The Green Labs program readily seeks solutions to reduce and eliminate both hazardous and non-hazardous waste leaving our research laboratories via the waste-diversion initiatives below.
Animal bedding is a major waste stream for our campus vivaria and has historically been disposed of via landfill. Unfortunately, when deposited in a landfill, compostable organic items produce the greenhouse gas methane, which is harmful to the environment and contributes to climate change. Thus, it was decided to follow in the footsteps of UGA Dining Halls and compost this organic material at the UGA Bioconversion Facility.
Animal bedding from select campus vivaria composts at this facility, where it breaks down into nutrient-dense soil to be used in UGA’s award-winning campus landscaping. It’s a win-win; we divert this material from the landfill, avoid contributing to climate change, and nourish our soil and campus landscaping.
This program was launched in March 2015 by the Office of Sustainability in conjunction with the Office of Research Integrity and Safety, and University Research Animal Resources during the course of the 2015 Green Labs Task Force. While the task force had not yet made any recommendations to UGA regarding a Green Labs program, this initiative manifested after a task force meeting as an action that could begin immediately.
Although this program has experienced a few unforeseeable challenges and interruptions in recent years, the UGA Green Labs program is dedicated to building and growing this initiative for our campus vivaria.
If your animal research facility would like to get involved in this program, please reach out to email@example.com.
EPS Foam or Polystyrene that is clean and free of tape and other materials is accepted at the CHaRM and Publix supermarkets. Athens Clarke-County has more detailed guidelines here.
If you regularly receive shipments containing polystyrene packaging, consider reaching out to the supplier to tell them you would prefer that they switch to an alternative packing material.
UGA Facilities Management Division provides recycling removal service for #6 polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) for participating UGA Athens departments that opt into this program. Participants are responsible for material collection, preventing contamination, and requesting removal. To opt-in, contact your Building Services Supervisor and notify them that your department plans to begin Styrofoam collection and will be requesting their support to coordinate removal. Additional program details are described here: UGA FMD Polystyrene Collection Program (PDF)
Research often requires the use of hazardous chemicals and thus, the generation of hazardous waste. The UGA Green Labs program seeks to minimize the use and generation of hazardous substances on our campus via green chemistry. Scientists can help eliminate the most toxic and environmentally-persistent chemicals from lab applications by embracing and applying the principles of green chemistry via resources such as MilliporeSigma’s DOZN Tool and the American Chemical Society’s Solvent Selection Tool. Researchers are encouraged to consider whether their reactions can be scaled down or if lab processes can be improved upon to reduce the quantity of hazardous waste byproducts.
Beginning in February 2018, the University of Georgia launched a campus initiative to phase out the use of elemental mercury thermometers via a collaboration between the Office of Research Integrity and Safety, FMD Safety, and the Green Labs program. Due to mercury’s toxicity and costly remediation, efforts are being made to replace these thermometers with an environmentally friendly equivalent. Reducing the quantity of hazardous chemicals on campus, such as mercury, would not only enhance the safety of laboratory personnel, but also that of the FMD personnel who frequently perform repairs in locations where these chemicals are used and stored.
Read more about how to be mercury free here (PDF).
When a researcher leaves UGA or when a laboratory changes their processes, we are often left with unwanted but usable equipment and laboratory supplies. In the past, these items would often end up in a landfill, wasting precious resources that others could benefit from.
The UGA Green Labs program strives to divert laboratory waste from our landfills and simultaneously supports the education of future scientists, by collaborating with our local Teacher ReUse Store located at the CHaRM on College Ave. As many of our local high schools are underfunded, and most lab glass is quite expensive, teachers are sometimes unable to lead the curriculum they desire. Donated equipment helps to change that by providing free shopping for lab items for local teachers.
All UGA lab equipment/supplies going to the Teacher ReUse Store must be:
- Non-barcoded (not inventoried by UGA)
- Clean, non-contaminated
- Boxed/packaged for transport
- Offered internally to UGA colleagues first
Plastic film is commonly used in Labs. Clean film plastics such as shopping bags, deflated airbags from shipped packages, and shrink wrap can be consolidated and brought to the CHaRM. They can also be placed in the appropriate container at most supermarkets, or placed in a Bag the Bag bin in most UGA Housing residence halls.
Film plastics should never go in the single-stream recycling bins.
UGA Facilities Management Division provides recycling removal services for #2 and #4 film plastic for participating UGA Athens departments that opt into this program. Participants are responsible for material collection, preventing contamination, and requesting removal.
The UGA Green Labs program is working to create a laboratory recycling program to divert recoverable materials from the landfill. It is our mission to have a robust, campus-wide laboratory recycling program to serve our research areas. A limited lab-specific waste audit conducted on campus in 2018 revealed that nearly 80% of our laboratory waste could potentially be recovered, recycled, or composted.
The Green Labs program is currently piloting several recycling initiatives in partnership with the Athens Clarke County Recycling Division and select campus research labs, which we hope will further our efforts toward implementing a campus-wide lab recycling program. We also work closely with the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories Laboratory Waste Landfill Diversion Working Group towards these efforts.
Currently, laboratory recyclables are not permitted in the University’s single-stream recycling, though labs are encouraged to utilize the established dedicated processes for the recovery of cardboard, plastic film, PLA scraps, & EPS foam.
The UGA Green Labs program is happy to help your lab explore landfill diversion options for your unique waste stream or research by-product. Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
PLA (polylactic acid) printing filament scraps from 3D printers on UGA campus can now be composted via a partnership with Athens Clarke County Commercial Composting Facility.
PLA is different from petroleum-based plastics, as it is derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch, and is often referred to as a “bioplastic.” The unique nature of this material allows it to be diverted from landfills and composted instead.
UGA Facilities Management Division provides composting removal service for PLA printing filament scraps associated with our campus Makerspaces and other campus areas with 3D printers. Participants are responsible for material collection, preventing contamination, and requesting removal. To opt-in, contact your Building Services Supervisor and notify them that your department plans to begin PLA scrap collection and will be requesting their support to coordinate removal.
Please note: it is of utmost importance that only PLA printing filament scraps are included in this collection and kept free of other types of 3D printer filament.
Additional program details are described here: UGA FMD PLA Filament Scraps Composting Program