Storage room with a large number of grey steel pails with radioactive waste

Radioactive waste

Radioactive waste disposal guidelines

Principal Investigators must follow the following guidelines:

  • All radioactive material usage and waste disposal must be tracked using myLab.
  • Isotopes cannot be mixed. One box = one isotope.
    We need to calculate the date when the waste will be below scheduled quantity and/or no longer radioactive. We can only do this for one isotope at a time. Each isotope is also linked to a unique myLab number.
  • Solid waste and liquid waste cannot be mixed.
    Different guidelines apply based on the physical property of the waste.
  • Do not overfill the containers.
  • Remove radioactive and hazardous material markings and labels on regular waste.
    All waste that can be eliminated as regular waste will be compacted and sent to landfill. You must ensure that radioactive markings from tape, labels, vials and other material has been removed before placing them inside a container.
  • Remove lead pigs and isotope protective casings.
    Do not include lead pigs or isotope casings that hold isotope vials. Not only can the lead be recycled, but the presence of the pigs could skew our results when surveying the waste as the isotope is shielded from our survey instrument.
  • Labels must be completely and legibly filled out.
    Users must record the isotope, activity, date and myLab waste container number when a container is full. 
  • Close your waste container and bring it to the dedicated waste room.
    Make sure to also close and use the drop off option in myLab to remove the container from your active inventory.

Compliance with these guidelines is mandatory. Users who do not observe these guidelines will be subject to penalties.

Hazardous Waste Management provides all the containers you need usually free of charge. They are available in the dedicated waste rooms or hwm [at] (contact the HWM team) if there is no waste room in your building.

Liquid radioactive waste

Liquid radioactive waste must be disposed of in a 4L or 1L plastic container provided by HWM. At the bottom of each container, a solidifying agent will gelify the waste to prevent spillage. Hazardous Waste Management will either decay the waste below the Exemption Quantity (EQ) for regular waste disposal or send it to the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) in Chalk River for long-term decay.

4L or 1L polyethylene containers

 4L container for radioactive waste 1L container for radioactive waste

Use: Radioactive liquids

Supplied with: Label and lid


  • For safety reasons, do not fill to more than 3/4.

Solid radioactive waste

Solid radioactive waste normally consists of materials used in the lab for the preparation or handling of radioisotopes (glass pipettes, latex gloves, paper towels). This type of contaminated material should be disposed of in the white cardboard box. The boxes (complete with bags & labels) have been designed to the exact same exterior dimensions as the 5-gallon (20L) steel pails to fit in your Plexiglas shielding container. For those who prefer, the 5-gallon (20L) steel pails are still available.

Only dry materials should be placed in these containers, with the complete information recorded on all labels. Hazardous Waste Management will dispose of the waste the same way as liquid radioactive waste.

A smaller 1L container is also available for small volumes of liquid and solid waste. When possible, we also recommend using them for high-level radioactive waste in order to minimize the space requirement for delay and decay.

Cardboard box

White cardboard box for radioactive waste

Use: Dry solid waste
Supplied with: Label and plastic bag

  • Do not use for liquids.
  • Container is to be used only for its intended purpose.

Steel pail

Grey steel pail with a label sticker, for radioactive waste

Use: Liquid scintillation vials (LSVs), solid radioactive waste.
Supplied with: Lid and label

  • Container is to be used only for its intended purpose.

4L or 1L polyethylene containers

 4L container for radioactive waste 1L container for radioactive waste

Use: Dry solid waste
Supplied with: Label and lid
Special notes:

  • For safety reasons, do not fill to more than 3/4.

Liquid scintillation vials

Approved cocktail selection flowchart

Liquid scintillation vials (LSV) must be disposed of using the same 5-gallon (20L) steel pails normally used for some solid radioactive waste.

Using a felt-tipped marker, simply write "LSV" on the container lid. There is no need to empty each vial, but only LSVs and their contents should be placed in this container, as they will be processed separately.

We recommend lining your pails with a plastic bag. In either case, it is very important to correctly and completely fill out the appropriate label. LSV are to be tracked in myLab, but do not require a container number.

To help determine which liquid scintillation cocktail (LSC) to use for different application, you can consult the cocktail selection flowchart.

Lead pigs

Lead pigs come in various formats, usually with an outer plastic box.

The lead pigs that contain isotope vials are recyclable. Simply place your lead pigs in a small labelled box and submit it with your waste materials.

What you should know before dropping off your lead pigs:

  • They must be tested for contamination. A copy of the results is mandatory and should be attached to the container used for disposal.
  • Plastic pigs (made entirely from plastic) are not recyclable and may be presented as garbage. However, they must be free of contamination and radioactive markings.


HWM enforces policies, procedures and guidelines using the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). We will base our actions on:

  • Severity of the infraction
  • Recurrence
  • Laboratory safety record (EHS inspection, spill report, etc.)
  • Cooperation
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