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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home K-12 Schools 12 Steps toward Sustainability Hazardous Materials

Hazardous Waste Management

The use of some hazardous materials is unavoidable in K-12 schools. Batteries, fluorescent lights, plastics, paints, cleaning supplies, and many other substances use toxic chemicals that can cause serious harm if they are allowed to contaminate the ecosystem. K-12 school systems are more than merely educational communities; these institutions should also set an example of social and environmental responsibility by properly disposing of toxic waste.

Organizational Assistance   Best Practices

    Paint cans are some of the most common hazardous wastes.
    Photo courtesy E.P.A.
  • Exceed Hazmat Requirements
    The EPA and OSHA have very detailed requirements for dealing with hazardous materials. These requirements are minimums; however, to act as a leader in sustainable practices, schools should attempt to exceed minimum standards whenever and wherever possible. Demonstrating exemplary standards can help to improve a school’s green image.
  • Educate Generators
    Ensure that the school community is well aware of any potential hazards posed by materials used on school grounds. Educate all employees who may need to handle toxins. Taking steps to ensure that the school understands how to properly dispose of these materials may prevent unnecessary and costly retroactive measures to correct problems.
  • Develop Tracking
    Hazardous materials in schools should be thoroughly accounted and cataloged. Track the location of hazardous materials on grounds, which employees have access to them, what they are used for, and how they should be properly disposed. Exercising caution is important for protecting faculty, students, and the surrounding community from possible exposure. In the event of a contamination event, having the ability to track hazardous waste streams can reduce a school’s liability. If a school comes under suspicion of causing a nearby toxic spill, meticulous records can clear the school as a culprit.
  • Implement Swapping
    One way to help reduce the amount of toxic waste is to use a chemical swapping program. This can be effectively orchestrated as an online program where different departments and faculty can post spare quantities of chemicals. For example, a biology or chemistry department can exchange needed chemicals for excess substances in their inventory, and campuses can share partially used hazardous materials. These measures cut down on chemical waste and costs.
  • Switch to Non-Toxics
    Every school contributes to the toxic chemical use. Cleansers, solvents, pesticides, paints, inks, and other commonly used chemicals may have toxic components. Non-toxic substitutes may be available for these commonly used products. The use of these products can further reduce the toxic waste stream. Soy based ink is an example that is now readily available.
  • Recycle and Recover CFC's
    Chlorofluorocarbons or CFC's are extremely dangerous chemicals which destroy ozone. CFC's are used as refrigerants, solvents, and propellants. If your school utilizes CFC's, properly dispose of them and find a replacement.
  • Ensure Proper Disposal
    All hazardous materials that are used commercially can be disposed of in a way that negates or minimizes their environmental impact. Ensure that personnel follow these procedures in order to minimize your schools environmental impact.
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