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How to Ship Hazardous Waste Samples

Posted on 4/19/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires shippers to accurately classify, name, and package hazardous materials for offsite shipment (49 CFR 173.22(a)).  

But how can you be accurate if you don’t have all the information you need about a waste? Most likely, you’ll want to send a sample to a laboratory for testing. Now that’s a conundrum! How can you ship the sample?
This predicament can arise in a couple of scenarios. It might happen if you’ve generated a new hazardous waste and are uncertain about its constituents or properties. It may also happen when there is a spill or leak of hazardous waste that mixes with other substances, soil, debris, or emergency response chemicals.

Exclusion for Hazardous Waste Samples

First, a sample of solid waste or a sample of water, soil, or air, which is collected for the sole purpose of testing to determine its characteristics or composition, is not subject the RCRA hazardous waste regulations if it meets certain criteria specified at 40 CFR 261.4(d).

The sample may still be regulated as a DOT hazardous material, however.

Assigning a Proper Shipping Name, Hazard Class, and Packing Group

Fortunately, there are special rules at 49 CFR 172.101(c)(11) to ship a sample of a material that is a hazardous waste or a sample of a material for which the hazard class is uncertain and must be determined by testing.
The material may be assigned a tentative proper shipping name, hazard class, UN identification number, and packing group (if applicable) based on the shipper's tentative determination. These tentative assignments may be based on the shipper’s knowledge of the material. In addition:
  • Except when the word “Sample” already appears in the proper shipping name appearing on the §172.101 Hazmat Table, the word “Sample” must appear as part of the proper shipping name or in association with the basic description on the shipping paper.


  • When the proper shipping description for a sample is assigned a “G” in Column (1) of the §172.101 Hazmat Table, and the primary constituent(s) for which the tentative classification is based are not known, the provisions requiring a technical name for the constituent(s) do not apply.


  • Do not add the word “waste” to the proper shipping name.

Packaging a Hazardous Waste Sample

A sample must be transported in a combination packaging applicable to the tentative packing group assigned.

The net mass (i.e., the weight) of the sample may not exceed 2.5 kg (i.e., approximately 5.5 pounds) per package.

Hazmat Marks and Labels 

Packages of hazardous waste samples will be marked and labeled as any other fully regulated package will be.

Shipping Papers

Because hazardous waste samples are excluded from RCRA regulation (under certain conditions), a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest is not required for offsite shipment. However, DOT hazmat shipping papers are required.


Keep in mind, however, that these rules are not available for samples of forbidden materials, explosives, new self-reactives or organic peroxides.

Once testing is complete and you know more about your waste, you can properly manage, store, and ship it in compliance with the applicable RCRA and US DOT regulations. 

Upcoming Hazmat & RCRA Webinars

Join Lion instructors live for required hazardous materials and hazardous waste training at Lion.com. Next month, get comprehensive, two-day training or join us for a streamlined, one-day refresher. 

2-day Training

RCRA Hazardous Waste Management May 12–13
Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT) May 18–19

1-day Refreshers 

RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Refresher May 4
Recurrent Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT) May 5

Browse all upcoming webinars. 

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