Chapter 14
Waste Retrograde

All participants in the USAP are required by U.S. Federal Law (45 CFR 670-672) to adhere to procedures set in place while deployed to Antarctica. It is everyone's responsibility to fully comply with the guidance provided in this chapter while at field camps to ensure that all regulatory requirements and treaties are properly implemented and carried out. Recycling is a priority for all individuals and can only be accomplished by adhering to the guidance set forth for field camps and stations.

14.1 Pack-in/Pack-out Personal Items

All personal items carried into a field camp by an individual will be carried out by the individual. The Pack-in/Pack-out routine will allow field camps to eliminate several of the waste categories and reduce the number of containers needed to segregate waste. All waste that is packed out will be properly segregated according to the Waste Management Program at the permanent station to which the waste is being returned.

14.2 Waste Groups and Categories

The guidelines in this chapter have been compiled to assist you in properly segregating waste. Non-Hazardous Solid Waste has been classified into three groups and color codes based on its disposition in the U.S. The groups are as follows:


All groups have been classified into categories based on the characterization of the waste stream. It is mandated to collect and retrograde 100% of ALL waste from the field camps, unless approved to do otherwise.

14.2a Recyclables Group - Green

Glass Category
Bottles and jars not contaminated with food or hazardous waste will be recycled. All colors of glass can be collected together. No window glass, broken glass, light bulbs (CONSTRUCTION DEBRIS) and reagent bottles go in this category. Label as: GLASS.

Aluminum Category
Empty aluminum cans may be placed in this category. Label as: ALUMINUM. (Aluminum foil, pans, and wrappers belong in the Combustibles Group with food waste.)

Heavy Metal Category
Heavy Metal, Wire, Copper and Brass Category All metals except tin cans and sheet metal belong in this category. Label as: METALS.

Light Metal Category
All clean metal containers and sheet metal belong in this category. Label as: LIGHT METALS.

Cardboard Category
Nonreusable cardboard boxes are to be flattened and bundled or crated for shipment. Label as: CARDBOARD.

Wood Category
Reuse all crates and pallets for shipping waste from the field camps. All remaining wood will be dismantled, bundled, and shipped to a permanent station. Label as: WOOD.

White Paper Category
Clean white paper such as photocopies, computer paper, and other white paper should be put in the proper containers designated for white paper. Label as: WHITE PAPER. Colored paper should be separated and put into "BURNABLES" category.

NOTE: It is recommended for small field camps/parties to collect all recyclable categories into plastic bags separately. Once the waste is ready for shipment to the permanent station, tie off all bags and place all into one shipping container (triwall and/or drum). Label as: MIXED RECYCLABLES plus appropriate "CATEGORY NAMES." All fuel-contaminated items must be retrograded from field camps using the Hazardous Wate procedures.

14.2b Combustibles Group - Yellow
Burnables, Food Waste, Food Contaminated Containers, Cooking Oil/Lard, Newspapers and Magazines Category All items in this waste category will be consolidated to reduce segregation items. The waste will include food wrappers, food contaminated containers, food waste, paper towels, etc. Waste within this category will be placed in triwalls with 3 plastic liners to avoid leakage. Label as: BURNABLE FOOD WASTE.

Human Waste, Domestic Biological Waste Category Items in this category will be collected in 20-gallon poly lab packs with a plastic liner supplied by Waste Management. It is absolutely critical that no other collection methods are used for this type of waste. The cover of the lab pack will be secured tightly when filled. The 20-gallon poly lab pack and waste will be retrograded to the U.S. and incinerated for sterilization purposes. If more than one lab pack is filled at the field camp, an 85-gallon metal over-pack drum should be used to ship this waste from the camp. Label as: HUMAN WASTE

14.2c Disposables Group - Blue
Any material or combination of materials free from food contamination that doesn't fit in the RECYCLABLES or COMBUSTIBLES group is designated as a disposable item.

Product Containers, Clothing, Construction Debris, Plastics Category This category will also include items such as styrofoam peanuts (ACA banned) and bubble wrap. Please, NO HAZARDOUS WASTE. Label as: CONSTRUCTION DEBRIS.

Vermiculite Category
Items in this category will be bagged and should be reused whenever possible, otherwise properly placed in triwalls for shipment. Label as: VERMICULITE

Grey Water and Urine Category
Grey water and urine will be collected separately in 55-gallon poly-lined drums free of chemical and petroleum products. Fuel, oil, and chemical drums are not acceptable for use and if used will be required to be classified as "HAZARDOUS WASTE". Label as: GREY WATER or URINE WASTE.

