July 9, 2018
Faculty and staff working in laboratories across the Ann Arbor campus are keeping the University of Michigan sustainable by reducing waste sent to the landfill through the Chemical, Equipment and Materials Reuse program.
The program allows lab employees to unload surplus chemicals, equipment and materials, which are then categorized and made available to other campus labs for free through an online inventory. Each step of the process, including, pick-up and delivery, is free of charge.
The program is run through the Office of Campus Sustainability and Environment, Health and Safety.
The ChEM Reuse program continues to grow with an average annual savings of more than $125,000 and 1.5 tons of waste diverted from the landfill.“The largest category of items we receive through the program are materials, which can include anything from glassware to lab safety materials,” says Nicole Berg, manager of the program and sustainability representative in the Office of Campus Sustainability. “The more time-sensitive component of our work focuses on chemicals which have varying expiration dates and regulations.”Since the program was founded in 2011, nearly 15,000 pounds of chemicals, equipment and materials have been donated and reused at campus laboratories, saving the university more than $460,000.
Berg sees additional opportunities for the program to grow.
“At any given time throughout the year, there are laboratories relocating, cleaning or conducting an inventory of items that have potential to be donated to the program,” Berg says. “Central Campus labs have been instrumental as part of our growth and we are hopeful that upcoming projects on the North and Medical Campuses can add to the program’s success.”
The items available in the database are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The goals of the program are to protect the environment by reducing the overall volume of waste sent for disposal and to reduce the cost of purchasing new materials if those in stock are acceptable for reuse in research or teaching.
The ChEM Reuse program is just one of the efforts of the broader initiative to create more sustainable operations in university labs through the Sustainable Labs program offered by the Office of Campus Sustainability.
Through the Sustainable Labs program, OCS staff meets with a lab manager to review and evaluate lab operations, and create a report with recommendations for more sustainable operations for that particular lab. Labs receive a certification ranking between bronze and platinum once they've completed the recommended adjustments.
The ChEM Reuse Program and the Sustainable Lab Certification Program support the university’s commitment to sustainability known as Planet Blue and its 2025 goals in the areas of waste reduction and community engagement.