Is Disinfectant a Hazardous Waste?

Once expired, local hazardous waste disposal agencies and waste disposal companies advise that disinfectants used by various industries be treated as hazardous waste. To be certain, disinfectants are not considered hazardous waste until they pass their expiration date. However, due to their chemical composition, disinfectants are classified as hazardous material beforehand and, whether expired or not, should be handled responsibly to protect human health and the environment. 

The pressing issue of addressing expired disinfectants as hazardous waste is related to COVID-19. During the pandemic, many businesses, companies, and institutions overstocked with disinfectants are now confronted with proper disposal of inventory long expired. Local hazardous waste disposal companies are flooded with requests on how to dispose of the expired inventory properly and wondering how their disinfectants became hazardous waste. 

Why Are Disinfectants Hazardous?

It’s important to handle and dispose of disinfectants properly because they generally consist of antimicrobial chemical substances or compounds that are highly flammable. Produced as a liquid or aerosol, the chemicals eliminate or inactivate harmful microorganisms when applied to surfaces. Often confused as a sanitizer, which simultaneously cleans and disinfects things in human contact, disinfectants are far more concentrated with harmful substances used to clean floors, countertops, and like surfaces. 

Expiration dates of disinfectants are established by the manufacturer when produced. When disinfectants expire, their efficacy, i.e., effectiveness, may no longer work as indicated as the active ingredients degrade over time. The disinfectant may not only become ineffective, compromising hygiene efforts which can place individuals at risk of infection but when chemicals in the disinfectant degrade, their properties change and could potentially lead to the creation of unstable compounds that can release harmful byproducts or vapors that could combust under certain conditions. Disinfectants past the expiration date should be handled as hazardous waste and disposed of properly. 

How to Dispose of Expired Disinfectants 

Under the law, companies stockpiled with unused and expired disinfectants are considered “generators” of hazardous waste and are responsible for its proper disposal. Though your generator status may be unintentional, disposal of expired disinfectants must follow guidelines and comply with local, state, and federal regulations. 

As with any hazardous waste, the material’s chemicals or compounds must be identified. Check the product’s label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for information on its hazardous properties. Contact the local hazardous waste disposal agency or local hazardous waste disposal companies to inquire about specific disposal regulations and guidance. You will be directed to a licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility or service—those equipped to handle and dispose of hazardous waste materials safely and comply with regulations.

Proper disposal will likely entail transportation to the facility. Before disposal, the expired disinfectant waste must be securely stored in its original container or a compatible container that can prevent leaks and spills during transportation. The container must be clearly identified and labeled as hazardous and include relevant and required documentation, manifests, tracking forms, and other information about the waste’s material contents and properties. 

Once the expired disinfectant has been prepared, delivery to a disposal facility must be arranged. Companies should contact a hazardous waste company to arrange delivery to ensure compliance. A licensed hazardous waste service provider must transport hazardous waste. A hazardous waste service provider will ensure that the necessary paperwork and documentation for transportation are correct and that the waste is handled and disposed of properly. 

Contact MLI Environmental

It’s important to note that the disposal of expired disinfectant as hazardous waste is subject to strict regulations, and non-compliance can result in serious penalties. If your company or institution is dealing with an excess inventory of unused and expired disinfectants, contact MLI Environmental for a comprehensive and informative waste audit and analysis. We offer affordable waste disposal solutions to ensure proper disposal of expired disinfectants. For more information on how we can assist with your hazardous waste disposal needs, contact MLI today.