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Art Department Waste

Art areas can generate a number of different waste-streams. EHS can assist in the proper identification, handling, storage and disposal of waste. It is important to read the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to obtain information on the hazards of the material as well as the proper disposal methods. If you are ever unsure or need clarification, please call EHS at 998-1450.

Environmental Health and Safety in the Arts: A Guide for K-12 Schools, Colleges and Artisans

The following information is provided in the EPA guide listed above:

  • Hazardous Waste Management Basics
  • Sources of Hazardous Waste in Art Studios
  • Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimization
  • Characteristic Waste and Listed Wastes
  • Potentially Hazardous Chemicals in Art Studios (Appendix C in the Guide) – this is an excellent source of information

Paints, Pigments and Varnishes

Paints, pigments and varnishes may contain lead, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals as well as the probability of being flammable. Even water-based paints may contain trace amounts of isocyanates, ammonia or formaldehyde. Any paints, including latex and those brought in from home, need to be collected, labeled and disposed of through EHS. Do not discard in the trash or down the drain.

Empty latex paint cans must be completely dried and only then can the cans be disposed of as regular trash. When disposing of these cans, please leave the lids off to show that the cans are completely dried and emptied.

Containers and Labels

If this is a regularly generated waste, contact EHS (x81450) for accumulation drums. If you are looking for any labels, please call EHS at 998-1450 or go to Waste Labels.

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Dyes

Dyes are used in various operations in the making of textile products. It is important to read the Material Safety Data Sheet to obtain information on the hazards and safe handling of the material, as well as proper disposal methods.

There are many different types of dyes and the type used, depends on the fabric to be dyed. Many dyes require an additional chemical or mordant to bind the dye into the fabric. Some mordants are skin irritants like ammonia, or corrosive and toxic like oxalic acid, or oxidizers such as potassium dichromate. Direct dyes are prepared by soaking but usually require heat to set. Many direct dyes are based on benzidine or benzidine derivatives, which are highly toxic by inhalation, ingestion and absorption.

Disposing of dyes, therefore, depends on the type of dyes used. It is important to understand the defintion of a hazardous waste or the Hazardous Waste Characteristics. Please call EHS (x81450) if you need clarification.

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Clays and Glazes

Everything in ceramics involves some form of powder and water. The safe and proper use of ceramic material is important due to the possibility of inhalation of dust. Clay and glazes contain crystalline silica that is mostly chemically combined with other material. However, when the clay dries, dust results. This dust may contain the crystalline silica that was not chemically combined to other material; this is referred to as free silica. Free silica can penetrate deep into the lungs causing a lung disease called silicosis - scarring of the lung. It is important to wear a dust mask when performing any activity that puts powder or dust into the air. Work wet whenever possible, when cleaning do not sweep, wet mop or sponge surfaces in order to prevent the stirring up of dust. Please contact EHS for proper fit-testing requirements for wearing dust masks. Click on Respiratory Protection for more information.

Glazes and some clay may also contain toxic metals. Please take the proper precautions to avoid inhaling or ingesting glazes. Follow the manufacturer's Material Safety Data Sheet for safe handling and proper disposal of material and instructions for recommended uses.

The firing process in ceramics can emit toxic fumes and gases. Exposure to by-products of combustion can cause dizziness, headaches and depletes oxygen. To avoid exposure, ensure that the exhaust system is functioning properly during ceramic firing operations.

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Solvents and Mineral Spirits

Any unused or unwanted solvents and mineral spirits must be disposed of through EHS due to flammability hazards. Do not discard in the trash or down the drain.

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Rags

EHS must make a hazard determination of oil, solvent and paint rags prior to disposal to determine the proper disposal method. If you are disposing of these rags in the trash without written approval from EHS, please call x81450.

Rag disposal depends on the particular process and the material's characteristics. It should be assumed that the rags exhibit the same Hazardous Waste Characteristics as would the chemical applied to it. If the substance was a hazardous chemical, the rags therefore must be considered a hazardous waste and must be handled as such and disposed of through EHS. For more information on disposal, click on Disposal.

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Photographic Wastes

Photo-processing wastes may contain silver which is considered a toxic heavy metal by the Environmental Protection Agency. The silver is primarily present as soluble silver thiosulfate complex. Silver sulfide is present in smaller amounts. Depending on the stage from which the waste originates and the type of film processed, the silver concentration can range between 5 mg/L and 12,000 mg/L. Therefore photo-processing solutions and spent rinse waters are classified as hazardous wastes. In addition to photo-processing solutions and spent rinse waters, films and negatives may contain high silver concentrations and require management as hazardous wastes.

It is illegal to dispose of hazardous wastes via drains, normal trash, or any other means which would result in a release to the environment or discharge to the city sewer system. Photo-processing solutions and spent rinse waters must either be collected and sent to Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for disposal or processed to remove the silver before drain disposal. All films and negatives must be collected and sent to EHS.

For photographic waste such as used solution and treated paper, EHS must make a hazard determination for proper disposal method. Disposal depends on the particular process and the material’s characteristic. It should be assumed that the waste solution and treated paper exhibits the same Hazardous Waste Characteristics as would the chemical applied to it.

If you have a photo-processing area and would like to EHS perform a hazard assessment of your waste or have a silver recovery unit installed, please call EHS at x81450.

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