Waste Wise by Christopher Pettinato and Rebecca Lonergan 
If you have spent any time working in a laboratory at Columbia University, the emphasis placed on proper waste collection practices is hard to miss.  Whether it is information highlighted in training or during one of EH&S’s routine laboratory safety surveys, a document posted in your lab or on the EH&S website, or a reminder delivered as an automated response to an online waste pick-up service request, guidance information designed to aid laboratory personnel in making the proper waste determination abounds at Columbia. 

The foundation of laboratory waste collection begins with an understanding that each laboratory waste has a designated receptacle and each laboratory should have the appropriate complement of receptacles needed to properly and safely collect and store the specific wastes generated by that laboratory.  Columbia University generates more than 300,000 pounds of chemical waste and 500,000 pounds of regulated medical waste each year, not to mention the tons of laboratory plastic, metal and glassware that are sent for recycling each year.  As you might imagine, waste that is improperly placed in the wrong container could present serious safety and compliance issues for individuals and the University. 

Recently, numerous uncapped syringes were found by EH&S in a cardboard bin used to collect clean, broken laboratory glassware destined for recycling.  This was an egregious error in judgment that placed numerous others at risk for a needle stick injury.  Fortunately, and only by chance, EH&S was able to intercept this container before it was collected by the NYC Department of Sanitation for recycling.  It is undetermined if this error was due to a lack of knowledge or carelessness, but it has prompted a change in practice for these containers.  Effective December 2011, laboratory glass disposal boxes prepared by laboratories for handling and recycling by custodial services at Morningside must be labeled with the new, standardize label depicted below.  Labels will be applied at the Chandler Chemical Store Room or the CEPSR Biological Stock Room when boxes are issued to laboratories.  If laboratories obtain these boxes from other sources, labels can be obtained from EH&S.  Boxes will not be accepted by custodial services unless properly labeled. 
The Laboratory Disposal Guide insert included in this edition of SafetyMatters provides guidance on proper laboratory waste handling procedures.  Please review and ensure that your laboratory is set-up to properly and safely collect its waste.  Feel free to post the insert in your laboratory.  Additional copies can be obtained from EH&S.

Glass Disposal Glass Recycle


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