your household. Consider this brief list:
- Non-alkaline batteries especially “button batteries” that contain mercury
- Chlorine bleach
- Drain cleaners and spot removers
- Paints, stains, varnishes and finishes especially those that are oil-based
- Pool chemicals
- Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other lawn care products
- Antifreeze, used oil, and other waste materials related to automobiles
- Fire extinguishers
- Lighter fluid
- Fluorescent and halogen bulbs
All of these materials have physical characteristics that would qualify them as “hazardous wastes”--that is, they are ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic--if they were to be disposed of by a regulated organization like a business or university. Although households are excluded from regulation under RCRA, these products should still be handled properly because they can be dangerous. For example, they can physically injure residents or custodial workers (think of bleach), contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems if they are poured down drains (lighter fluid or herbicides), or release contaminants to the environment if sent to a landfill or an incinerator (batteries, fluorescent bulbs, and others).
Therefore, even when not required by environmental regulations, the following best practices should be used:
- Use and store products containing hazardous substances carefully. Make a habit of reading product labels and carefully follow the directions for use.
- Use household hazardous materials outside or in well-ventilated rooms and avoid breathing in fumes. Only use the recommended amount of the material, and when possible, buy only the quantity you need. If you cannot use the entire amount, share, donate or recycle what is left.
- When you are purchasing products, such as household cleaners seek out nontoxic alternatives (product labels will include information on toxic constituents).
- Purchase non-aerosol products to minimize the release of harmful vapors.
- Keep products containing hazardous materials in their original containers and never remove the labels. Corroding containers, however, should be repackaged and clearly labeled in order to help protect others.
- Never mix leftover household hazardous waste with other products. Incompatible substances may react, ignite or explode.
- Purchase products in childproof packaging and never store leftover household hazardous waste in food containers.
- Follow all instructions for disposal and use provided on the label.
- Seek out information on how to properly dispose of leftover HHW. Many communities and colleges and universities have periodic collection events where residents can bring Household Hazardous Wastes. Call your local government or your school’s EH&S department to ask how to properly dispose of these materials. Do NOT throw them into your regular trash!
Oil-based paints may contain lead, mercury, chromium, or cadmium, all of which are toxic to humans, animals and the environment above certain levels. Even when not required by environmental regulations, the following best practices are recommended.
- Leftover paint should be labeled as “latex” or “oil-based.” New latex paint is usually labeled as such or has instructions to clean up with water. Oil-based paint may be labeled “alkyd,” “contains solvents,” “clean up with mineral spirits,” or “combustible.”
- Latex paint generally may be allowed to dry completely and then be disposed in the trash as a non-hazardous solid waste. To dry small amounts of latex paint, remove the lid and let the paint dry in the can. For larger amounts, mix in kitty litter or pour one-inch layers of paint in a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag. Stir the paint occasionally to speed the drying process.
- Oil-based paints, stains or wood finishes should NOT be allowed to air-dry because the volatile chemicals are air pollutants. Even if dry, oil-based paint may not be disposed of through the trash stream.
- Liquid paint should not be put in the trash or poured down the drain. If you want to store useable paint for long periods of time, cover the opening of the paint can with a piece of plastic wrap and seal the lid tightly. Store the can upside down and away from heat.
- Learn which items in the residential facilities on your campus contain mercury. Mercury is found in thermometers, thermostats, barometers, switches, fluorescent bulbs, sprinkler system contacts, and cylindrical batteries made before 1990. The button batteries found in calculators, watches and hearing aids may also contain mercury, and so might some topical disinfectants (mercurochrome or tincture of merthiolate), contact lens solutions and detergents.
- Never put mercury-containing items in the trash, outdoors or down drains. When products that contain mercury are thrown away, they end up at landfills, incinerators or wastewater treatment plants, where the mercury can enter the environment.
- Never touch or vacuum spilled mercury. Keep people and pets away from the area and open the windows to ventilate the area. To reduce evaporation, lower the room temperature. Remove all jewelry from your hands since mercury bonds with most metals, and put on rubber gloves. Spilled mercury can spread quickly, so move furniture away from the spill and prevent the mercury from flowing into drains, cracks or crevices. Any remaining mercury will continue to emit dangerous vapors, so it is important to contain every drop. Vacuuming or sweeping up spilled mercury will contaminate your vacuum or broom.
- Dispose of mercury waste responsibly. Label the containers used to collect spilled mercury and keep people away from them. Never put mercury waste in the trash.
- Try to buy products containing little or no mercury. Choose alternatives such as digital thermometers or mercury-free thermostats.