Your Guide to Hand Sanitizer Disposal

Sep 7, 2022 | Hazardous Waste

Are you an institution or facility now wondering how to handle proper hand sanitizer disposal? At the beginning of the pandemic, hand sanitizer was suddenly difficult to find. However, as soon as it became available again and knowing how important of a tool hand sanitizer is during a pandemic, many facilities and institutions bought large amounts. But did you know that the shelf life of hand sanitizer is about two to three years? So, if you purchased in bulk at the beginning of the pandemic, you might find yourself with hand sanitizer that either is or is about to expire. Or you may now have more hand sanitizer than you will ever need.

So, what can you do with expired or unneeded hand sanitizer?

Most importantly, hand sanitizer cannot be thrown out in the trash or poured down the drain. Not only is this illegal, possibly resulting in fines, but it is also dangerous. Because the main ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol, a highly flammable material, placing it in the trash or down the drain could result in an explosion.

We created a guide on hand sanitizer disposal. This guide addresses questions about the expiration date, recycling hand sanitizer, and safe hand sanitizer disposal.

Why is hand sanitizer necessary?

Using a hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol effectively kills bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus and other infectious diseases by using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.

What is the shelf life of hand sanitizer?

Typically, hand sanitizer expires after two to three years.

Why does hand sanitizer expire?

The active ingredient in liquid and gel hand sanitizer is ethyl or isopropyl alcohol in 60 to 95 percent concentrations. Alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, which means it loses potency over time and becomes ineffective at killing bacteria.

Can I use expired hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer can be used after its expiry date but may be less effective or possibly not effective at all.

What is the best way to store hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizers have special storage requirements in commercial and industrial settings. For example, if a facility has 25 gallons or more of hand sanitizer on hand, it must be contained in a flammable-liquid storage cabinet. In addition, keep hand sanitizer at a temperature of 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can I recycle hand sanitizer?

If your hand sanitizer is not expired and still effective, consider donating your unneeded supply to an organization in need, such as a school or daycare center. If you recycle rather than throw it away, the hand sanitizer is not designated as waste and therefore avoids registering it as hazardous waste. While this can be more economical and less wasteful than hazardous waste disposal, follow your state regulations (you can find Wisconsin’s here) to document this process.

How is hand sanitizer safely destroyed?

Disposal of industrial or commercial quantities of expired hand sanitizer requires hazardous waste management protocols, which include RCRA registration, labeling, manifesting, and reporting. In Wisconsin, this material gets sent to a licensed incinerator for disposal. In addition, several other disposal options, such as fuel blending and incidental reduction, vary by state and localities.

Can small amounts of hand sanitizer be thrown in the trash?

The EPA allows you to throw away a “RCRA Empty” container with a trace amount of hand sanitizer in the container into the trash. Do not pour any hand sanitizer down the drain. A hazardous waste collection facility can dispose of larger quantities of household hand sanitizer.

Who can I contact for assistance with hand sanitizer disposal?

Contact MERI to help you determine the best hand sanitizer disposal option.




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