It's very important to think about both
experimental safety and responsible disposal of
chemicals, so I'm glad your teacher is asking you
to research this for your demonstration.
If this is for a college class (and the
demonstration is at the college), it's possible
that the college has an Environmental Health and
Safety Department (EH&S ) that can help you take
the steps to properly dispose of hazardous
materials. If so, you should find them online and
If your college doesn't have this or the
demonstration is being done at your high school,
then there are a few things you have to think
about. First, you have to worry about how to
properly store or dispose of the precursor
chemicals, sulfuric acid and the nitroaniline.
Perhaps these chemicals belong to the high school
or college and you are just borrowing some for
your experiment. Then, you just need to make sure
that they are stored separately and that you have
studied the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
Otherwise, the disposal for these chemicals is
nontrivial and may prevent you from doing
If all you need to worry about is the column,
then this is a bit easier. According to a webpage
from UC San Diego's chemistry department, where
they describe a similar experiment (they use sugar
as the carbon source instead of nitroaniline),
they say regarding cleanup:
"The graphite column is saturated with sulfuric
acid. It should be placed in a bucket of water and
the whole thing neutralized with sodium
bicarbonate. Then it can be dumped down the sink.
(Alternatively just double bag the whole thing
including the beaker and give it to EH&S)."
here to read
The structure of the column itself is just
carbon, so once the acid is neutralized, it's safe
to put any solid parts into the trash. I would
still double bag it as an added precaution. The
beaker is probably ruined, so place that in a
sharps disposal container if you have one.
Otherwise, double wrap it in brown bags to protect
sanitation workers from being cut and place it
directly in a dumpster.
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