Environmental Health

Take the Hazard out of Hazardous Waste - Take Some Action

Taking action first means safely disposing of the hazardous waste that you do have in your school. It’s not as hard as it used to be to learn what is considered hazardous waste and how to dispose of it properly. Click here for a description of general items that are classified as hazardous waste. Click here for arts, crafts, and wood-working products specifically, and scroll down to the middle of the document to find the list entitled, “Examples of Craft Related Potentially Dangerous Chemicals.” For a list of all items that can be recycled, whether toxic or not, click here.

Then to find out where you can safely dispose of various hazardous wastes, simply click here for Earth 911, a website that locates recycling centers around your zip code for specific hazardous wastes. You can also call them at 1-800-CLEAN-UP. After you do a search on their website for your zip code and get a list of businesses, if you click on a specific business, it will also tell you what other wastes are accepted at that location.

Rechargeable batteries are often recycled separately from other products. Visit Call2Recycle™ and enter the location of your school for a list of rechargeable battery recycling centers near you. Because recycling just a few rechargeable batteries may seem like a waste of time, consider setting up a designated collection location in your school and get a bulk collection of batteries. For information on how to recycle batteries in bulk, visit Battery Solutions Inc. for available programs and for information on the types of batteries you can collect and recycle in bulk.

Cleaning up your school does not only mean safely disposing of products that are obviously toxic, corrosive, reactive, or flammable. Old electronic items should also be handled responsibly because although most of them may not be a safety hazard, they can cause damage to our precious environment. Visit E-cycling Central and click on your state for places to recycle your electronics. Before recycling, however, consider donating the item to another school, church, or anyone who might use it. Prolonging the life of a product is always better than simply recycling if the product is functional and safe.

If your school has an automotive shop, and you want information on how to manage and recycle used oil, you can reference this guide offered by the EPA.

For more general questions about local hazardous waste management in your state, click here and then click on your state for local governmental agencies.

Taking action also means properly managing hazardous waste that will be in your school for a while, and managing any synthetic substance with caution, because even substances that are labeled non-toxic are often dangerous in large quantities or if ingested. Check out these quick tips for cleaning up spills of hazardous products such as pesticides, cleaning chemicals, paints and solvents and also check out the quick tips for safely managing them.

Quick Tips for Cleaning Up Toxic Spills-
from the University of M.O., Office of Waste Management
1. Clear students away
2. Ventilate the area
3. Don’t use cleaning chemicals to help clean the mess
4. Contain the spill with a non-flammable absorbent, such as clay-based cat litter
5. Put the material in a non-corroding container such as a plastic bucket with a tight lid
6. Rinse the area with water and rags, not the regular brooms and items that you will reuse
7. Contact a disposal organization through Earth 911,1-800-CLEAN-UP

Quick Tips for Hazardous Waste Management-
from U.M.O, Office of Waste Management & True Art Information
1. Store Materials Safely—
• Write the date that you purchased products on their container, and keep them in those original containers
• If you have to use a replacement container, make a clearly marked label for the new container with the product name, ingredient names, and purchase date or attach the original label and don’t use a food container because the mistake could be deadly
• Make sure all containers are tightly sealed, even ones with powders such as fine sand, clay, talc, and glazes (Powders are discouraged anyway because of the fine dust that can be easily inhaled from them). Brushes that are being soaked in a solvent should be kept in a container deep enough so that a lid can fit tightly over the top
• Don’t ever mix products together because toxic reactions may occur, such as a mix of chlorine bleach and ammonia which forms a poisonous gas, or ammonium nitrate fertilizers contaminated with motor oil or kerosene.
• For more detailed storing tips for general chemicals, click on this storage guide and scroll down to the middle of the document
• For more detailed storing tips specific to pesticides, click on this storage guide
• For more detailed storing tips specific to paint, check out this storage guide
2. Provide Ventilation—
• For low-level toxic substances, open the doors and windows for ventilation
• For more toxic substances, make sure exhaust fans are installed
• Make sure the natural flow of air or fans are carrying fumes away from students’ faces
3. Personal Protection—
• Try to get students to wear long sleeves, long pants, and covered shoes when working with art materials or in the science lab. If students spill a substance on their clothes, remind them to wash those clothes separately from other clothes in their laundry
• Have students wear goggles and gloves if there is a chance of the material splashing or debris flying
• Dust mask filters or respirator filters may also need to be worn if they are called for on the MSDS that came with the product or if called for under “personal protection” for the active ingredients listed on this database
• Never use solvents or bleaches to clean your skin because these may cause more harm than the original chemical
• Wash hands with soap and water after handling any potentially hazardous material
• Don’t allow eating or drinking in art rooms and science labs as it can lead to accidental ingestion
• Post the poison control phone number so it is visible in the room or by a phone
4. Spread the word to Practice Personal Safety & Environmental Responsibility -
• Print off this poster or order copies to post around your school. It reminds people to take precautions and to dispose of hazardous waste by using Earth 911’s database for recycling centers: English Version of Poster ,Spanish Version of Poster
For more comprehensive guidance in managing hazardous materials in arts and crafts, check out this guide: Safety in the Arts: A Guide for k-12 Schools, Colleges and Artisans prepared by the Pratt Institute.

If you still have unique questions that these resources can’t answer about safety specifically in the art and theatre departments, check out the A.C.T.S. website (Arts, Crafts, & Theatre Safety) where you can send your inquiries by phone, mail, or e-mail or order short data sheets on almost any topic within the realm of arts and theatre safety.