Environmental Health & Safety

Empty Container Management

Empty Container Management

Empty containers that had been used to store hazardous chemical materials must be specially handled in order to ensure safety and protect the environment. These containers can only be discarded in trash receptacles if they have been completely cleared of hazardous chemical waste.

  • Step 1: Empty the container

    Follow these steps based on whether your container held a liquid, solid, or gas (aerosol can or compressed gas cylinder):

    Liquid containers

    First, ensure no liquid can drain from container when tilted in any direction. If the liquid was an acute or extremely hazardous chemical, then you must dispose of the container as hazardous waste.
    Solid containers

    Scrape interior clean so that no build-up remains. Examples include powder, sludge, grease, thick resin, and crystals.

    Gas containers (aerosol cans or compressed gas cylinders)

    Use up or empty the contents of aerosol cans as completely as possible.

    Compressed gas cylinders should be returned to the supplier whenever possible.

  • Step 2: Deface the label

    Cross out label information with a large dark marker, or otherwise deface the label. It must be obvious that the container does not hold the original material.
  • Step 3. Dispose of the container

    Reuse empty glass or plastic containers whenever possible, but never reuse pesticide containers, and do not reuse metal cans for hazardous waste accumulation and storage.


    Glass or plastic containers (equal to or less than 5 gal / 20 L). Place in a trash dumpster. NOTE: Pesticide containers should be destroyed so that they are not reusable. Afterward, they may be placed in a trash dumpster.

    Metal containers (greater than 5 gal / 20 L). After defacing the label, mark with the date emptied, and take to the scrap metal collection bin at Materiel Management for recycling.
    Metal containers (less than or equal to 5 gal / 20 L).  These do not need to be marked with the date emptied, and can either be recycled or placed in a trash dumpster.

    Empty aerosol cans.  Aerosol cans that are completely empty can be placed in a trash dumpster.

    Containers that held acutely hazardous or extremely hazardous chemicals, or that contain residual solids, or gas containers (aerosol cans or compressed gas cylinders) that are not completely empty. Submit a hazardous waste pickup request for the container using the Online Tag Program.




Special Requirements for Pesticide Containers

Never reuse a container that has contained pesticides. Read the manufacturer's labeling to see if there are any special precautions that you must take concerning disposal. If you cannot read the label or it is missing, contact Environmental Health & Safety (951) 827-5528. Never dispose of pesticides in any manner other than listed in the directions for use on the labeling. Inappropriate release of pesticides into the environment can cause human health problems, or problems for other animals and plants.

Additional Information

See the California Department of Toxic Substances Control Empty Containers Fact Sheet for more detailed information on empty container management.

More Information

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Environmental Health & Safety

Environmental Health & Safety
Environmental Health & Safety

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