Environmental Compliance FAQs

Chemical Spills

Each compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) contains a very small amount of mercury in either powder or pellet form; however, the greatest risk to you from a broken bulb is getting cut by glass shards. The amount of mercury in a light bulb is extremely small, however precautions must still be taken. The following steps should be taken for clean-up of hard surfaces:
  • Before starting to cleanup, ventilate the room. Open a window or door for 15 minutes and turn off central heating/cooling systems. Contact Facilities Management to temporarily shut the heating/cooling system if you are unable to do so.
  • Gently sweep up – don’t vacuum – all of the glass fragment and fine particles. Place all waste in rigid lined container such as a plastic bag inside of a small box.
  • Use tape (e.g., duct tape, or packing tape) to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and place it in the waste container.
  • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe, and place in the waste container.
  • Seal the container and label the exterior with the date and name of the contents: “Light bulb debris.”
  • Contact EHS to collect waste materials or for assistance in cleanup.

Hazardous Materials

The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates shipping of all hazardous materials, even small quantities. The regulations are quite complex, and require training and certification in order to ship hazardous materials. EHS staff coordinate and ship hazardous materials for university activities. Please contact EHS at least two business days in advance to coordinate hazardous materials or research material shipment. Please also refer to the Hazardous Materials Shipping and Receiving Guide.

George Mason University utilizes the services of a licensed and permitted vendor for disposal of hazardous waste. The vendor collects, segregates, and packages hazardous waste according to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, then ships the waste to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved disposal facility. Disposal methods range from incineration, waste water treatment, recovery/recycling, and stabilization. EHS encourages everyone to reduce the quantity of hazardous substances purchased to only those amounts necessary for their activities in an effort to reduce the volume of hazardous waste generated.

Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable (flammable), or reactive ingredients are considered to be “household hazardous waste” (HHW). Products such as oil-based paints (or other non-latex paints), cleaners, batteries, and pesticides contain potentially hazardous ingredients that require special care when you dispose of them. Most local jurisdictions have HHW days to collect household waste. Please contact your local solid waste authority (landfill) for additional information. You may not bring HHW to campus for disposal. Anyone found dumping or abandoning hazardous materials or solid waste on George Mason University property may be prosecuted.

Aerosol cans are considered a hazardous waste, even when the cans are empty, and therefore must be collected and managed as hazardous waste. Please place the cap back on aerosol can(s) and collect them in a rigid container. Contact EHS- Laboratory Safety at labsafe@gmu.edu to pick up and properly dispose of the aerosol cans.

George Mason University does not permit any hazardous chemicals or waste to be poured down the drain without prior authorization from EHS-Laboratory Safety. There are some chemicals and hazardous materials that may be disposed of in the sanitary sewer system; however, EHS will review the material, quantity, and concentration of the material to ensure that disposal does not violate Federal, state, and local environmental regulations.

EHS oversees the management of hazardous substances and waste generated by facility maintenance, laboratory, and support operations. EHS has programs to help manage, store, collect, and dispose of hazardous chemical, biological, and radioactive materials. All hazardous waste should be managed in the following manner:

  • Collect hazardous wastes in a tight sealing container that is compatible with the hazardous materials it is intended to store.
  • Label the exterior of the container with the complete chemical name(s). Do not use abbreviations, trade names, chemical formulas, or chemical structures.
  • If broken glass or sharp objects are present, place them in a solid container such as a box or bottle. Sharps containers are available from EHS-Laboratory Safety for collection of needles or other sharp objects. Broken glass boxes are also available from EHS-Laboratory Safety.
  • Contact EHS-Laboratory Safety at labsafe@gmu.edu to schedule a pickup.

If you or your department generates hazardous waste on a routine basis, please contact EHS. EHS has additional programs, supplies, and support to help you properly manage hazardous waste.

A waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment and exhibits at least one of four characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.

Pollution Prevention

Facilities Management has undertaken several programs and implemented best practices to prevent pollution and control emissions. Clean burning natural gas is used to heat campus buildings, and all generators and equipment use ultra-low sulfur fuel wherever feasible.

All new buildings are designed to meet new standards for energy efficiency. All new office and industrial equipment purchased should be Energy STAR rated by the EPA and Department of Energy. Staff and students receive commuter benefits such as free transportation on the Fairfax County CUE bus, and George Mason University encourages employees to telecommute when possible. George Mason University has increased public transportation services between campuses and to campus from public transportation hubs in an effort to reduce the amount of traffic on campus and reduce emissions.

The largest contribution to pollution that most individuals make is the amount of trash, paper, and chemicals generated by business and personal activities. Reducing consumption, recycling, and using less harmful or better engineered products such as recycled paper, less hazardous chemicals or naturally safe alternatives, and using energy efficient equipment, are the best ways to reduce pollution.

George Mason University is subject to a variety of environmental regulations, most of which address the management of hazardous materials, emissions, and protecting the natural landscape during development. If you are concerned about waste materials that you generate, please contact EHS to discuss proper disposal or recycling options. Contact EHS if you have specific questions about environmental regulations and how they apply to your activities or George Mason University.

Recyclable Materials

To obtain more information on sustainability programs and campus initiatives,  please visit George Mason University’s Office of Sustainability website.

To find more information about recycling programs, acceptable recycling materials, and recycling locations, please visit George Mason University’s recycling/Office of Sustainability.

Rechargeable batteries (nickel cadmium- Ni-Cad, lithium ion – Li-ion, nickel metal hydride – NMH or Ni-MH, and all cell phone batteries) and cell phones are collected for recycling. Recycling containers are located at:

  • Sub I and Sub II – The HUB Information Desks.
  • Patriot Computer in Johnson Center.
  • Potomac Heights Housing Office.
  • Discovery Hall Security Desk.
  • Occoquan Building, outside of the bookstore.
  • Bull Run Hall, outside of the Classroom Technology Office.
  • Arlington Classroom Technology Office.