All collection and labeling methods previously described will be used by all field camps unless otherwise indicated. The ASA Safety, Environment, and Health (SEH) Waste Management Division will assist you with any potential modifications due to special field camp requirements.

Waste Management personnel will prepare field kits prior to deploying to the field camps at the request of the science party and/or camp manager.

14.3 Labeling Waste Containers

All waste will be properly labeled and tagged according to the group and category. All consolidated categories will be placed in containers/plastic bags and sealed into drums and/or triwalls. Waste Management located at the permanent stations will collect the containers/bags and package accordingly for shipment to the U.S. Waste Management will supply the appropriate labels for field camps; however, if you do not have a label available, include the following information on the container(s).

Field Camp Name
Science Event Number
PI and/or Manager
Waste Group
Waste Category

14.4 Hazardous Waste

Antarctic Conservation Act (ACA) regulations identify hazardous waste as any waste that contains a "designated pollutant." A designated pollutant is any material identified by any of the U.S. environmental regulations. This definition is much stricter in identifying hazardous wastes than the regulations applicable in the U.S. As a result, many wastes not considered hazardous in the U.S. must be managed as hazardous wastes in Antarctica. The ACA also mandates detailed tracking of hazardous waste from "cradle to grave." To accomplish this, waste generators must provide documentation identifying the hazardous waste. The CSEC or BFC will provide Hazardous Waste Identification forms and drum tags (for field camps) for this purpose.

All generators must complete the Hazardous Waste Identification Form or drum tag for all hazardous wastes turned-in and retrograded. The form(s) should accompany the waste when returned to McMurdo from field camps. Directions for completing the form will be provided in the CSEC orientation. It is absolutely critical that all information known about a waste be provided on the form. Additionally, each waste container should have a tag or label identifying the date, S-Event, location, name of the waste, approximate percentage for each constituent of the waste, and process that generated the waste. Without this information, extensive analytical testing is required to identify the waste for shipment and disposal.

Each Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for ensuring that the proper procedures are followed by each member of their science project.

14.4a Hazardous Waste Categories

From a management standpoint, hazardous waste categories generally fall into the basic hazard classes:

Compressed Gas
Other, etc.

Generalized categories (described below) have been developed to aid generators with proper segregation. However, often times wastes that qualify under a general category may have differing hazard classes. If unsure of the proper segregation, contact the CSEC laboratory staff for further guidance. The following paragraphs describe the generalized categories for segregation. These categories will be used in the CSEC and should be implemented as necessary at field camps.

Operations Hazardous Waste
Contaminated, used, and excess fuel, oil, glycol, etc. should be retained in or returned to the original container if possible (or an equivalent), and returned to the MEC (helicopter supported camps and McMurdo Operations) or Science Cargo (Hercules supported camps). These containers may have a Hazardous Waste Identification "short form" already attached. Prior to return the form should be completed and signed.

Other Waste Items
Empty aerosol cans, batteries (alkaline, lithium, Ni-Cad, lead- acid), and light bulbs are collected in segregation containers located in the waste collection areas of the CSEC and BFC. Ask a staff member where items such as leftover product in the container, small broken appliances or tools, and broken window glass should go. At field camps, these items should be segregated by class into drums. A drum tag or "short form' must be attached and completed prior to retrograde.

The BFC usually distributes hazardous materials to the appropriate work center when they are returned from the field camps. It is necessary to properly package and label the container with contents, amount, and science-number on the tags provided so it may be properly handled. Laboratory Waste
In general, all laboratory wastes should be handled as hazardous and should be properly segregated. This includes not only reagents and mixtures, but also laboratory glass and plastic ware contaminated with either hazardous materials or biologicals, sharps, and other debris (benchliner, gloves, etc). At field camps, these items should be segregated by class into drums. A drum tag or "short form" must be attached and completed prior to retrograde.

Bio-Hazardous Waste
Bio-hazardous waste is defined as any product that has been contaminated by microorganisms, human tissues, or animal material including secreta, excreta, blood, tissues, or tissue fluids. These wastes should be collected separately from other waste streams in a 55-gallon drum and properly tagged for retrograde.

Chemical Wastes
Chemical wastes generated in laboratories may fall into any of the hazard classes and must be segregated by their hazard class. Some mixtures can contain constituents with differing hazard classes, making this determination difficult. Consult with the laboratory staff if you have wastes like this.

