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Reducing, Reusing and Recycling Solid Waste

Photo: Recycling containers Photo: Computer Monitors Photo: Students moving wood

Re-use disposable plastic and glass items

Photo: Resuseable MaterialsProblem: The majority of experiments in laboratories use some type of plastic or glassware. Whether it be plastic disposable test tubes or glass pipettes, it is unreasonable to throw them away if they are still useable.

Solution: Whenever possible take advantage of hand washing, solvent rinsing, or autoclaving to clean and reuse plastic and glassware. See our Green Washing techniques. If contamination issues are of vital importance in your laboratory try to find a lab that has less stringent requirements to reuse your plastic and glassware.

Benefits: In a world of increased oil prices and decreased supply plastics are going to become more and more difficult to come by. By reusing as much as possible we are allowing future generations to continue our way of life.
Cost: Hand washing, solvent rinsing, and autoclaving all require time and resources.

Setup recycling bins for plastic, glass, and metal

Photo: Resuseable Materials BinsProblem: Laboratories produce a large portion of the solid waste on campuses and the University of California has committed to divert 75% of their waste by 2012 and go zero waste by 2020. For more information on this commitment check out the UC Policy on Sustainable Practices. At this time reagent bottles are not recyclable.

Solution: Setting up recycling bins in the lab for commonly used items can divert useable materials from being dumped in landfills. Unless you are in Bren or Ellison Hall, lab occupants or other volunteers must bring these items to the recycling stations outside your building a minimum of every other day. This will prevent rodents and other pests and will help us reduce the use of more dangerous methods of pest control. Make sure the bins are clearly marked and visible. Please remove bottle tops. Be sure items are rinsed to further avoid pests.
Benefits: In 2006, UCSB diverted over 1000 tons of mixed recyclables and clean metal from going to the landfill.
Cost: Recycling bins take up space and can be time consuming having to take out more than just one bin.

No page left blank: Collect clean one-sided paper

Photo: Blank PaperProblem: From spreadsheets to drafts graphs and reports, labs can end up printing hundreds of pages per day. Many of these pages are used for a couple of days and then thrown out with one side unused.

Solution: Use double-sided printers if available, or collect single-sided paper in departmental office, your own office, and at copier stations in your building. When purging file cabinets this is an excellent opportunity to stockpile reusable paper. If you stack it neatly, others will likely remove the staples. Invite others to use it and keep it neat.
Benefits: Most printers handle pre-printed paper effortlessly and the paper is free. Also each page reused saves 0.2 liters of water.
Cost: There will be an occasional paper jam due to folds or tears and you should remember to never include confidential documents in the paper re-use pile.
More information on paper reduction. See the best estimates of your resource savings.

Put corrugated cardboard in hallway after collapsing

Photo: CardboardProblem: Almost everything you buy comes in a box, sometimes two nested boxes. They may be thrown in with regular trash while they are readily recyclable or reusable.

Solution: UCSB has green recycling dumpsters for cardboard that are located behind each building. Cardboard is picked up by custodians who throw it in the recycling dumpster.
Benefits: At UCSB over 95 tons of cardboard was diverted from being sent to landfill in 2006 alone.
Cost: There is little labor impact on this practice because we have a good system of dumpsters. Keeping a box razor handy will make it easy for you to collapse the boxes.

Collect boxes before you move your lab or home

Photo: Cardboard BoxesProblem: Moving day can be a hassle, especially without lots of boxes. New boxes can run you up to $5 dollars each.

Solution: Many laboratories leave their unwanted boxes in hallways for custodial staff to pick up. Take a walk around your building and see if anyone has left any useable boxes. If not there are green cardboard recycling dumpsters behind every building on campus, and the store rooms empty dozens of boxes every day. Check their loading docks and ask them to not collapse them for you.
Benefits: Each box you don’t have to buy saves you money and every ton of cardboard left unmade can save 17 trees. See the best estimates of your impact.
Cost: The time searching out free boxes can be about the same as purchasing them. You save purchase price of boxes ($50-100).

Return moving company boxes for $1 rebate

Photo: Cardboard BoxesProblem: UCSB often hires moving companies to shuttle your department across campus and they sell us boxes for $2 each. Even though they will buy them back for $1 each, many of them get thrown out or recycled.

