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Safe disposal of used pickle

Hello everyone, can anyone give a good way to safely dispose of the used pickle, please. It worries me to think many Jewellery makers might be putting it down the drain. It doesn’t matter if it’s safety pickle, citric acid, sulphuric acid, pH minus or salt and vinegar. It is so toxic to the environment. I have neutralized mine with Sodium Bicarbonate, and been storing it in empty gallon bottles but I need to do something about it.
Can the copper be precipitated in some way or separated from the mix so it doesn’t go into landfills or water systems? . I’d be very grateful for any insights on this please. Thank you.


The neutralized picle might need to be reacidified.

If you put some iron into an acidic picle and stir/shake it from time to time, all metals from Copper and nobler will precipitate.
Remove copper and noble metals.

Then neutralize, filter or let it evaporate.
The liquid should now be safe, but if you let it evaporate, add to the next section.
Dry the solids and it should be safe to discard as waste.

You may need to inform that it is special waste.
All depends of where you are in the world.

For a comprehensive thread regarding dealing with waste, check this thread from the GoldRefinigForum. It may be overkill here but still interesting.


How much pickle are you using and disposing of? If you are a large Manufacturer going through gallons and gallons you’ll have to worry bout it and should contact your state water quality folks to discuss how to deal with it.
If you are a one person shop it’s not an issue. We only change out our pickle once every 6 months or so if even that often.
Also copper will not harm the environment if it goes into the ground. After all that is where it comes from.
So just neutralize it, and pour it down the drain. Your local water treatment plant can handle it. Just don’t dump it into a wild stream.


When I replace the pickle I have been using I put it in a white plastic pail and dump in a box of baking soda. When that stops being active I dump it in a pit of crushed limestone I have in my driveway. I have never been overly worried about it. My production of pickle over the course of a year isn’t more than a gallon if that much.

Don Meixner


Of course the amount of pickle will determine your course of action.

I would stress that removing the copper is essential, since copper is very toxic to most things in nature.

Or you could dry/evaporate it out and dispose it as dried hazardous waste.


I’ve always wondered whether neutralizing - then choosing the outdoor stones or the drain. My decision is based on the weather !
Thanks for the info - but am still confused which is better?

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Timely. I recently ran into this blog post. Read through the comments, too. The author says she got this information from someone from the King County (WA) Hazardous Waste Management


Thank you for an incredible amount of info - so very helpful!

Please read the article from Shoebox Studio posted by sashacrow!!! Copper is extremely toxic to aquatic life! Baking soda does nothing to reduce the toxicity, and pouring it on the ground or down the drain is a terribly irresponsible thing to do. If you can’t be bothered to do the chemistry then your only choice is to take it to a hazardous waste disposal site.

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Good grief this is getting out of hand. You do not need to do the hazmat type disposal ritual the article from Washig\ngton state has you do. To neutralize an acid, just keep adding some baking soda depending on how much pickle a table spoon or 1/3 cup at a time. When it stops bubbling, and the baking soda no longer goes into solution but seems to settle to the bottom you have reached statis and will be neutralized to not be hazardous. Most of the land let me say that again, most of the land is alkaline side of the scale. This from working for years in a university chemistry lab with chromic and nitric acids. I wouldn’t drink the stuff afterwards, but it wouldn’t kill you if you did. As to the copper, it is trace element all life needs. Not mass quantities. It also depends on where you live. Here in Florida, we are extremely alkaline with lots of limestone and such as the only rocks you will find. Some other places not as much. Now to the system you would be draining it into. If it is a septic tank, it will settle to the bottom nd do no harm. If you are on a city sewage system, again it will in their leech fields be settled to the bottom into what is known as cake. Don’t eat that cake either. If you are just pouring it on the ground, what happens in Washington state would get it into the ground water much faster. Living in Arizona with their caliche layer, it will take years to get into ground water. By the time it has taken those years if not decades the copper would be crystalized into other things we in millenium would love to set. Think of all the blue stones. Copper is not your enemy. It is also very antibacterial. But if everyone dumped pickle into the ground near a water source in Washington state, yes I would be upset. Be smart. Neutralize it. If you live in a state near major water ways evaporate it and take a bag full of the dry stuff to a disposal unit. Remember know your environment and don’t panic.


Thank you very much. I live in Jersey, Channel Islands, and our waste disposal might not be as advanced as in other parts of the world… I’ll see what is the most logical way and less damaging to the environment. Thanks everyone again!

I’m a very small shop but I’m trying to do the tight thing. But I’ve learnt a lot from all the posts here. Thank you everyone.

Hello, all. I have a PhD in Biochemistry, I teach Biology and Chemistry with an environmental focus, and I agree 100% with what aggie.p says.


this was a good article about this subject:

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@aidadelaherran You sound like you’re very concerned about the environment. I am too and not to come off sounding like an a**hole, but I worked in the mining industry (gold/copper) for close to a decade; jewellery making is inherently bad for the environment, from the extraction of the metals from the earth, to the chemical extraction of the metal from the extracted rocks (no… gold and silver aren’t panned from the river bed in nice neat little lumps anymore); to the shipping of said metals usually in the form of concentrate for refining, usually at smelters hundreds and to thousand kilometres away from the extraction point (or even shipped overseas to China). Gold is usually extracted with cyanide or in flotation tanks as big as a tanker truck filled with chemicals and flocculant. Waste water is pumped out to holding or tailings ponds. Sometimes there are catastrophic dam failures or tailings line leaks. Fortunately heap leaching, where mass quantities of cyanide are dumped on to the ore to extract the metal is no longer in vogue. Not in Canada or the USA anyways. But where did all that cyanide go? Into the ground water. Just read up on the Giant Mine. I worked for an off shoot of that mining organization. Add some sparkly gemstones and you have even more environmental damage, not to mention fuelling conflict in certain areas of the world, meaning people are getting killed for the sparkly shiny things we make. Anyways, I could go on and on, but I won’t, I don’t want to be a buzz joy… Jewelry making is inherently toxic for the environment and dumping a little citric acid (natural, from the juice of lemons) once it’s neutralized is a pretty minor impact on the greater scheme of things. Hope that puts thing into perspective.

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Sadly, I agree.
It’s clear that neutralizing the pH is the easy part. I’m waiting to hear from our Chemistry lab manager at my college to find out how she disposes of copper sulfate. She follows federal guidelines; I’ll post what I learn.

I’m a hobbyist who is setting up my own studio in the near future, and I live in New York City. From everyone’s very helpful and knowledgeable comments, I’m hearing that as long as I neutralize the pickle with baking soda, I can pour it down the drain??

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Not a good plan. Still has suspended copper. Personally, I keep it for use in plating. Let it dry out and dispose as paint or other hazardous material. It lasts almost forever, just keep adding water or pH down.
Judy H

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I second what Judyh wrote. Please don’t just pour it down the drain.

once the pickle has been neutralized the only real component that is of concern is the copper. Now if you have a septic tank set up, it would be bad to have it go in there. Not that it can’t easily be remedied by adding a box of new bacteria that can be bought at a plumbers supply store, but just better to let the septic tank do what its best at. The copper actually kills all the bacteria in the septic tank which needs to be there to break everything down. Copper kills bacteria and even virus’s floating around in sewage. Now if you are hooked up to city sewer system, theirs is a bit different. There they use a different way to break down things, and want to destroy errant bacterias, and viruses. The sewer plant near us reported a couple weeks back they had found the mu varient of the covid crap. How they treated it was to add copper sulfate to the system. Which in essence us what pikle becomes. The sewer water here is then filtered many times, and used as grey water for lawns.

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