A Sustainability Studio (ENVIR 480) project focused on the solid waste stream in laboratories across the UW campus, to capitalize on opportunities to reduce waste, increase recycling and compost, and educate lab users about practices that support the UW’s goal of sustainability. The team learned that UW Recycling has great programs to take care of some of the common items in lab waste streams that can’t go in the mixed recycling bins. While some labs may already be using these programs, they’ve found there is very little communication between labs and UW recycling. Their study shows that there is definitely room for improvement to increase recycling and reduce waste.
In order to understand what actually goes into the solid waste stream, the team met with several labs to conduct a quick waste audit. This audit also included an evaluation of waste receptacles, locations of receptacles, and contents. Lab plastics (sample jars, pipette tip boxes, and empty chemical containers) were among the most common items found, in addition to Styrofoam and other common packaging supplies - most of which can be recycled. The team also went through a draft of the ESS Office’s Green laboratory Certification Program Survey with someone in each lab. This allowed the team to field-test the draft for the ESS Office, educate lab users on the practices described in the draft, and get a better idea of what goes into each lab’s waste stream. Signage was then developed based upon their findings to help make lab users more aware of recycling programs offered on campus.