Labeling & Containment

All hazardous waste must be properly labeled. Labeling is a common compliance issue and the easiest to avoid.

Good labeling will keep your employees safe and ensure proper waste disposal. Waste containers for hazardous materials such as used oil, spent antifreeze, fluorescent light tubes, and shop towels must be labeled. 

Labels can be downloaded and printed off the Department of Ecology website.

The labels on dangerous waste containers must clearly show:

  • The words "Dangerous Waste" or "Hazardous Waste,"
  • The risks of the waste (flammable, corrosive, toxic, reactive), and
  • The start date for accumulating waste in the container.

Labels must show risk

Flammable labelIgnitable or flammable

Ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, are spontaneously combustible, or have a flash point at or less than 140 degrees F (60 degrees C). Used solvents are one example.

Corrosive labelCorrosive

Corrosive wastes are acids or bases and/or are capable of corroding metal containers such as storage tanks, drums, and barrels. An acid has a pH less than or equal to 2, and a base has a pH greater than or equal to 12.5. Examples of corrosive wastes include battery acid and many pool chemicals.

Reactive labelReactive

Reactive wastes are unstable under normal conditions. They can cause explosions, undergo violent reactions, or generate toxic fumes, gases, or vapors. Mixtures may be explosive when heated, compressed, or mixed with water. Examples include lithium sulfur batteries or explosives.

Toxic labelToxic

Toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed. When put in a landfill, contaminated liquid may pollute the groundwater. Toxicity is defined through a lab test called the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure, which identifies wastes that are likely to leach harmful contaminants.

Secondary Containment

Secondary containment is a safeguard measure used to prevent accidental releases or spills of hazardous substances.

Secondary containment of liquid hazardous waste may prevent spills that could result in injuries, property damage, or expensive cleanup costs. All wastes that are produced and/or stored on site must have secondary containment that is:

  • CoveredCheckYourDangerousWasteAccumulationAreaPoster
  • Made of leak-proof material
  • Sturdy in construction
  • Compatible with the waste it is meant to contain
  • Capable of containing 10% of the volume of all the containers holding liquid, or the total volume of the largest container in the area, whichever is greater.

Containers equipped with double walls or other secondary containment methods may be substituted for secondary containment.

Inspect your containment area for debris, cracks, erosion, and other issues. Spilled or leaked waste must be removed from the sump or collection area in a timely manner to prevent overflow of the collection system.