CHEMICAL WASTE MINIMIZATION PROGRESS


Environmental Health &Safety (EHS) is charged with the task of collecting and disposing of chemical waste. The following is a summary of efforts undertaken by Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) over the past 12 months to minimize the amount of chemical waste shipped offsite for disposal and associated expense.

Hazardous Waste Facility and Process Improvements
Disposal cost for chemical waste where individual containers are “bulked” is the most cost-efficient method. The biggest improvement in the waste facility is the new fume hood. This new hood is a walk-in type hood with both upper and lower moveable shields. It is also considerably larger than the old fume hood. It offers more protection for EHS staff so more types of chemical waste can be bulked than with the prior fume hood.

Another improvement made was the purchase of a HAZCAT kit. This kit has been helpful allowing EHS to characterize “unknown wastes,” rather than have the waste disposal vendor to identify it much more expensively. Thus far, EHS has used the HAZCAT kit 6 times and it has saved thousands of dollars. However, EHS is not able to identify all types of “unknown waste” so it is very important for laboratory personnel to maintain the identification of all chemicals and accurately label waste.



Another minor but significant change was the purchase of hand tools that allow bulking of some types of low pressure compressed liquid cylinder waste, rather than the much more expensive method of disposal in the cylinders.

Improving Monthly Clean Out Efficiencies
Another step EHS has taken is to reduce the time that our vendor spends on site each month to clean out the facility. EHS now does a better job of segregating and arranging them in different packaging groups per the Department of Transportation rules.

EHS is much more diligent in working with laboratory personnel to avoid large-scale laboratory cleanouts by the waste disposal vendor. This reduced our expenses by $10,000-$20,000 annually.


Controlling Disposal Costs - The Big Picture
Another challenge is that the quantity of chemical waste being disposed of has grown over the past few years. This is expected as the level of scientific research has grown. The following is a summary of the quantity of chemical waste disposed of from the University and the approximate cost of disposal: 
 
  Waste generated Disposal Costs
Year 2010 13.3 tons $92, 600
Year 2011 19.5 tons $118,000
Year 2012 to date (4 months) 3.6 tons $20,000

 

This indicates that EHS has been having success minimizing the amount of waste being shipped off site.

We Need Everyone’s Help
The disposal of chemical waste is a time consuming and costly function. We need everyone’s help in trying to reduce chemical waste across the campus. We urge everyone to carefully consider each chemical purchase and what will ultimately happen with the used chemical. Some chemicals are much more expensive to dispose of than to purchase. It is very important to be very prudent with purchases, inventory control, and maintaining accurate identification of chemicals throughout their use cycle.