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Home No. 85: What belongs in your lab’s trash bin?

Aug 08

No. 85: What belongs in your lab’s trash bin?

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What belongs in your lab’s trash bin?

Reader question: : My university’s methods of waste disposal are ridiculous. We throw away mounds of plastic containers each week and store excess chemicals no one needs for months on end. I want to make a change, at least in my lab, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Which lab materials can I recycle, and how should I go about it?

Expert comments:

Stanford University operated a Surplus Chemical Exchange for researchers to both donate and receive unneeded and unopened chemicals. For more info, see http://freechemicals.stanford.edu.

The program had substantial success, but it also requires a lot of work. Administrators must stay on top of the inventory, purge chemicals that never get reused, promote the program, and monitor the condition of the containers. The university houses chemicals in a shed equipped with fire suppression and power but no climate control. The lack of climate control, especially humidity, is an issue.

Lab containers are part of the university’s regular bottle, plastics, and can recycling program. Chemical containers must be empty (no pourable or easily removable residue). But employees do not rinse containers because they cannot discard rinsate to the wastewater treatment facility.

The recycling program does not accept any chemical containers that previously held corrosive or flammable materials, unless the containers are completely empty and dry. No containers previously holding water- or air-reactive materials are accepted. Also, any containers previously used for Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or any other highly toxic materials are not accepted.

Expert comments by Craig Barney, Manager of the Environmental Protection Programsat Stanford University in California.

Comments (1)
written by Gold Standard, August 15, 2011
Yes, it seems superficially appealing to "recycle" chemicals, etc. But how well do you really know the history and environmental journey of these "trash basket" items. Their storage conditions before they even got to the "clearinghouse Master Trash Bin". Honestly, when millions of dollars are at stake in the research for which you are funded, isn't it penny wise and pound foolish to be rooting through leftover or castaway materials and compounds of uncertain provenance? Maybe a desparate predoc or even postdoc with no budget could be excused for a pilot experiment to get preliminary data, , but otherwise why introduce another potential source of devastating error? Toss the crap out!

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