Dangerous​ waste containers

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Keep your workers safe by keeping your dangerous waste containers closed and in good condition. You are required to follow dangerous waste rules at your business.

  • Check containers and the entire system at least once a week.
  • Check for leaks, rust, dents, or other defects.
  • Transfer waste out of unsafe containers.
  • Keep good records of these inspections.

Inspect Your Dangerous Waste Drums poster.

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Container management

Keep containers of dangerous waste:

  • In a dangerous waste accumulation area.
  • Closed, except when adding or removing waste.
  • Covered and out of the weather.
  • In rows with at least 30 inches of spacing.
  • Apart from incompatible wastes or products. 

You can use a satellite accumulation area near where work happens, but there are specific requirements you must follow.

Choose the appropriate container

Select a container made of material compatible with the waste. For example, use polyethylene containers rather than metal drums for corrosive wastes. Containers designed for food are not appropriate for chemical wastes.

The container must be:

If a waste is a powder, the material should not be able to sift out during transport.

Keep containers closed

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Containers with dangerous waste must be closed, except when adding or removing waste. This is key for safety. Well-kept shops have latched drum rings, closed bungs, locked and latched funnels securely screwed into the containers, if they are used at all.

However, open containers are one of the most common violations found by Ecology's dangerous waste inspectors. Poorly managed shops may leave drums open, allowing fumes to escape into the area and risking spills. These shops may receive citations when inspectors come to call.

Containers must be closed. "Closed" means shut tightly enough that contents cannot spill if tipped over and that chemical vapors cannot escape into the air. Also make sure that:

  • Lids are on.
  • Rings are latched.
  • Bungs are tight.
  • Funnels, if used, are closed and latched.
  • Containers and lids are compatible with the waste.

Report spills immediately.

Storage and accumulation

Dangerous waste may be accumulated according to the Dangerous Waste Regulations. The waste must be in appropriate containers and tanks, and stored correctly.

Businesses may accumulate a certain amount of waste for a certain length of time before they must apply for a permit to store dangerous wastes. Most businesses can accumulate waste on-site. The length of time depends on your generator category.

Accumulation begins on the day you start putting waste in the container or tank. This is  called the "accumulation start date." This must be on every dangerous waste container, unless you are a small quantity generator. Schedule a pickup with your waste service provider before you exceed the accumulation time limit.

If you have wastes on site for longer than the accumulation time limit, you must obtain a dangerous waste permit.

Accumulation time limits for dangerous waste

Generator category Time limit Quantity limit
Small quantity generator None

Up to 220 pounds of dangerous waste per month


Up to 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste and/or WT01 dangerous waste per month

Medium quantity generator 180 days Up to 2,200 pounds of dangerous waste per month
Large quantity generator 90 days None

Secondary containment

State law requires liquid dangerous wastes to have secondary containment which will prevent spills or leaks of liquid dangerous wastes from reaching the environment.

Secondary containment for drums storing dangerous wastes often consists of concrete floors with curbing or lined diked areas. Apply a protective coating or sealant to the interior of a concrete structure used for secondary containment. Build it with as few joints as possible. Commercially available portable units, such as totes and containment pallets, typically accommodate one to four drums.

Covered secondary containment must be large enough to contain ten percent of the free liquid in all containers or 100 percent of the free liquid in the largest container.