“Come and see my etchings” may be a parody of a classic line, but
the reality of the etching process often isn’t so funny. Typically, a wet
etching involves a design cut into a zinc plate, which is put into nitric acid
and then washed with alcohol and kerosene.
These substances and others often associated with the etching process, such
as nitric acid and ferric chloride solution, are corrosive and must not simply
be poured down the drain; they must be managed as hazardous waste. In fact,
many of these chemicals fall under the EPA’s Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), and once a waste, under the federal Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA).
As always, check with your school’s EH&S staff to determine the appropriate
procedures for your specific site. To learn more about the environmental laws,
regulations and best practices associated with handling etching waste, continue
on through this section of the EVC.