skip navigation
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

School Chemicals and Products Typically Considered Solid Waste
Guidance for Managing Chemicals in New Hampshire School Science Laboratories

Many schools have an accumulation of hazardous chemicals they are no longer using, and these chemicals may be expensive to dispose of properly. Schools may have hazardous chemicals in their science laboratories (chemistry, biology), art, photography and shop classes, and their maintenance departments (cleaning supplies, pesticides). By law, hazardous wastes must be properly handled from their initial generation to their final point of disposal, under a concept commonly known as "cradle to grave" responsibility. Schools need to manage chemicals in an effective and safe manner. The following guidance is offered for creating a school chemical management plan by conducting a chemical inventory, properly disposing of unwanted chemicals, and instituting a centralized purchasing policy in order to manage chemicals safely.

Conduct a Chemical Inventory
Many chemicals typically found in middle and high schools are dangerous primarily because of their age and condition, as well as their toxic or reactive properties. As a first step in effectively managing chemicals, school administrators should conduct a complete chemical inventory. Chemical inventories should be conducted in every school department prior to the ordering of any new chemicals. At a minimum, a chemical inventory would include the following information for chemical:

  • Amount of chemical currently in school
  • Amount of chemical purchased
  • Chemical incompatibilities
  • Chemical name
  • Date of purchase
  • Manufacturer name
  • Place where chemical is being stored (room, name, building)

When purchasing chemicals and chemical products, the manufacturer must supply a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). MSDSs are prepared by the manufacturer and contain information pertaining to the chemical’s flammability, reactivity, health effects, incompatibilities, and government regulations for transportation and proper disposal. As required by statute (RSA 277-A), a copy of each MSDS must be kept in the same area that the chemicals are being stored and made easily available to employees who come in contact with chemicals. School chemical inventories and MSDSs must also be kept on file with the local fire department.

By conducting a chemical inventory, a school can eliminate over-purchasing, and thereby reducing disposal costs of unneeded, out-of-date chemicals. An inventory can also trace the age of the chemicals, better track purchase and disposal costs and assist the fire department in case of an emergency.

Institute a Centralized Purchasing Policy
Many problems associated with chemicals at a school can be eliminated by instituting good chemical purchasing practices. A centralized purchasing policy helps to control the volume of chemicals in a school, as well as eliminate duplicate orders. This can be achieved by having one person or one department responsible for maintaining the school’s chemical inventory and ordering. The following items will help in deciding if the chemical needs to be purchased.

  • First, check with other departments to see if they have the amount of chemical needed.
  • Is there a less toxic/hazardous form of the product available that could be substituted?
  • Buy only what is needed or purchase in small volumes. Bulk is not always better.
  • Are there any special handling or storage requirements for the chemical (metal vs. wood) and is there adequate space for chemical storage?
  • What type of waste will be produced from this chemical? Will it be a hazardous waste requiring special disposal or a non-hazardous waste that can be disposed in the trash or down the drain?
  • Is the school’s ventilation system adequate for use of this product? Are there properly working fume hoods in the laboratory? (Opening a window does not constitute adequate ventilation).

Often, schools have a "red-flag" list of chemicals that should not be used at the school, based on the chemical’s toxic or reactive properties. Schools should consider establishing a policy that outlines which chemicals are not acceptable to their school district. All orders should be crosschecked with this list.

Managing Chemicals In Schools

  • If possible, store all chemicals in a centralized place in the school. Do not store chemicals by alphabetical order, but instead by the chemical’s hazard classification, which is based upon a chemical’s compatibility and reactivity.
  • Adopt a less toxic curriculum. When feasible, chemical use and, therefore, chemical waste should be minimized by using microscale chemistry (reduction of chemical use to the minimum level at which experiments can be effectively performed), green chemistry (reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances), or video instruction.
  • By law, all school staff that routinely work with hazardous chemicals must receive proper training in all phases of chemical management, including safe storage, proper use, potential hazards and proper method of disposal.
  • Periodically inspect stored chemicals for signs of leakage, rusting, peeled labels, and expiration date.
  • Do not accept gifts, samples, or donations of chemicals that conflict with the school’s purchasing and disposal policies for chemicals.
  • A chemical spill plan should be in place at the school in case of accidents.

Disposing of Unwanted Chemicals
A school should properly dispose of chemicals that are no longer needed, unlabeled or unknown. This can be accomplished by a number of options, some of which are more expensive than others. Many New Hampshire towns sponsor household hazardous waste events, and the school may be able to bring chemicals for disposal to the event. If a school chooses this option for disposal, guidance should be sought for proper disposal methods either through NHDES, the town’s municipal or solid waste coordinator, or the hazardous waste contractor who will be participating in the event. New Hampshire Hazardous Waste Rules govern transportation of hazardous waste to a household hazardous waste collection day, (Env-Wm 511.01), and would need to be applied in each situation. A licensed hazardous waste contractor can also remove and dispose of school chemicals for a certain fee based upon the volume of chemicals.

In order for a school to properly dispose of a chemical, the chemical will need to be classified based upon its properties of toxicity, corrositivity, reactivity, flammability, as well as if the chemical is an acid or a base. This information is available from a variety of resources including the Material Safety Data Sheet, Department of Transportation regulations, and chemical references. This is a very technical process and the NHPPP is available to assist schools in classifying chemicals for disposal. NHPPP has placed examples of classified chemicals for disposal on its web page to assist schools in understanding the chemical classification process.

In order to assist schools in the disposal of chemicals and products that are typically considered to be solid waste (i.e., can be thrown in the trash), NHPPP has provided a list of chemicals and products typically to be considered solid waste. This is not a complete list, and is only provided to help schools inexpensively dispose of common, unreactive, and compounds with low toxicity.

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

copyright 2017. State of New Hampshire