Is your school planning to clean out the science lab, art room, or maintenance closet? Have you found chemicals you no longer need? Are you unsure of how to properly dispose of outdated, unwanted, unidentified chemicals or waste?
Each year, IDEM receives dozens of calls from schools requesting free disposal of hazardous waste from high schools. Funds are no longer available to provide free disposal and cleanout services. Therefore, schools need to plan appropriately for proper disposal, develop a budget, and consider less hazardous alternatives for certain science labs.
Chemical Management Programs for Schools
IDEM recommends schools develop a chemical management program. A chemical management program will improve your chemical management practices by:
- Removing inappropriate, outdated, unknown and unnecessary chemicals from schools;
- Preventing future chemical mismanagement issues in schools through training, curriculum and policy change, and long-term management solutions; and
- Raising awareness of chemical issues in schools and promoting sustainable solutions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a Toolkit for Safe Chemical Management which provides a detailed web-based toolkit on how to develop a chemical management program at your school.
IDEM’s Green Steps for Schools Toolkit also offers helpful information on chemical management including checklists and mini-posters.
The School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide from NIOSH provides information on safety do’s and don’ts, proper chemical storage and suggested shelf storage patterns.
Greening Labs and Lesson Plans
Updating labs and lesson plans to use less hazardous materials can help eliminate the purchase of chemicals that are expensive to dispose of later. Many schools are already switching to less toxic materials in their labs and lesson plans.
Green Purchasing & Green Cleaning
Schools can reduce toxic chemical usage by implementing a Green Purchasing Policy. These policies encourage techniques to eliminate unused, expired chemicals and require consideration of less toxic chemical choices.
Many janitors are willing to switch to less toxic cleaning chemicals, but it can be difficult to determine which products truly are safer for staff and students and for the environment. U.S. EPA Safer Choice can help to identify cleaning products which have been assessed by U.S. EPA for their impact on human health and the environment. From cleaners to floor cleaning products to graffiti removers, Safer Choice has a list of products that may help your school.