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1.1 The Hutchinson Center's Hazardous Waste Minimization Program

The Environmental Health and Safety Department looks for opportunities to use less hazardous materials and reduce quantities of hazardous waste requiring off-site treatment. Specifically, the aims of this program are to:

Minimize Waste: Minimize production of hazardous wastes by:

  1. Substituting non-hazardous or less hazardous materials for more hazardous materials, and
  2. Reducing volumes of hazardous materials used.

Eliminate Waste: Eliminate as much hazardous chemical waste as possible by:

  1. Neutralizing and sewering acids and bases, and
  2. Recycling through redistribution.


By recycling, neutralizing, deactivating, and minimizing hazardous wastes at the Hutchinson Center, we significantly diminish our expenses and liabilities related to hazardous materials and protect the environment.

1.2 Minimization Resources

1.2.1 Chemical Redistribution Program

The Environmental Health and Safety Department maintains an inventory of chemicals that are no longer used by certain labs. Many of these chemicals come into EH&S possession when a lab leaves the center and it is not economically practical for the lab to transfer its hazardous materials to a new facility. Other chemicals are given to EH&S when labs change research procedures that result in a decrease or elimination of use. All chemicals are in original containers and generally unopened or in like-new condition. Chemicals available for redistribution are held for approximately one year before they are disposed. Labs at the Hutchinson Center may donate to or request chemicals from this inventory free of charge by viewing the current inventory.

1.2.2 Chemical Inventory System

Employees in need of small amounts of chemicals for one-time use are encouraged to share with another lab instead of purchasing new chemicals that may go unused and would eventually be disposed of as waste.

The EH&S department maintains an inventory of hazardous chemicals. This inventory can be used to identify users of a chemical that is needed. Employees should contact EH&S for assistance in identifying sources of chemicals in other labs.

1.2.3 Chemical Substitution

In some laboratory processes it may be possible to use alternative chemicals that are considered less hazardous. The Sewer Limit Table in Section 6 of this chapter indicates the concentrations at which certain chemicals are considered non-hazardous and safe for disposal in the sewer. Since these disposal concentrations are based on regulations that define hazardous wastes, the table may be used to identify the relative environmental hazards of comparable chemicals. For example, ethanol, when disposed of, is considered a hazardous waste at concentrations of 24% or more. By comparison, methanol, due to its increased toxicity, is considered a hazardous waste at concentrations of 10% or more. Therefore, ethanol is less hazardous than methanol and it may be a practical substitute in some applications.

Products advertised to be "non-hazardous" or "less hazardous" continue to come on the market. Labs are encouraged to periodically research new products that may be less hazardous alternatives for existing chemicals. Be aware that chemicals advertised as "non-hazardous" must either be listed in the Sewer Limit Table in Section 6, or otherwise approved by EH&S before disposal in the sewer.

Contact EH&S for assistance in identifying alternatives or evaluating the relative hazards of chemicals.

1.2.4 Chemical Substitution - Scintillation Cocktails

Refer to Section 10.3.3 for more information on substituting non-hazardous scintillation cocktails.

1.2.5 Chemical Substitution - Phenol/Chloroform

Techniques are available for isolation and purification of DNA that do not use phenol-chloroform extraction. Promega Wizard Preps and Stratagene Lambda DNA Purification kits are two possible alternatives to traditional phenol-chloroform extraction methods.

1.2.6 Chemical Substitution - Mercury

Laboratories are strongly encouraged to discontinue the use of mercury thermometers. When mercury thermometers break, they pose an exposure risk to employees, and clean up and disposal costs are significant. Non-mercury alternatives are available for most applications, including NIST calibrated thermometers. Contact EH&S for assistance in identifying a mercury-free alternative. Refer to Section 4.7 for mercury thermometer disposal instructions.

1.2.7 Recycling Programs

The Environmental Health and Safety Department recycles several hazardous and non-hazardous materials including toner cartridges, batteries, lead, and silver. For more information on these programs, please refer to Section 4.8.

The Facilities Engineering/Environmental Services Department manages the solid waste recycling program for materials such as paper, bottles, cans, and cardboard. For more information on this program, refer to the Facilities Engineering website.

1.2.8 Neutralization and Deactivation

Corrosive chemicals such as acids and bases are considered hazardous wastes when disposed. However, some chemicals may be neutralized in the laboratory and safely disposed of in the sewer. When neutralized in the laboratory at the point of waste generation, the neutralized solution is not considered a hazardous waste and therefore reduces disposal costs. Section 2 and Section 3 of this chapter describe procedures for neutralizing select chemicals.

1.3 Suggestions

If you would like to share ideas or successes in reducing waste in laboratories, please call EH&S or e-mail EH&S.