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3 Ways Your HPLC Waste SAA Is Putting Your Employees & Your Organization at Risk

Many solvent waste systems used in pharmaceutical, healthcare, and higher education research do not appropriately address the safe or compliant collection of hazardous waste. In fact, many of these “systems” aren’t much of a system at all. In most cases waste collection is non-compliant, not easy to handle, and unsafe.  

There are many analytical and small-scale process machines employed in biotech and pharmaceutical research that use hazardous solvents. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is probably the most common process, which is widely used to analyze or purify compounds.  VOCLok_Graphic.jpg

HPLC often uses volatile solvents that must be collected as waste. Manufacturers and suppliers of HPLC units have designed them to drain waste from the machine using a pump or gravity. Waste is plumbed from the unit via a small tube. The manufacturers of these units typically do not provide any further guidance on the collection of the waste. 

Waste lines often lead into an open container to collect the waste in a satellite accumulation area (SAA). Because this is not a closed or ventilated system, the process has resulted in safety, compliance, and ease of use problems for the direct user of the units, other workers in the labs, and institutions as a whole. Keep reading for more information on these shortcomings. 

1. Unsafe Exposure to Toxics

An open collection system allows for volatile and toxic solvents used in HPLC to escape into the lab environment, resulting in inhalation exposure to the staff. In some instances these exposure levels exceed regulatory limits and require immediate action. Other times, the exposure levels may not reach regulatory limits, but people are still being unnecessarily exposed to toxic solvents.

2. RCRA Noncompliance

Waste collected from the HPLC units is often characterized as RCRA-listed hazardous waste. RCRA requires that all containers be closed while not being filled. If the lines are draining into an open container, this is a RCRA violation and will be cited during a regulatory inspection. Think about how many HPLC units you have at your facility – this could add up to a lot of costly violations.

3. Difficult to Handle

Because an open empty solvent container or other open container was not specifically designed to collect waste from an HPLC machine, it can pose operational challenges. The containers are not easy to handle, waste tubes are soaked in hazardous waste, and the material of the containers may not be the most efficient for that purpose. 

Potential Solutions

There are many waste collection systems on the market that help reduce some of the safety, compliance, and operational challenges of these units. When evaluating various solvent collection systems, make sure that the system addresses the issues you are facing. The options vary in design, purpose, efficacy, and cost.

Some systems only solve one or two of the potential problems we have discussed. For example, some systems make it easy to close the container when not being filled, but that is not always practical and it does not solve the employee exposure problems. Other systems may be a closed system with vapor control, but are not easy for the user to handle. 

Finally, the more sophisticated systems that improve safety and compliance often require many parts and pieces. These systems can be difficult to install, and getting replacement parts can be challenging as well. When considering different systems, be sure to also evaluate a vendor's support services and their ability to source additional units and other supplies quickly.

For details on our solution – VOCLok – and to learn about our capabilities, visit our HPLC Solvent Waste Collection services page.