Hazardous Materials: Use, Transportation, Disposal, Recycling & Waste Minimization

A hazardous material is defined as any substance or material could adversely affect the safety of the public, handlers or carriers during transportation. All U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hazardous materials are listed in the DOT’s Hazardous Material Table. 

Hazardous materials are broken down in the following classes:

Class 1 – Explosives

1.1 – Explosives with a mass explosion hazard

1.2 – Explosives with a projection hazard

1.3 – Explosives with predominantly a fire hazard

1.4 – Explosives with no significant blast hazard

1.5 – Very insensitive explosives with a mass explosion hazard

1.6 – Extremely insensitive articles

Class 2 – Gases

2.1 – Flammable Gases

2.2 – Non-flammable, Non-toxic Gases

2.3 – Toxic Gases

Class 3 – Flammable Liquids

Class 4 – Flammable Solids, Spontaneously Combustible Materials, and Dangerous When Wet Materials/Water Reactive

4.1 – Flammable Solids

4.2 – Spontaneously Combustible Materials

4.3 – Dangerous When Wet Materials/Water Reactive

Class 5 – Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides

5.1 – Oxidizing Substances

5.2 – Organic Peroxides

Class 6 – Toxic Substances and Infectious Substances

6.1 – Toxic

6.2 – Infectious

Class 7 – Radioactive Materials

Class 8 – Corrosive Substances

Class 9 – Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials (e.g., dry ice)


Import, export, and interstate transport of hazardous materials are subject to requirements and laws from Public Health Services (PHS), DOT, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and United States Postal Service (USPS) regulate the transport of hazardous materials by rail, air, vessel, and public highway.  The guidelines and regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA)/ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) also apply when receiving and shipping substances by air.  Import permit and export permit requirements are regulated by the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Commerce, National Institutes of Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NIH/CDC), and USDA.

Faculty, staff members, or laboratory managers, who may be receiving and/or shipping hazardous materials internationally or within the U.S., must receive shipping training PRIOR TO RECEIVING AND/OR SHIPPING to comply with these international and federal regulations and guidelines.  Contact your EH&S Office to schedule this training.

Individuals who fail to comply with the regulations may have their shipments refused by airlines or other carriers.  They are also at risk for the fines and/or jail terms.

NOTE:  It is illegal to carry hazardous materials on an airplane. For example, if you visit another lab and want to bring an infectious substance back to your lab, you CANNOT take it on an airplane.  You must ship it using a certified carrier.

In addition, carriers (e.g., FedEx) have specific requirements so prior to shipping a hazardous material, it is important to contact your carrier prior to shipping the hazardous material.

Training is required for all individuals, faculty, adjunct, staff, or student, prior to the start of any work in a laboratory or classroom with hazardous materials. These trainings are mandated by OSHA and other regulatory agencies including but not limited to the NIH, CDC, DOT and IATA.   Training should include the following:

  • The hazards associated with the hazardous materials
  • How to protect against these hazards
  • How to use the hazardous materials to prevent an exposure or incident involving the hazardous material
  • How to respond to an emergency  involving the hazardous material


Biological Waste
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH) defines medical or biological waste as “Waste that because of its characteristics may cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness; or pose a substantial present potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.

The following types of waste are identified and defined as medical or biological waste, and shall be subject to the requirements of 105 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 480.000:

  1. Blood and Blood Products: Discarded bulk human blood and blood products in free draining, liquid state; body fluids contaminated with visible blood; and materials saturated/dripping with blood. Blood and Blood Products shall not include: feminine hygiene products.
  2. Pathological Waste: Human anatomical parts, organs, tissues and body fluids removed and discarded during surgery, autopsy, or other medical or diagnostic procedures; specimens of body fluids and their containers; and discarded material saturated with body fluids other than urine. Pathological waste shall not include: Teeth and contiguous structures of bone without visible tissue, nasal secretions, sweat, sputum, vomit, urine, or fecal materials that do not contain visible blood or involve confirmed diagnosis of infectious disease.
  3. Cultures and Stocks of Infectious Agents and their Associated Biologicals: All discarded cultures and stocks of infectious agents and their associated biologicals, including culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures, as well as discarded live and attenuated vaccines intended for human use, that are generated in:
    • Laboratories involved in basic and applied research
    • Laboratories intended for educational instruction
    • Clinical laboratories

4.  Contaminated Animal Waste: Contaminated carcasses, body parts, body fluids, blood or bedding from animals known to be:

    • Infected with agents of the following specific zoonotic diseases that are reportable to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Bureau of Animal Health pursuant to 105 CMR 300.140: African swine fever, Anthrax, Avian influenza – H5 and H7 strains and any highly pathogenic strain, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Brucellulosis, Chronic wasting disease of cervids, Foot and mouth disease, Glanders, Exotic, Newcastle disease, Plague (Yersinia pestis), Q Fever (Coxiella burnetti), Scrapie, Tuberculosis, Tularemia (Francisella tularensis); or
    • Infected with diseases designated by the State Epidemiologist and the State Public Health Veterinarian as presenting a risk to human health; or
    • Inoculated with infectious agents for purposes including, but not limited to, the production of biologicals or pharmaceutical testing.

5.  Sharps: Discarded medical articles that may cause puncture or cuts, including, but not limited to, all needles, syringes, lancets, pen needles, Pasteur pipettes, broken medical glassware/plasticware, scalpel blades, suture needles, dental wires, and disposable razors used in connection with a medical procedure.

6.  Biotechnology By-Product Effluents: Any discarded preparations, liquids, cultures, contaminated solutions made from microorganisms and their products including genetically altered living microorganisms and their products.

Biological waste at Colleges of the Fenway may be disposed in the following methods:

    • Recyclable biohazard waste box for off-site treatment
    • Recyclable sharps containers for off-site treatment
    • Designated biohazard waste box for off-site treatment,
    • Designated sharps containers to be placed into the biohazard waste box for off-site treatment,
    • Chemical disinfection using an approved disinfectant for the biological material, OR
    • Sterilization via an autoclave.

The MADPH requires the following paperwork for biohazard waste:

Log of Off-site Shipments of Biological Waste

Log of On-site Treatment of Biological Waste

Please ensure that these records are maintained and available at all times.   Contact your EH&S Office to set up a biowaste program for your department.

Chemical Hazardous Waste
If a waste stream meets any of the following definitions then it is considered hazardous waste:

  • Listed as hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and/or Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP)
  • Heavy metals
  • Oil
  • Solids, which a person is able to wring one drop of liquid hazardous waste and/or oil from the solid
  • Ignitability – Ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, are spontaneously combustible, or have a flash point less than 60 °C (140 °F).
  • Corrosivity – Corrosive wastes are acids or bases (pH less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5) that are capable of corroding metal containers, such as storage tanks, drums, and barrels.
  • Reactivity – Reactive wastes are unstable under “normal” conditions. They can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases, or vapors when heated, compressed, or mixed with water. Examples include lithium-sulfur batteries and explosives.
  • Toxicity – Toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed (e.g., containing mercury, lead, etc.).

Radioactive Waste
Please contact your college’s Radiation Safety Officer on the proper method to dispose of radioactive waste.

When possible, colleges should determine whether or not it is feasible to recycle waste streams.  Below are some examples of potential recyclable waste streams:

  • Glass containers not contaminated with hazardous materials
  • Plastic containers not contaminated with hazardous materials

Contact your college’s Sustainability Committee for more information.

Waste Minimization
Under the EPA and MADEP regulations, colleges must evaluate ways to reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated by their institution.  Below are examples of ways to reduce these waste streams:

  • Elimination – Evaluate whether or not you are able to use a non-hazardous material to reach the same outcome.
  • Substitution – Replace the hazardous material with a non-hazardous material or less hazardous materials
  • Recycle – Recycle chemicals by:
    • Using them again until they no longer meet the requirements for the process;
    • Purchasing a solvent recycling unit to recycle solvents; or
    • Sending alcohol off-site for recycling.

Contact your EH&S Office or College’s Sustainability Committee for more information on how to minimize waste at your institution.