Disposal of Waste Solvents

This Risk Assessment should be read in conjunction with that for Transport, Storage and Use of Solvents and other Flammable Liquids

Additional Hazard

Waste Solvents are most likely contaminated with unknown substances and as such should be treated with extreme care



The additional risks in waste solvent disposal are mainly to the personnel who have to "bulk up" the material into metal drums. The risks arise from contamination within the solvents


Organic liquids acceptable as Waste Solvents

The Department is able to dispose of some common organic solvents by a mechanism that is less cumbersome and costly than for other waste chemicals. A list of solvents that can be accepted is given below.


  • hydrocarbons: alkanes C5-C12, cyclohexane, toluene, xylene
  • C1-C3 alcohols, ethylene glycol
  • diethyl ether and tetrahydrofuran
  • acetone, ethyl and n-butyl acetate


  • C1: dichloromethane, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride
  • C2: trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, 1,2-dichloroethane, 1,1,1,-trichloroethane
  • C3: 1-chlorobutane plus small amounts of non-chlorinated materials but no water.

Other solvents may be acceptable, please check with the PSSO.



  • Containers. The accepted container for transfer of waste solvent to the Store is a square section screw-capped 10 litre polythene drum. No other containers are acceptable. The containers must be filled only to the 80% level with approved solvents, sealed with their original caps, not leaking vapour or liquid or excessively contaminated on the outside.
  • Labelling. The container must be uniquely numbered and accurately labelled Chlorinated or non-Chlorinated. See disposal of waste solvent.
  • Storage. Separate containers for Chlorinated and non-Chlorinated solvents should ideally be kept in a fume-hood. Large polythene containers of flammable solvents are extremely vulnerable in case of fire and must be kept in a closed cupboard when not being used to receive waste solvent.
  • Collection. Waste Solvents transported on a suitable trolley can be taken to the Stores for disposal. Stores staff are authorised to refuse to accept containers that do not meet the criteria described under "Containers".
  • Waste solvent containers are not dumps and may contain only approved waste organic solvents with limited amounts of solute none of which must pose a health risk to Dept of Chemistry staff who have to pour the solvents into larger containers.
  • Reaction mixtures, oxidants or solutions of oxidants must never be put into the waste solvent containers.
  • No carcinogen substance may be disposed of in the waste solvents in any form.
  • The waste solvent containers must never contain paper tissue, glass pipettes, vials, hypodermic needles or any other extraneous material.


Training in these procedures should be given by a competent person within each laboratory.


Level of Risk Remaining

With careful handling, the level of risk should be low. However, waste solvent remains flammable and of unknown toxicity and should be treated with great caution.


Emergency Procedure

  • Spillage, no fire

    • Serious - toxic or large quantities. Evacuate and ventilate the affected area, closing doors and eliminating sources of ignition if it is safe to do so. Telephone the PSSO (x2691) or CAMPUS SECURITY out of hours (x2365) and OPERATE THE NEAREST FIRE ALARM POINT. Go to the PSSO Office to advise the emergency team of the nature of the incident. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLEAN UP A MAJOR SPILLAGE BY YOURSELF.
    • Minor. Ventilate the affected area and eliminate any sources of ignition The liquid may be absorbed onto absorption granules available at the Fire Points or in the laboratory (have them replenished after use) and, as appropriate, transferred to a fume-hood to evaporate or to a suitable sealed container for waste disposal. In a well ventilated area such as a laboratory, the best procedure may be simply to turn off sources of ignition, ventilate, evacuate and seal and secure the room.

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Adapted with permission from School of Chemistry, University of Bristol