Large volume waste chemicals such as glutaraldehyde, formalin, ethylene glycol, acetone, methanol, etc., will be collected in 2- to 5-gallon approved containers or drums located in the waste collection area. It is necessary to log in the S-Event, quantity, dilution factor, and container contents each time you add waste to the collection container. Please notify the CSEC staff when containers are full so they can be turned over to hazardous waste for retrograde.

Small volume chemicals should be packed in the original containers whenever possible and labelled as waste. Containers are also available in the main stock room, if needed. Please label the container as described above and complete a Hazardous Waste Identification Form. These containers are then packed in steel overpack drums lined with heavy plastic bags and cushioned with vermiculite. Photochemical waste should be collected in the labeled 2- to 5-gallon plastic containers located in the darkroom and given to the CSEC laboratory staff when full.

Radioactive wastes should be collected according to the procedures and regulations outlined in a separate document distributed at the CSEC orientation.

Laboratory Glass
All empty reagent bottles, jars, vials, pipettes, glass syringes (without needles), and any other used lab glassware excluding those with highly toxic (see below) or radioactive residuals should go in these containers. They do not need to be rinsed prior to disposal. At field camps, collect these wastes in a properly tagged 55-gallon drum.

Laboratory Plastic
All empty reagent bottles, jars, vials, pipettes, plastic syringes (without needles), and any other used lab plasticware excluding those with highly toxic (see below) or radioactive residuals. They do not need to be rinsed prior to disposal. At field camps, collect these wastes in a properly tagged 55-gallon drum.

Laboratory Debris
All non-glass waste containing residual hazardous materials--including gloves, contaminated paper products (non-radioisotope), etc., should be disposed in this bin. At field camps, collect these wastes in a properly tagged 55-gallon drum.

Highly Toxic Waste
All wastes contaminated with highly toxic chemicals, carcinogens, mutagens, and poisons (i.e., osmium tetroxide, potassium cyanide, etc) should be segregated, clearly labeled, and brought to the attention of the lab staff for turn-over to the Hazardous Waste Department.

Needles and Razor Blades (Sharps)
All needles, razor blades, and other "sharps" should be disposed in the red sharps containers.

Bio-Hazardous Wastes
All disposable labware such as plastic beakers, sample bottles, plastic syringes, etc., contaminated with biological materials (excluding live cultures and infectious agents) should be disposed in the LAB GLASS or LAB PLASTIC receptacles.

All labware contaminated with live cultures or infectious agents must be autoclaved. After sterilization, any nonhazardous liquid materials, such as phytoplankton cultures, may be disposed of down the sink. Otherwise, these materials should be collected for disposal. Reusable glassware should be washed and returned to the stockroom. Place disposable labware in the proper lab waste receptacle.

14.5 General Waste Handling in The Field

Drawings by David Rosenthal

Removing food contamination from the waste stream in the Antarctic is very important for the success of waste retrograde and recycling. Food contamination can be removed directly in the field, making the whole retrograde process easier. This is a guide with quick hints from other science field groups for handling waste in the field efficiently.

*[See figure ³WASTE1²]

Glass: When preparing a meal from glass jars, make sure to remove all contents by using the rubber spatula provided in the Kitchen Box.

Before any jar contents dry, wash jar(s) in used dish water. If washed directly after dishes, no extra gray water or time is needed. If you use snow to clean your dishes, it works just as well for glass.

Metal: When empty, cans should be opened at both ends, remaining contents scraped out, and cans washed in used dish water or snow. Cans must have labels removed and be flattened. This reduces their volume, allowing easier transport back to McMurdo.

Aluminum: This consists of aluminum beverage cans only. Cans should be empty and crushed to reduce volume. They will be shredded and crushed further in McMurdo for shipment to the U.S. Aluminum cans are easily and successfully recycled.

Plastic: Plastic food wrappers and containers should be cleaned like glass or metal containers. A small amount of contamination can cause rejection of a whole shipment to the U.S. Diminish the amount of plastic(s) in the field by removing items from their packaging prior to departing for the field camp. Plastic is not recyclable, blows around, and harms wildlife.

* [See figure ³WASTE2²]

Gray Water: This is nonhazardous "used water" (dish water, used cooking water, etc.). Gray water is strained and stored in 55-gallon drums that are shipped back to McMurdo for retrograde. No other liquid waste

Notes on Field Latrines

A weighted lid should be placed on top of the lined drum to keep both the lid and the can from blowing away.

Handle the drums of waste carefully to prevent punctures. This will make everyone's task of disposing of human waste easier and more pleasant.

The seat provided can be placed on top of the can for your comfort.

Please drum any and all human waste in 20-gallon Poly Pack drums.

On to Chapter 15: Snowmobiles