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Empty Research Container Management

Learn how to dispose of empty research containers at UC San Diego.

Disposal of empty research containers is strictly regulated. The instructions below will help you determine how to manage research containers.

For a quick summary, please refer to the Lab Containers Flowchart and Research Waste Disposal Guidelines Poster in order to make the correct determination. 

1. Was the material "hazardous" or "extremely hazardous"?

Determine whether the research material the container once held was an extremely hazardous waste:

2. Confirm the container is really empty.

Containers that held a research material are managed as hazardous waste unless they are empty. In California, empty means drip/dry, a container is only CA empty when all pourable liquids no longer pour when the container is inverted and all non-pourable materials are scraped or otherwise removed.

A container is "empty" when all of the following conditions are met:

  • Liquid hazardous material containers:
    • No liquid can drain from it when tilted in any direction.
    • There is no hazardous material remaining that can feasibly be removed.
    • The walls have no encrusted material on them. (A thin layer of dried material is acceptable.)
  • Solid or non-pourable hazardous material containers (powders, sludges, grease, and thick resins):
    • The interior surface is scraped clean, with no residual material.
  • Aerosol containers:
    • The contents and pressure are completely dispensed.
    • The spray mechanism is in place and functional.
  • Gas cylinders:

See Research Waste Disposal Guidelines for more details.

If the container qualifies as "empty," go to Step 3.

If the container does NOT qualify as empty and cannot be emptied into a compatible hazardous waste receptacle, then the container and its contents must be collected by Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) for disposal as hazardous waste by one of the methods listed below:

chart of containers

3. Dispose of empty containers according to requirement.

After determining your hazardous material container is an "empty" container according to the criteria above, dispose of it according to its size, following the procedures below:

Disposal methods from Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) to dispose of hazardous waste. If the container does NOT qualify as empty and cannot be emptied into a compatible hazardous waste receptacle.








  • Chemical bottles
  • Glassware (broken &  intact)
  • Pipettes and tips

 glass waste box

yellow waste tagwhite waste tag When boxes are 75% full, close the lid and seal the top of the box with packaging tape. (Note: The box should not weigh more than 50 pounds.)
  • Request pickup in the  Online Tag Program
  • Containers will be picked up from the lab by EHS Staff
Accumulate for max 240 days.



  • Plastic pipettes
  • Plastic tips

Cardboard box lined with a plastic bag. Size so that total weight when full does not exceed 30 lbs. cardboard box

Green Plastic Waste Label


 green tag


  • Tape up box when full
  • Place in the hallway
  • Containers will be picked up from the lab by Custodians

Due to concerns regarding punctures or cuts to campus personnel handling trash containers, all glass containers, broken glass, and pointed plastic must be disposed of in cardboard containers.

Boxes or drums must be lined with clear heavy (>= 2mil thickness) plastic bags. Do not use red bags for the lining.

Cross out labels and remove caps of empty chemical containers before discarding

Contents from the Empty Glass and Plastic waste stream (yellow label) are destined for the landfill so it is critical that only appropriate materials are placed inside. Due to past issues with this waste stream, these boxes are currently being reviewed for compliance and to divert recyclable materials.

4. Prohibited Items for Glass Disposal Boxes

Ensure the following items are not in glass disposal boxes:
  • Thermometersno sharp items symbol
  • Any containers with liquids or residue (i.e., contaminated with chemical, biological or radioactive material)
  • Syringes 
  • Any type of listed sharps (needles, razor blades, scalpels, etc)
  • Light bulbs, batteries and other universal waste items
Please refer to the Chemical Container flow charts to determine the proper method of disposal.

5. Management of Empty Chemical Containers Greater than 5 Gallons

  • Empty chemical containers greater than 5 gallons must be labeled with the word “Empty” and the date at which the container was emptied. 
  • Empty containers must be either disposed of through the Online Tag Program and Campus EH&S or picked up by the contractor within 1 year. 

Related Resources

For more information, contact the EH&S Environmental Management Facility, (858) 534-2753.
Notice: Disposal of hazardous waste using sinks, intentional evaporation, or as regular trash is against the law. Campus laboratories must abide by strict state and federal waste disposal requirements. You may be held liable for violations of applicable laws.