The University of Iowa

Radioactive Waste Do's and Don'ts

Recently, EHS Environmental Safety group has encountered a number of instances in which radioactive waste was improperly segregated or prepared for pick-up.  One such instance involved the inclusion of radioactive sharps waste in normal radioactive dry waste.  This resulted in a hazardous situation for EHS waste management staff during processing of the waste.  The following pictures illustrate some of the waste that was inappropriately disposed of in a regular dry radioactive waste container.


Radiation Waste
Radiation Waste

Note in the pictures above, glass vials containing liquids, as well as the syringes with needles still attached.  Neither of these waste types belong in the dry radioactive waste stream.  Many of you may not realize that EHS staff sorts through dry radioactive waste containers to ensure that all radioactive material labels have been obliterated, no lead containers are included, and that no substantial amount of liquid are found in containers.  The inclusion of sharps in a dry waste container puts EHS staff at risk for needle sticks or potential cuts from broken glass.  The placement of sharps in anything other than an approved sharps container is unacceptable.  All potentially radioactive needles must be disposed of in a radioactive sharps container.  Sharps waste decayed in storage for 10 half-lives can be placed in a regular sharps container after it has been surveyed and verified to be at background radiation levels.  Records of decay in storage must be maintained for inspection.

Detailed guidelines for the disposal of all radioactive waste types are found in Section 3, ‘Radioactive Waste’, of the Waste Management Guidelines and Procedures, on the EHS web-site at:

Please contact EHS staff with any questions regarding proper disposal of any radioactive waste type at 335-4625.