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Laboratory Waste

Laboratory waste is classified as hazardous or non-hazardous and each has different procedures for disposal.

Non-hazardous laboratory waste

Laboratory recyclables

The majority of non-hazardous materials discarded from UCL’s laboratory activities are recyclable (as mixed dry recyclables).

These materials include (but are not limited to):

  • Packaging for lab consumables
  • Paper
  • Hand towels
  • Pipette tip boxes
  • Cardboard
  • Other dry non-hazardous laboratory wastes

You will be provided with a clear bag bin liners. When the Laboratory Recycling bins become full, please seal bags and place them in the designated laboratory waste collection point. These will then be transferred to the building’s designated waste collection point by our cleaning contractors. 

Glass from laboratories

Glass could include laboratory glassware (Pyrex) or chemical/solvent bottles (Eurobottles, Winchesters) 

Any glassware that is contaminated with hazardous materials, and which cannot reasonably be decontaminated, must be disposed of as hazardous laboratory waste.

Disposal of laboratory glassware

Broken laboratory glassware should be disposed of in a laboratory sharps bin.
Larger items of laboratory glassware which don’t constitute a sharps hazard should have any metal, rubber or plastic fittings removed before being put carefully into one of the green glass recycling bins located around the UCL estate.
Glass bottles including chemical and solvent bottles may be returned to the supplier for reuse or recycling if the supplier offers this service. Please follow the instructions provided by the supplier.

Safely improving reuse of glassware

For more information and support with recycling non-contaminated laboratory glassware please read the LEAF page and contact leaf@ucl.ac.uk for a LEAF user guideThe LEAF desktop app (sign-in required) can help you identify if your laboratory is already signed up to LEAF.

Otherwise the glass bottles must be recycled or disposed of in accordance with the flow chart below. 


Hazardous laboratory waste

Hazardous wastes are listed below and must be disposed of in accordance with the relevant procedures.

Chemical waste

UCL How to Guide on Chemical Waste Collection

UCL Chemical Waste Collection Calendar

UCL Chemical Waste Procedure

New Chemicals & Solvents Collection Request Form

Clinical waste 

UCL Clinical Waste Collection Procedure

Radioactive waste

Radioactive Waste Procedures

Laboratory waste of unknown hazard

If you are unsure if an item of laboratory waste is hazardous or not, please raise a service request with the customer helpdesk team. The item should be labelled as 'hazardous' and separate from other waste for assessment by the waste management team.


Miscellaneous laboratory waste

Polystyrene boxes

Polystyrene boxes must be free from hazard prior to disposal.

Small polystyrene boxes can be placed in a bin bag and left for collection by our cleaning contractors.

Large polystyrene boxes must taken to the laboratory waste collection point.

Coolant packages and gel bags

Please ensure these are are free from hazard and be at (or near to) ambient temperature so as not to cause cold burns.

If labelled as hazardous, follow the disposal method according to the instructions on the packages or bags. Packaging not labelled as hazardous can be disposed of in a laboratory residual waste bin.

Dry ice

Dry ice must be handled with care in order not to cause cold burns. Please place it in an appropriate container at ambient temperature in a fume cupboard or other safe area where it will sublime.

Large packaging

Large packaging must be clean and free from hazard prior to disposal and hazard warning symbols must be obliterated.

Inner packaging should be removed and either a be placed in a laboratory recycling bin, or put into a clear bag and taken to a laboratory waste collection point. 

Outer packaging should be folded and taped closed so as to reduce the volume of material to be handled, and then taken to a laboratory waste collection point

Batteries and toner cartridges

Please see non-hazardous waste

Laboratory equipment

If the unwanted laboratory equipment is in good working order, please visit our re-usable items page. 

If it's not in good working order please raise a service request with customer helpdesk to have this removed.

Unwanted laboratory equipment must be free from chemical, biological or radiochemical hazard prior to reuse, recycling or disposal. 

Gas cylinders

Unwanted gas cylinders should be returned by the department to their original supplier. This is important as often suppliers will charge rental on the cylinders and once they leave the department they become more difficult to track down and return. Should the department be unable to return the cylinder to the supplier then they should raise a service request with the customer helpdesk so the cylinder can be repatriated to the correct supplier or emptied of all gas and then recycled as scrap metal.


Non-recyclable laboratory waste

Given that eating and drinking are prohibited in laboratories, nearly all non-hazardous laboratory wastes will be recyclable.

The non-hazardous laboratory wastes which are not recyclable will be dry and so not spoil the mixed dry recyclables. For these reasons non-recyclable non-hazardous laboratory waste should be disposed of in the laboratory recycling bins.

The materials recovery facility will handle small quantities of non-recyclable non-hazardous laboratory waste appropriately.