IUPUI Remains Committed to Reducing Impact by the
Campus on the Surrounding Environment
It goes without saying that IUPUI has the potential of having a large negative impact on the surrounding community. Tons of waste are generated on campus every week – ranging from food and beverage containers, to paper, landscaping and a wide range of chemical wastes. As example, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety collected and managed the disposal of in excess of one quarter of a million (250,000) pounds of chemical wastes last year alone.
In an effort to reduce the potential negative impact on our community, the campus has developed and adopted a Waste Minimization and Pollution Prevention Policy. The policy was first formally adopted on a campus-wide basis in 1997. It was recently revised and is in the process of being readopted as a campus sustainability policy.
The policy asks all campus personnel to evaluate opportunities to reduce the volume and overall hazard of those wastes which must be produced by using the following hierarchy of waste management practices:
- Prevention through source elimination or reduction
- Product reuse
- Environmentally-sound recycling
- Environmentally-sound treatment
- Environmentally-sound disposal
The following waste minimization opportunities/examples are specifically discussed in the policy for laboratory locations:
- Periodically review each experimental or research protocol to assure that chemical usage is minimized.
- Reclaim and reuse materials when feasible (e.g., utilizing spent solvent for initial gross cleaning step and utilizing fresh solvent only for the final rinse).
- Reduce chemical usage in experimentation through the use of microscale techniques whenever practical.
- Utilize less toxic alternatives. As example, switch from ethidium bromide to SyberGreen™ or other similar products.
- Utilize water-soluble, biodegradable scintillation fluids in place of solvent-based products.
- Utilize specialty, biodegradable glass cleaning detergents in place of sulfuric acid/chromic acid cleaners.
- Utilize specimens preserved in less toxic preservatives in place of those preserved in formaldehyde-based preservatives where feasible.
- Avoid wet chemistry techniques when practical.
- Neutralize corrosive wastes as a final step of an experiment or procedure.
- Avoid mixing hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.
The following two situations recently came to light which illustrate opportunities where the policy can and should be implemented.
- Chromerge is periodically referred to EHS for disposal. Chromerge is a brand-name glassware cleaning product comprised of concentrated sulfuric and chromium trioxide. There are several other similar products on the market similar to Chromerge. Chromium trioxide is highly toxic, a strong corrosive, a potential carcinogenic and presents a significant threat to the environment. Sulfuric/chromic acid cleaning solutions have been the product-of-choice for years when it came to removing organic residue from glassware. Fortunately, newer generations of labware cleaners offer a safer, more environmentally responsible alternative.
- A recent posting on a safety list serve focused on the explosion hazard created by a mixture of methanol and concentrated nitric acid commonly also used in the university/research environment as a cleaning solution. Again, it appears that equally effective alternatives are available which are much safer to use and handle.
Look for additional on the Waste Minimization and Pollution Prevention Policy in future editions of Labnotes as the policy is formally adopted by campus administration. In the meantime, it is never too early to begin the process of evaluating your current laboratory operations for waste minimization opportunities.