Waste Minimization

Waste Minimization is reduction in the quantity of hazardous wastes achieved through a conscientious application of innovative or alternative procedures. Simple adjustments to a process producing wastes (e.g. a teaching lab experiment, a vehicle cleaning operation, etc.) may be the only requirement to achieve some results. However, looking at the broader picture in the University environment, it is often difficult to recognize waste reductions due to the complex and changing growth patterns within the campus community. Reductions are often offset by increased staff and student growth and/or building construction.

Waste minimization often results in cost minimization. However, it is not uncommon to devise techniques to minimize costs without a corresponding reduction in waste quantities. For example, proper segregation of wastes will reduce disposal fees but only because these quantities are reassigned to more appropriate waste streams for cost effective disposal/treatment off site. While this is not technically waste minimization, it is still a beneficial process.

Waste Minimization Suggestions

  • Substitute less hazardous chemicals or ingredients for ones you are using now.
    Green Alternatives Wizard logoGreen Alternatives Wizard - This is an MIT-developed tool made possible by an EPA People, Planet, and Prosperity grant.This database provides information on alternatives to hazardous chemicals or processes (i.e. substitute SYBR Safe, GelRed, GelGreen instead of Ethidium Bromide (a known mutagen).
  • Subsitute alcohol thermometers for mercury thermometers.  Contact EH&S for information on the no cost exchange program.
  • Borrow a chemical from a colleague to conduct an investigative research trial.  Contact EH&S to find out what other labs on campus might have the chemicals you need to borrow. 
  • Test your ideas on the smallest scale practical to minimize disposal costs.   
  • Keep your wastes segregated by compatibility and type; avoid cross contamination as much as possible. 
  • Avoid mixing hazardous and non-hazardous wastes; avoid contaminating glassware.
  • Rotate chemical stock to keep chemicals from becoming outdated.
  • Order smallest container of material necessary for use.
  • Review experimental protocol to assure that chemical usage is minimized.
  • Take care when weighing and transferring chemicals in order to minimize spills and additional wastes generated during spill clean up.
  • Neutralize hazardous by-products as the final step of an experiment (Contact EH&S 459-4840 to write a benchtop neutralization procedure as required by regulations).
  • Practice good housekeeping.
  • Distill and reuse solvents.

Start your waste minimization thought process by following the proper campus hazardous waste procedures.

  • Keep an up-to-date chemical inventory in the Chemical Inventory System (CIS).
  • Review your inventory periodically to remove unwanted or unusable chemical stocks.  
  • Manage peroxide formers and dispose of them by their expiration date. 
  • Only purchase gas cylinders from manufactures who will accept the return of the partially used or empty cylinders.
  • Ensure proper identification is on all chemical containers.   
  • Attach a properly completed hazardous waste tag to each chemical waste container.   
  • Submit the container for pickup through the WASTe Program.   
  • Contact the Hazardous Waste Manager (459-3086) if you have any specific questions or need help with your project.