Did you know that UIC research labs threw away about 70,000 pounds of hazardous waste each year and that the laboratories consume over 5 times the energy as a typical house? Don’t get bummed, because there are many ways to make your research lab more sustainable!
Take the UIC Green Labs Challenge
By participating in the Green Labs Challenge your laboratory is making a valuable contribution not only to helping UIC become a more sustainable university, but also to creating a healthier environment for yourself and your communities. You will be competing against other labs in your department. The Green Labs Challenge is organized as a checklist. Each Focus Area has a series of initiatives that earn points. As you complete more initiatives, you gain more points and can achieve greater Green Levels. Of course, some initiatives may not apply to your lab. Don’t worry, it won’t count against you. If you currently do an item, check off the box and you’ll get points! If you don’t already do an item, you have a few weeks to accomplish the item and then you can check off the box to get even more points! May the greenest lab win!
Donate/ receive chemicals at the chemical redistribution store
By reusing chemicals, you are helping keep thousands of pounds of hazardous waste out of the landfills and incinerator. Most times, chemicals are purchased in bulk, without thought, and laboratories soon realize they have no need for the chemical and end up throwing them away. All useable chemicals (typically unopened and unused) should be taken to the UIC Research Resource Center’s Scientific Supply Center (SSC) in room A-305 of the College of Medicine West Tower (CMWT) located at 835 S. Wolcott Ave. Please take the time to include as much information about the chemical as possible on this donation form.
Recycle hazardous solvents
UIC uses about 2000 liters of xylene each year. All of which, if not recycled, gets disposed of as hazardous waste, contributing to toxic
air pollution. However, UIC Environmental Health and Safety Office has created the Xylene Recycling Program to eliminate most of the waste. Waste xylene is collected by the labs, transported to EHSO, and reclaimed using a 5-gallon, state-of-the-art fractional distillation column. The resulting product is over 99.5% pure xylene- more pure than what you can purchase in the store! EHSO has performed independent GC and NMR analysis to confirm , which can be viewed here: GC and NMR for Xylene. To obtain reclaimed xylene, at HALF the price, simply pick up a gallon at the RRC Scientific Supply Center store.
Neutralize hazardous chemicals
Some chemicals can be neutralized into non-hazardous components before disposal inorder to eliminate unnecessary hazardous waste incineration pollution. Check the EHSO website for complete details about neutralizing chemicals. Also, check out these quick guides for more information.
- Formaldehyde neutralization can be found here: Formalin Disposal at UIC
- Acid/ Base neutralization information can be found on page 53 of the EHSO Lab Safety Plan.
- Ethidium Bromide neutralization can be found here: EtBr Disposal at UIC. Please note that alternatives to ethidium bromide is STRONGLY encouraged as that chemical is a well-documented carcinogen and use should be avoided at all costs.
Recycle pipette tip boxes and certain chemical bottles
Pipette Tip Boxes
When labs need to dispose pipette tip boxes, lids, and refillable trays that they can no longer reuse, you can simply place into the “Pipette Tip Box” recycling bin, located on each floor of buildings with laboratories that use pipettes. When the bags are 75% full, staff will take the bags to the loading dock, alongside the other bags full of bottles and cans. Every week, UIC Transportation will pick up both the bottles and cans and the pipette tip boxes and take to Loop Recycling where they will be processed and sold to other plastic recyclers who will melt the plastic and sell the plastic pellets to be later remolded into new plastic materials.
Only #5 type polypropylene plastic from clean, uncontaminated pipette tip boxes, lids, and refillable trays will be accepted. No other lab plastic is accepted in these bins. UIC cannot accept pipette tips because they have the potential to puncture and tear open the bags, but more importantly, there is no guarantee that the tips are clean. By their nature, boxes, lids, and trays are used to store clean plastic (like the tips) so they are inherently clean. Tips, on the other hand, are designed to contain chemicals and biological agents, and should be regarded as trash, or sometimes biohazardous waste. Even if the tips have never been used, they are still treated as trash. If a bag is found to have pipette tips or any other types of lab plastic (e.g. chemical bottles, centrifuge tubes, etc), the entire bag becomes trash.
For more information, see the list of accepted materials in the UIC recycling program.
Chemical bottles may be recycled along with other glass/metal/plastic as long as it meets the following criteria:
- the bottle is empty (nothing will drip when inverted) Do NOT allow voltile liquids to evaporate in the fume hood as a method of disposal!
- the bottle is capless (unsealed/ opened)
- label is defaced (name of chemical is scratched out with a marker)
- the bottle used to contain non-hazardous materials (examples include media, buffer solutions, etc.)
Never recycle a bottle that used to contain flammable*, toxic, oxidizing, explosive, radioactive, water reactive, carcinogenic, biohazardous, or corrosive substances.
Please see the EHSO Lab Safety Plan how to identify a hazardous chemical and dispose of hazardous chemical bottles according to the Lab Safety Plan.*the only acceptable bottle to recycle that contained a flammable substance is ethanol.
Donate/ receive lab supplies at the LabShare Store
The Office of Sustainability has recently started to collect lab supplies from labs that no longer need them. Please come see our inventory at the Office of Sustainability LabShare store, room 150 Paulina Street Building, 1140 S. Paulina St. The store is accessible when staff are present in the office. Please call ahead to confirm 312-413-9816.