HWTR Pollution Prevention

My Watershed

Pollution Prevention Checklist for Art Departments

Photo of art supplies.

The Washington Department of Ecology encourages schools and laboratories to find safer alternatives to reduce, or even eliminate the use of toxic substances.

The table below lists common hazardous substances found in art departments and preferred alternatives (in bold font), if available. Best management practices that can be used to reduce and prevent toxic wastes are also included. 

Throughout all departments there are common issues with proper management of dangerous waste that is generated on site.  The following bullets identify the most common issues and give best management practices (BMPs) for proper identification, accumulation, and disposal of dangerous wastes.

More resources are listed at the bottom of this page.

Download a printable checklist in Word, or pdf.

For more information contact your local Ecology Regional Office.

Items or Processes of Concern Toxic Metal Dangerous Waste Preferred Alternatives and Best Management Practices




  • Use a metal-free, non-hazardous alternative.
  • Use solvent-free alternatives.
  • Use water-based coatings with the least amount of volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants possible.
  • Use leftover product for small pieces or for testing.
  • Label and store leftover basecoats. Seal container tightly and store upside-down to prevent air from entering.

Paint strippers
  • Use non-chlorinated solvents and thinners.
  • Use methyl alcohol (methanol) for paint stripping.
  • Use a spray bottle or plunger can to deliver solvents where they are needed.
  • Segregate solvent wastes, reuse, or dispose as dangerous waste.
  • Use solvents until they lose their effectiveness, as opposed to when they look dirty.
Flammable aerosol products X X
  • Use non-flammable aerosol products.
  • Replace single aerosol with a refillable spray bottle or plunger to deliver product.
  • Collect empty aerosol cans that contained flammable products and manage as dangerous waste.
Cleaning towels or wipes   X
  • Use towels that can be laundered and reused.
  • Keep used wipes and towels in closed containers and label appropriately.
  • Reduce the size of the towel or wipe to reduce the amount of solvent used at the same time.
  • Reuse towels or wipes for repetitive tasks.
  • Don't dip towels or wipes in open solvent containers.
  • Limit the amount of solvent available for use each day.
  • Towels that are not laundered should be managed as the material they were used to absorb.
Metal X X
  • Use metal alloys that do not contain lead, cadmium, or mercury.
  • Recycle metal pieces.
Jewelry pickling acid X X
  • When pickling use less hazardous citric acid to remove oxides produced from heating and soldering.
  • Use appropriate-sized pot to reduce chemical usage.
  • Avoid contamination of bath.
  • Dispose of spent pickling solution that may contain copper as hazardous waste.
Jewelry soldering X X
  • Use cadmium-free silver solders or lead-free solders when feasible.
  • Use borax flux instead of fluoride-based fluxes.
  • Recycle unusable metal pieces.
Jewelry plating X X
  • Use commercial electroplating rather than cyanide electroplating or electroforming if at all possible.
  • Electroplating involves the use of incompatible and reactive materials. Cyanide solutions are incompatible with acids. Cyanide solutions and acids must never be stored near each other. Find out what materials used in the shop are acids and separate those from the cyanide baths. Under no circumstances should the copper plating bath come in contact with the silver or gold baths.


  • Use low or no-solvent adhesives if possible, such as hot melt, heat seal, aqueous-based or polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) adhesives.
  • Evaluate your gluing operations to determine if too much is being mixed.

Visual art
Neon X X
  • Use non-mercury-argon neon coloring.
  • Some neon lights contain trace amounts of mercury (usually used in conjunction with argon gas) and should be handled and disposed as Universal Waste.
General inventory    
  • Use Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.
  • Learn to recognize potentially hazardous products by reviewing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substance information.
  • Store hazardous substances properly.
All generated waste streams

Spilled products

Unused and expired products
  • Use chemical inventory and tracking software to centralize product ordering, improve product tracking, storage requirement, waste management, reduce disposal of expired product, and minimize duplicate orders to prevent unnecessary disposal.
  • Identify all potential waste streams and establish designation procedures to determine if a hazardous waste or non-hazardous waste.
  • Implement dangerous waste designation, collection, accumulation, and disposal procedures for all waste streams.
  • See Common Dangerous Waste Compliance Issues.

Fluorescent lamps
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use LED lamps when appropriate Use low-mercury fluorescent lamps.
  • Implement a battery collection program and manage as Universal Waste.
  • Implement a whole-lamp recycling program and manage as Universal Waste.
  • If not recycled as Universal Waste collect, manage, and dispose of as dangerous waste.


This page last updated September 2015