SUBJECT: 82 Ways to Reduce Hazardous Waste in the Lab

82 Ways to Reduce Hazardous Waste in the Lab

1. Include waste reduction as part of student/employee training.

2. Use manuals such as the American Chemical Society (ACS) Less is Better" or "ACS Waste Management for Lab Personnel" as part of your laboratory preparation.

3. Centralize purchasing of chemicals through one person in the lab.

4. Inventory chemicals at least once a year.

5. Indicate in the inventory where chemicals are located.

6. Update inventory when chemicals are purchased or used up.

7. Purchase chemicals in smallest quantities needed.

8. If trying out a new procedure, try to obtain the chemicals needed from another lab or purchase a small amount initially. After you know you will be using more of this chemical, purchase in larger quantities (unless you can use some someone else doesn't need any more).

9. Date chemical containers when received so that older ones will be used first.

10. Audit your lab for waste generated (quantity, type, source and frequency). Audit forms are available from the Environmental Health and Safety Office.

11. Keep MSDS's for chemicals used on file.

12. Keep information about disposal procedures for chemical waste in your lab on file.

13. If possible, establish an area for central storage of chemicals.

14. Store chemicals in storage area except when in use.

15. Establish an area for storing chemical waste.

16. Minimize the amount of waste kept in storage. Request a chemical pickup as often as you need.

17. Label all chemical containers as to their content.

18. Develop procedures to prevent and/or contain chemical spills - purchase spill clean-up kits, contain areas where spills are likely.

19. Keep recyclable waste/excess chemicals separate from non-recycables.

20. Keep organic wastes separate from metal-containing or inorganic wastes.

21. Keep non-hazardous chemical wastes separate from hazardous waste.

22. Keep highly toxic wastes (cyanides, etc) separated from above.

23. Avoid experiments that produce wastes that contain both radioactive and hazardous chemical waste.

24. Keep chemical wastes separate from normal trash (paper, wood, etc.).

25. Use the least hazardous cleaning method for glassware. Use detergents such as Alconox, Micro, RBS35 on dirty equipment before using KOH/ethanol bath, acid bath or No Chromix.

26. Eliminate the use of chromic acid altogether.

27. Eliminate the use of uranium and thorium compounds (naturally radioactive).

28. Substitute red liquid (spirit-filled), digital, or thermocouple thermometers for mercury thermometers where possible.

29. Use a bimetal or stainless steel thermometer instead of mercury thermometer in heating and cooling units. Stainless steel lab thermometers may be an alternative to mercury in labs, as well.

30. Evaluate laboratory procedures to see if less hazardous or non-hazardous reagents could be used.

31. Review the use of highly toxic, reactive, carcinogenic or mutagenic materials to determine if safer alternatives are feasible.

32. Avoid the use of reagents containing: barium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver.

33. Consider the quantity and type of waste produced when purchasing new equipment.

34. Purchase equipment that enables the use of procedures that produce less waste.

35. Review your procedures regularly (e.g., annually) to see if quantities of chemicals and/or chemical waste could be reduced.

36. Look into the possibility of including detoxification and/or waste neutralization steps in laboratory experiments.

37. When preparing a new protocol, consider the kinds and amounts of waste products and see how they can be reduced or eliminated.

38. When researching a new or alternative procedure, include consideration of the amount of waste produced as a factor.

39. Examine your waste/excess chemicals to determine if there are other uses if your lab, neighboring labs, departments or areas (garage, paint shop) who might be able to use them.

40. When solvent is used for cleaning purposes, use spent solvent for initial cleaning and fresh solvent for final cleaning.

41. Try using detergent and hot water for cleaning of parts instead of solvents.

42. When cleaning substrates or other materials by dipping, process multiple items in one day.

43. Use smallest container possible for dipping or for holding photographic chemicals.

44. Use best geometry of substrate carriers to conserve chemicals.

45. Store and reuse developer in photo labs.

46. Neutralize corrosive wastes that don't contain metals at the lab bench.

47. Scale down experiments producing hazardous waste wherever possible.

48. In teaching labs, consider the use of microscale experiments.

49. In teaching labs, use demonstrations or video presentations as a substitute for some student experiments that generate chemical wastes.

50. Use pre-weighed or pre-measured reagent packets for introductory teaching labs where waste is high.

51. Include waste management as part of the pre- and post-laboratory written student experience.

52. Encourage orderly and tidy behavior in lab.

Use the following substitutions where possible:

53. Acetamide

  • Substitute: Stearic acid
  • Comments: In phase change and freezing point depression

54. Benzene

  • Substitute: Alcohol
  • Comments: None

55. Benzoyl peroxide

  • Substitute: Lauroyl peroxide
  • Comments: When used as a polymer

56. Chloroform

  • Substitute: 1, 1, 1 - trichloroethane
  • Comments: None

57. Carbon tetrachloride

  • Substitute: Cyclohexane
  • Comments: In test for halide ions

58. Carbon tetrachloride

  • Substitute: 1, 1, 1 - trichloroethane; 1, 1, 2 - trichlorotrifluoroethane
  • Comments: None

59. Formaldehyde

  • Substitute: Peracetic acid
  • Comments: In cleaning of kidney dialysis machines

60. Formaldehyde

  • Substitute: "TankGuard" , (EarthSafe Technologies)
  • Comments: For storage of biological specimens

61. Halogenated Solvents

  • Substitute: Non-halogenated Solvents
  • Comments: In parts washers or other solvent processes

62. Sodium dichromate

  • Substitute: Sodium hypochlorite
  • Comments: None

63. Sulfide ion

  • Substitute: Hydroxide ion
  • Comments: In analysis of heavy metals

64. Toluene

  • Substitute: Simple alcohols and ketones
  • Comments: None

65. Wood's metal

  • Substitute: Onion's Fusible alloy
  • Comments: None

66. Xylene

  • Substitute: Simple alcohols and ketones
  • Comments: None

67. Xylene or toluene based liquid scintillation cocktails

  • Substitute: Non-hazardous proprietary liquid scintillations cocktails
  • Comments: In radioactive tracer studies

68. Mercury salts

  • Substitute: Mercury-free catalysts (e.g., copper sulfate, titanium oxide, potassium sulfate)
  • Comments: Kjeldahl digests

69. Polymerize epoxy waste to a safe solid.

70. Consider using solid phase extractions for organics.

71. Put your hexane through the rotavap for reuse.

72. Destroy ethidium bromide using household bleach.

73. Run mini SDS-PAGE 2d gels instead of full-size slabs.

74. Seek alternatives to phenol extractions (eg. small scale plasmid prep using no phenol may be found in Biotechnica, Vol. 9, No. 6, pp. 676-678).

75. Use procedures to recover metallic mercury.

76. Review procedures to recover mercury from mercury containing solutions.

77. Recover silver from silver chloride residue waste.

78. Purchase compressed gas cylinders, including lecture bottles, only from manufacturers who will accept the empty cylinders back.

79. When testing experimental products for private companies, limit donations to the amount needed for research.

80. Return excess pesticides to the distributor.

81. Be wary of donations from outside the University. Accept chemicals only if you will use them within 12 months.

82. Send Environmental Health and Safety other suggestions for waste reduction.