Solution: Be sure to collect these branded boxes in central locations. Publicize their value.
Benefits: 20 boxes returned equal $20 dollars back. Spend the money on a pizza party to entice help for setting up your lab, office or home with all of the things that you used the boxes for in the first place.
Cost: Minor inconvenience and then it’s all savings!

Return Styrofoam peanuts to storeroom or shipping store

Photo: Styrofoam peanutsProblem: Styrofoam peanuts are made out of polystyrene that is synthesized from petroleum. This process results in an aromatic polymer that does not decompose easily.

Solution: Return the Styrofoam peanuts to one of the campus store rooms or shipping store so that they can be reused. If you call Mail Services (805) 893-5778 in advance, you can also ask them to pick up the peanuts when you they drop of the mail.
Benefits: Styrofoam has been known to cause starvation in birds and marine life and according to the California Coastal Commission is a principle source of debris on the beach.
Cost: Some inconvenience to bag up the peanuts and take them to your store room. Some places will not accept used Styrofoam.

Recycle unusable metal equipment and furniture

Problem: There are leftover large metal pieces from old construction projects crowding your lab; old metal furniture may have reached the end of its life.

Solution: On your way home, stop by central stores and drop off your metal for free in the metal collection dumpster.
Benefits: In 2006, UCSB diverted over 200 tons of clean metal from going to the landfill. Finally all that excess metal won’t be crowding your labs and hallways.
Cost: Central stores is not located in the center of campus so it would take a drive to take large metal pieces there. Hiring movers from Central Stores can be expensive, so recruit some volunteers and a departmental pick-up truck.

If you are constructing apparatus, reuse scrap material

Problem: Constructing new apparatus can consume an excess of resources when using only new materials. You may only need a partial sheet of plywood, plexiglass or insulation.

Solution: Departmental shops collect materials that are leftover from previous projects. Take a look and see if any of the leftover materials can be used in your project. Always ask before taking; there may be a small charge for some materials.
Benefits: Scrap metal costs very little (if anything) compared to new materials and can save time cutting away excess materials from standard size pieces.
Cost: A minimal amount of time spent looking through departmental shops. You may save a trip to town or ordering materials.

Contribute materials to your departmental shop (no junk!)

Problem: You may have materials left over after a construction project but are not ready to throw them out.

Solution: Donate unused materials to your departmental shop so that others do not have to buy new materials as often. When bequeathing extra materials make sure the shop supervisor wants them.
Benefits: You can save other labs money and time looking for resources and through your example others will start contributing their materials. You will build good will with the shop supervisor. Sooner or later you might find something in the inventory that can save you time and money.
Cost: The time it takes to walk from your lab to the closest shop.

Setup a Battery Collection Bin

Photo: Bucket of BatteriesProblem: All batteries are considered hazardous waste in California when they are discarded. This includes all batteries of sizes AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9 Volt, and all other batteries, both rechargeable and single use. All batteries must be recycled, or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler (e.g., storage facility or broker), or an authorized recycling facility.

Solution: Make it easy for lab staff to dispose of batteries legally and safely by setting up an easily visible collection bin for used batteries. Then empty the bin in one of the many E-Waste collection bins on campus. For a map of locations for E-Waste visit http://www.as.ucsb.edu/asr/wintertechno2007.htm.
Benefits: Batteries thrown in the trash can end up in landfills. Overtime these batteries will decompose releasing harmful toxins and heavy metals into the ground which can seep into local groundwater.
Cost: Another bin takes up space and needs to be emptied regularly which takes time.

Salvage expensive fixtures long before demolition starts

Photo: Bucket of BatteriesProblem: During demolition of existing labs there is a lot of usable fixtures, furniture, cabinets and even plumbing that gets thrown out.

Solution: Search out salvage yards or vendors that will accept and recover used fixtures, etc. Arrange for in-house deconstruction and storage of cabinets. This is a relatively untapped frontier of sustainability.
Benefits: Many tons of waste may be diverted from the landfill, deconstruction and reconstruction costs may be reduced, and the greenhouse gas impact of manufacturing will be avoided.
Cost: This is a big undertaking, but with the right salvage company could make money instead of cost money. Some safety regulations may need navigation, such as salvaging expensive and dirty glass plumbing, which cleans up very nicely, for example.