Skip to main content.
EP-Hazardous Waste Management
Forms Guidance Supplies

Determining if your waste is hazardous

A waste is hazardous if either or both of the following are true:

  • The waste is "listed" on a regulatory list of hazardous waste (called a listed waste)
  • The waste has the characteristics of a hazardous waste (called a characteristic waste)*

*Note: A material that is improperly labeled and potentially hazardous can also be deemed a hazardous waste. An example is a bottle of liquid that you don't recognize and it is a missing label.

Listed Waste

Regulations have compiled lists of waste that are considered hazardous. To determine if your waste is hazardous, first determine if the waste meets one or more of the hazardous waste listing descriptions found in the regulations. If you generate hazardous waste, collaborate with the WM group to make this evaluation.

Characteristic Waste

If the waste is not listed, determine if it exhibits any of the four characteristics of a hazardous waste: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity. This evaluation involves using knowledge of the process or materials used to produce the waste and sometimes involves analytical testing of the waste.

Question Example Common Symbol
Is the waste toxic? (Can it injure, harm, or make someone ill if it's inhaled, swallowed, or if it gets on the skin?)
  • Pesticides
  • Waste containing heavy metals (such as cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury)

Is the waste reactive? (Will it or its vapors burn or explode when exposed to air or water?)
  • Cyanides (such as potassium cyanide, sodium cyanide)
  • Concentrated acids (nitric)

Is the waste ignitable? (Can its vapors burn easily?)
  • Fuel: gas/diesel
  • Solvents (such as isopropyl alcohol, or TCA)
  • Aerosol products

Is the waste corrosive? (Will it burn skin or eyes on contact or "eat away" containers?)
  • Battery acid
  • Acids (such as chromic, nitric, sulfuric, or hydrochloric)
  • Bases (such as sodium hydroxide)


General Considerations for Hazardous Waste Determinations

  • Fortunately, most of the waste routinely generated at SLAC has already been evaluated to determine if it is hazardous. Occasionally a "new" waste stream is generated and, in those cases, we must determine if the new waste stream is hazardous.
  • The waste evaluation process can be confusing, so we encourage personnel to work closely with the WM Group to ensure the waste is properly evaluated.
  • Check the product label, Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), or both. They often specify the hazards of the material. If it is a hazardous material, it is likely a hazardous waste.
  • Apply your knowledge of the waste and what went into it. Wastes that are mixtures of materials can be tricky to evaluate.
  • The waste may require analytical testing. WM will assist in collecting and sending samples to an off-site laboratory and evaluating the test result.

Last update: