Solvent Keg Recycling

Solvent Keg Recycling

When exploring the potential for recycling in a laboratory, the primary concern should be safety, especially of the people downstream who may come in contact with the recyclables.  Recycling facilities often have people working on sorting lines, who could be at risk if a contaminated material found it way there from a lab.  If lab recyclables are being sent to such a facility, proper oversight and education is extremely important for researchers.

First, let’s look at bulk solvent kegs.  Depending on the area of research, labs can go through a significant amount of solvents, and purchase them in bulk 5-25 liter metal kegs.  Once these kegs are used up, some may be eligible for recycling, while others, for the sake of safety, may not be.  If you want to recycle your solvent kegs, please reach out to your EH&S office to discuss an approved method.  Here is a step-by-step process that may be acceptable by your Environmental Health & Safety office to get started.

  1. Create a list of all solvents your lab purchases in bulk.
  2. Send the list to your EH&S office, and ask which kegs are safe to recycle, and what that procedure might be.
  3. If there is room to explore this option, meet with someone from EH&S, and let them know that you will have someone properly oversee this waste stream for your lab.

Once communication is established, a proper decontamination protocol should be followed.  Here is an example of one such protocol that may work for some solvent kegs.  *Note, check with your local safety office to see what the proper procedure is for your institution.

Example:  Spent acetone keg

  1. Pour off remaining liquid until it stops dripping
  2. Place uncapped keg in a fume hood overnight to off-gas
  3. The next day, cover any hazard warnings on the keg, and write “EMPTY” on the side
  4. Take to a designated place in your building for recycling pickup.

This protocol may be different for your institution.  Your safety office may require additional procedures, such as triple-rinsing before an acetone keg is recyclable.

Recycling in labs can be challenging.  Take the lead, and be the first lab in your building to recycle something new!