EH&S staff organize waste retrieved from laboratories on campus.

How to dispose of specific materials

Iowa State University generates various waste materials from multiple campus sources. Waste materials range from common paper trash and glass to hazardous items such as chemicals, appliances, computers, and radioactive materials. Our Waste and Recycling Guidelines help Iowa State University personnel manage waste items, including identification, disposal, recycling, and waste minimization.

Learn about your items

Do not put discarded batteries in piles.

  • Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash.
    • Refer to the Waste and Recycling Guidelines (PDF) for battery disposal details.
    • You can recycle spent batteries by taking them to the EH&S Services Building (2408 Wanda Daley Drive).
  • Alkaline batteries may be discarded in the trash or at a community collection point (City of Ames).
  • Intact non-lithium-ion batteries can be disposed of as Universal Waste.
    • If the battery exceeds 9V, place tape on the battery terminals to prevent contact with another terminal in the bin, which could create a short circuit.
  • Reacting and leaking batteries are considered hazardous waste. Please contact for assistance.

Biohazardous materials must be decontaminated and disposed of properly to keep personnel and the environment safe from unintended material releases.


  • Autoclaving is one way biological material can be decontaminated. To learn more about autoclaving,  complete the EH&S Autoclave Safety Training in Workday Learning or Canvas (students). If you need assistance, please contact
  • Items that cannot be autoclaved can generally be decontaminated using a chemical disinfectant.
  • Choosing the appropriate chemical disinfectant depends on the surface or item needing decontamination and the organism requiring inactivation.
  • Section E of the Biosafety Manual (PDF) provides detailed information about chemical disinfection.


Most supplies for decontaminating biohazardous waste, such as autoclave biohazard bags and sharps containers, may be purchased through Central Stores. An EH&S Biosafety Specialist can provide assistance with finding supplies for special disposal needs.


For guidance on proper waste decontamination and disposal, consult the Sharps and Biohazardous Waste Procedure (PDF) and Flowchart (PDF). 

The Laboratory Equipment Disposal program aims to ensure that items removed from the laboratory do not pose a risk to those who handle the items (Surplus and FP&M personnel) and to the general public. Visit our Laboratory Equipment Disposal page to learn more about the program and/or complete the lab equipment disposal form (PDF).

Radioactive material users must follow several specific procedures regarding radioactive waste generated in their laboratories. Request a radioactive waste collection by submitting an online waste removal request form.

Radioactive waste is separated and labeled by its radionuclide half-lives:

  • Very short-lived – half-lives less than 15 days
  • Short-lived – half-lives between 15 and 90 days
  • Long-lived – half-lives between 90 and 365 days
  • Very long-lived - half-lives greater than 365 days

All radioactive waste must be bagged, labeled, and placed in the lab's designated waste accumulation area before requesting a waste collection. Solid and liquid waste containers, secondary containment, plastic bags, and radioactive waste labels are supplied by EH&S.

EH&S will provide guidance for radioactive material or devices that do not fit established disposal processes. Items may include equipment with embedded radioactive sources, contaminated equipment, legacy materials, and materials with multiple hazards.

Solid radioactive waste

Solid radioactive waste must be separated and labeled as combustible (plastics, paper, etc.) or noncombustible (glass, metal, etc.)  Uncommon combustible materials include aluminum foil and soil.

Aqueous liquid radioactive waste

Liquid radioactive waste must be separated and labeled according to whether it is aqueous (miscible in water) or bears solvents. Liquid waste can contain a mix of radionuclides. Aqueous liquid waste containers require secondary containment.

Organic liquid radioactive waste

Solvent-bearing waste may only contain 3-H, 14-C, 137-Cs, and 60-Co radionuclides. Solvent-bearing wastes containing other radionuclides require the approval of the RSO before generation.

Flammable solvent-bearing wastes, such as those containing toluene or xylene, must be placed in containers specifically approved for flammable liquids. Original solvent containers are recommended for all organic liquid wastes.

Treat organic liquid radioactive waste as chemical waste with a radioactive hazard, following the guidelines for chemical waste and attaching a radioactive waste tag. Organic, liquid radioactive waste containers require secondary containment.

Source vials

Source vials and source vial storage containers must be bagged separately from other solid waste. Submit radioactive-material-vial consignment sheets with the source vials. To avoid contaminating the vial consignment sheets, place the consignment sheets near the waste bag.  Do not place the consignment sheets inside the waste bag with the vials.

Lead (Pb)

EH&S will collect lead shielding and lead aprons for recycling.

Animal tissues and carcasses

Radioactive animal carcasses, viscera, and blood must be sealed in a plastic bag or container, labeled, and frozen before removal by EH&S. Laboratory personnel must notify EH&S of any issues with the waste (animal size, fluid leakage, putrefaction, biohazard, etc.) and be available to assist with removal.

Scintillation vials

All scintillation vials must be emptied into a liquid waste container and recapped before disposal. Plastic vials containing biodegradable cocktails and 14C or 3H do not need to be emptied.

Radioactive equipment

Visit our Laboratory Equipment Disposal page for more information about disposing of equipment with embedded sources and equipment used with radioactive material.

You can reference the Sharps and Glass Disposal Guide (PDF) to review the disposal guidelines for your waste material. You can find more detailed information in the Sharps and Biohazardous Waste Procedures (PDF) document or in the Biosafety Manual (PDF), Section E.

If you have unopened chemicals that haven't expired, consider donating them to our Chemical Redistribution Program. EH&S stores surplus chemicals received in new condition from Iowa State facilities and offers them free of charge to the university community. If you'd like to donate your eligible chemicals, contact us at