Teaching Lab Topic Hub - Operations
Agricultural Teaching Labs: Operations
This section gives an overview of agricultural-related teaching areas, the
activities occurring within them and the resulting wastes. Both hazardous and
non-hazardous wastes should be considered for reduction. Planning ahead to reduce
waste can save money and time. If waste cannot be avoided, proper collection
and disposal can be determined by consulting with state and local officials.
(For information about determining whether a waste is hazardous
or not, see the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brochure Identifying
and Power Mechanics
Activities include working on and overhauling small internal combustion
engines, electrical motors and circuits, and other forms of industrial/farm
machinery as well as hydraulic system repair and maintenance. These processes
involve many fluids, components, and products that may be hazardous if not properly
handled and disposed of. These items include:
- Used oil and filters - Should not be poured on the ground; recycling services
exist in most communities
- Antifreeze - Can often be recycled if kept separate from other wastes
- Transmission fluid - Can sometimes be included with used oil for recycling
- Brake fluid - Can often be recycled if kept separate from other fluid wastes
- Gasoline - Highly flammable; small amounts of clean gas can be added to
vehicles to avoid other safety and disposal issues
- Solvents - Are particularly hazardous to inhale and should be conserved
as much as possible
- Tires - Waste tires are difficult to dispose of and often their disposal
- Batteries - Can usually be recycled
- Absorbents - Can become a hazardous waste; use drip trays and pans to prevent
spills; use squeegees for clean up rather than absorbents.
Activities in this teaching lab encompass layout and construction of wood-based
projects such as parts of a building or wall; rafter layout and construction;
and other small woodworking projects. Potential wastes produced in this lab
- Paints and stains - Buy only what is needed and choose less hazardous products
- Strippers and solvents - Filter and reuse
- Wood wastes - Use wood efficiently to reduce waste; use non-chemically treated
wood whenever possible; compost sawdust
Greenhouses and outdoor growing areas are becoming more common in the agricultural
curriculum. Activities in these areas include propagating and growing plants;
conducting plant growth experiments; and aquaculture. Many of the chemicals
used to encourage plant growth are potentially hazardous. Common wastes found
in a greenhouse area include:
- Plant wastes - Dead plants and thinnings should be incinerated or otherwise
properly disposed if they have been sprayed with chemicals.
- Ag chemicals - Fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides can pose serious
health risks to humans and pollute groundwater when improperly used. Follow
all directions on product labels and consider non-chemical alternatives.
- Potting soil/plant growth media - Generally has been sterilized and is
not chemically treated. Care must be given to control loss due to wind or
- Runoff - Runoff from watering plants may contain fertilizers and pesticides
that can contaminate groundwater. Reduce water consumption and groundwater
contamination by collecting runoff when watering seedlings and then reuse
the collected runoff for the next watering.
- Irrigation water - Irrigation water can be wasted by over-watering or ineffective
watering. (Watering on windy days or during the heat of the day causes water
to be wasted due to evaporation.)
Arc welding, and layout and fabrication of sheet metal projects, use a number
of compounds and materials that can produce potentially hazardous wastes. Most
lab facilities use protective equipment to minimize human exposure to such materials
and compounds. The common wastes produced in metals laboratories include:
- Welding exhaust fumes - When torches or arc welders are used, fumes are
produced. Using flux and inert gasses for shielding produces additional gasses.
Management of emissions is an important health and safety consideration. EPA
and insurance company guidelines generally state that these fumes must be
collected and filtered before being vented to the outside.
- Material wastes - Metals, welding rods, and other excess raw material can
often be minimized with good resource management, reused in smaller projects,
or recycled at local facilities.
- Fluxes and cleaners - These compounds are used to clean metal prior to
the metal being worked. Use carefully and sparingly to prevent spills and
contamination of water (either sub-surface or sewage). Do not wash spills
down the drain.
- Welding dust - Metal dust is produced when metals are ground or processed.
Metal dust is harmful to breathe, and can be highly volatile. Some metals
contain particularly hazardous compounds.
- Metal marking dyes - Metal marking dyes are commonly used in project layout;
spills should be cleaned up instead of washed down a drain.
Many schools integrate livestock operations into their learning environments
and curricula. These programs utilize barns, corrals, and other livestock related
facilities and equipment. Livestock production waste can severely impact the
local environment and drinking water. Local, state and federal rules and regulations
may apply. Commonly used materials and the wastes produced include:
- Manure - Prevent surface and sub-surface water pollution by properly locating
confinement facilities away from water sources and runoff areas. Also avoid
- Carcasses - Improper disposal can spread disease, attract rodents and pollute
- Feed - Avoid overfeeding so that excess feeds are not lost to soil or groundwater.
Testing has shown that runoff water and streams contain many of the components
in animal feed. Such components include growth additives and antibiotics.
Detectable levels have also been found in fish.
- Salt and mineral supplements - Prevent loss to the soil or water by feeding
these nutrients in block form versus loose granules.
- Medical products (including medicine, medicine containers, syringes, needles,
gloves, artificial insemination products, etc.) - As wastes, these become
more hazardous if they have been exposed to infectious matter. Check local
and state agency regulations. Buy in appropriate amounts so products are used
before the expiration date.
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