Did you know that UIC research labs throw 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!
Click on the links below to learn more.
- Green Labs Challenge
- Energy Reduction
- ULT Freezer Program
- Recycle Nitrile Gloves
- Purchase Sustainable Lab Supplies
- Check out the Chemical Redistribution Store
- Mercury Free UIC
- Recycle Hazardous Solvents
- Neutralize Hazardous Chemicals
- Recycle Pipette Tip Boxes and Chemical Bottles
- Check out the LabShare Store
- Join the Green Labs Committee
- Other ways to be green in the lab
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 environmentfor 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!
The Office of Sustainability will be choosing a winner monthly and we will awards prizes to the lab with the highest “green” score every month! You can submit your challenge every month and will be eligible to win again if your green score increases!
May the greenest lab win!
Here’s simple ways to reduce energy usage in your lab:
- Shut down your computer and turn off your monitor (unless, of course, departmental policy forbids it) See more at http://accc.uic.edu/policy/conservation
Unplug all electronics, even when not in use.
Examples are desktop printers, cell phone chargers, fax machines, and laboratory equipment that are always in a “high-power” state even when they are not needed. If they are connected to a power strip, shut that off as well because many electronic devices can still draw power even when they are not in use and turned “off”.
1) Refrigerated centrifuges if left on will keep the chamber cold. The best alternative is turn off the centrifuge and keep the rotor in the refrigerator. As many rotors have working lives, this also helps with rotor management
2) Some/most PCR cyclers keep the samples refrigerated at the end of their cycling routine, and researchers may leave their samples there for long periods instead of storing them and turning off the cycler.
3) Many drying ovens are left on either empty or with forgotten samplers. Scheduling a clean-out of mystery samples at each Equinox and posting that on the oven can be a good practice.
4) Furnaces will last a lot longer (chemistry, physics, clean rooms) if they are powered off or to a stand-by temperature, and they save a lot of juice.
5) Water baths, heat blocks, incubators, and vacuum pumps, Laminar flow hoods.
6) Lyophilizers can be turned off if unused for several days (vacuum and refrigeration)
7) Gas chromatographs with ovens and detectors that equilibrate quickly may be turned off without damaging the detector, and also saving carrier and flame gases (e.g. Flame Ionization or Photo Ionization)
8) Glove Boxes: The cold trap vacuum pump may be turned off when not in use.
9) Chilling-up your ultra-low freezer can save the energy of a standard freezer. There is no research showing that -80 is better than -70, and it was driven by the industry. If a building has good emergency power for freezers, there is little rationale for ULT’s at -80.
10) Move DNA extracts to -20 and save 80-90% of the energy. Most scientists keep DNA at this temperature, or even in the refrigerator. DNA is a tough polymer.
- Check the break rooms to make sure that the coffee maker or any small electronics, even the microwave if possible, are unplugged.
- If your office has blinds or curtains, lower them. This will help to maintain the building’s temperature, and reduce energy used by the building’s HVAC system.
- Make sure that the last person leaving the building has turned all of the lights in the common areas off, where applicable.
Our goal is to make UIC labs more energy efficient without costing researchers an arm and a leg. We would like everyone to buy the most energy efficient model possible and, along with the Illinois Department of Commerce of Economic Opportunity, UIC is currently investigating incentive programs that we can offer to researchers. Whether you are purchasing a new freezer for your new lab, or trying to replace your old freezer, UIC wants to help you buy the most energy efficient model possible.If you are interested in information about rebate and incentive programs for energy efficient freezer, please fill out our survey about Ultra-Low Temperature Freezers (You will be directed to a Qualtrics survey). If you already filled out the survey in the Spring of 2016, please just fill out your name, email and departmental information
Recycle Kimberly Clark Nitrile Gloves
Kimberly Clark is taking the extra step to make sure their products such as nitrile gloves are properly disposed of at the end of their life. If you use Kimberly Clark nitrile gloves and they are non-hazardous, you can place them in a special recycling bin and take the full recycling box to the designated nitrile glove recycling holding area in your building.
It’s easy as 1, 2, 3!
- -Use Kimberly-Clark nitrile gloves. These can be purchased at RRC or MBRB Stockroom or directly with Fisher Scientific.
- -Collect used, non-contaminated gloves in your lab. You can use any disposable box to collect the gloves- like the cardboard box that the gloves came in originally. Make sure to place the box in an area where all lab members are aware of the recycling and place the designated nitrile glove recycling poster in the designated collection point. You can download and print the nitrile glove recycling sign here: Right Cycle Gloves Poster.
- -RightCycle (Recycle) your gloves! Take your collected gloves to either COMRB 1157 or MBRB 1317. Materials are -integrated into new, eco-friendly products like park benches and chairs!
Nitrile Glove Recycling FAQ’s:
Q: Why only Kimberly-Clark Gloves?
The gloves are being up-cycled (reused) and being sold in the raw materials market for products like park benches, trash cans etc. Raw materials must come from a known formulation of gloves. Each glove manufacturer has their own proprietary glove formulation so the program cannot accept other brands within the recycling program.
Q: Can I recycle other materials like latex and blended gloves?
No. Right now, only nitrile is accepted.
Q: Will you accept bio hazardous soiled gloves?
No. If you are throwing your gloves into landfill, we will take glove that would otherwise go to landfill only. If you are working with bio-hazardous materials, the glove should be disposed of in the proper biohazard bin with the appropriate biohazard sign. See the EHSO lab waste disposal guide regarding proper biohazard disposal.
Q: Why can I only recycle gloves in certain buildings?
Right now, we are still testing this program and have begun with 2 of the largest research buildings on campus. If your lab is located in any other building, please contact us and let us know that you are interested in the Nitrile Glove Recycling Program to come to your building.
Purchase sustainable lab supplies
How do you know if the plastics, like pipette tips or centrifuge tubes are sustainable? Is there a way to tell if some company’s plastics are less toxic to you, your research, and the environment? Check out the April 2014 Green Labs Committee Meeting to find out more!
(this company can help you choose sustainable lab products!)
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.
Mercury is a significant environmental and health toxin. Mercury spills pose clean up problems ranging from tiny mercury beads hiding in crevices to the odorless and colorless toxic gas produced.
For the Fall and Spring semesters until May 8th 2015 ,the Environmental Health and Safety Office will pick up and dispose your mercury instruments at no cost to you or your department. Mercury spills and disposal can reach costs as high as $9,000. Switching to non-mercury instruments is sensible from a financial and safety standpoint.
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.
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.
Come shopping! Our inventory is updated constantly, so come over and check out what we have!
Click here for the current UIC LabShare Store inventory as of summer 2016. This will open a google sheet and anyone with a uic.edu email address can log in an view it.
Thank you for donating to the UIC LabShare program. We can take usable laboratory supplies such as glassware, disposable items, and equipment. Please note that we cannot accept any broken items, equipment with “PTags” or hazardous items. Broken lab glass must be sent to the landfill, PTag items should be processed through UIC Property Accounting, and hazardous waste should be disposed of through the Environmental Health and Safety Office*.
*See the UIC Environmental Health and Safety Office guideline for Biohazard Waste Disposal for disposing broken laboratory glass (Yes, even non-biohazardous materials are referenced here.)
Some items we are featuring:
The UIC Green Labs Committee is open to anyone that wants to make their research lab more sustainable- from undergraduate students to professors to building operations managers.
ech2o™ Collection and Recycling Program