The Ohio State University is committed to the protection of human health and the environment. As such, the University strongly encourages faculty, staff, and students to utilize the various chemical minimization methods to reduce the quantity and toxicity of chemical wastes generated on campus. An important benefit of waste minimization is that it should reduce the ever increasing disposal costs, especially with the current and anticipated changes to state and federal regulations. There are a number of waste minimization methods that can be implemented, which include the following:
Chemical wastes can be reduced substantially by substituting non-hazardous or less toxic materials in chemical processes or experiments. A simple substitution would be the use of water based solutions in place of solvent based ones. Another practice would be the use of non-halogenated solvent such as ethanol in place of halogenated ones like trichloroethylene or chloroform in an experiment or process.
Experimental or standard work practices can be modified to decrease the quantity of hazardous chemicals that are utilized or generated. Micro-analytical techniques can be used to greatly reduce the amount of generated wastes. An example of this method would be the use of a micro rather than a macro Kjeldahl apparatus to analyze for nitrogen, which would greatly minimize the quantity of selenium and mercury wastes associated with this analytical method.
Segregation and Characterization
Segregation and characterization are processes that allow chemical wastes to be redistributed for re-use within the University. If such chemicals can’t be redistributed, these processes help to simplify waste treatment and reduce costs. These two processes are critical, because they reduce the mixing of non-hazardous waste that would ultimately require disposal as a hazardous material. Lastly, the accurate labeling of the contents and quantities is extremely helpful in determining the usefulness of chemicals.
The redistribution of usable or surplus chemicals affords major savings to the University, due to the high costs associated with disposal that can be more expensive than the cost of new materials. See the Chemical Redistribution page in this site (menu to the left).
Neutralization and Deactivation
Some simple and pure chemical waste streams, such as dilute acids or bases can be rendered non-hazardous by neutralization. Also, some dilute aqueous wastes containing metal can easily be precipitated, which facilitates disposal. However, it would be prudent to check with the EH and S to ensure that such methods are acceptable and safe from a regulatory stance.
Operation and Management
The proper management of chemicals begins with the purchase of only a sufficient amount of materials required for specific projects or tasks. It has been determined that nearly 40% of all disposed chemicals are unopened or unused containers. Chemical usage should be audited at least annually or more often to ensure that the inventory is current to minimize the over purchase of chemicals that might go un-used. Standardization of methods is beneficial to decrease the amount of generated waste. Chemicals should be properly stored to avoid breakage and possible cross contamination. Written standard operating procedures (SOP’s) can substantially reduce waste generation by avoiding spills, cross contamination, improper storage, and inefficiencies associated with project start up and shut down.
It is important that employees receive training in waste minimization techniques and hazardous material handling procedures. Staff should be familiar with and be required to follow protocols associated with their operation. Periodically, all work practices and protocols should be reviewed with staff to ensure they understand and that they are being followed.