The treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes, including flammable and clinical streams, are highly regulated and controlled.
Rightly so, but we often prove there is scope for more environmentally responsible and sustainable solutions to hazardous waste management than mainstream approaches suggest.
The range of waste which fall within the hazardous waste classification is broad. Hazardous waste removal can vary from lab smalls to drummed wastes and on to bulk, tankered waste. It’s one reason we invest in highly experienced chemists and technical experts to identify and analyse distinct properties which, when considered from a different perspective, can lead to a waste returning to ‘asset’ status.
Believing, like many of its competitors, that glycol has no value or reuse capability, the company disposed of this waste through high-temperature incineration: an environmentally questionable solution due to its emissions – and also very expensive at £200 per tonne.
When reviewing this client’s ‘waste’ streams our chemists decided to explore options to reuse the glycol, which reduces the freezing point of water.
Within a short time we had identified an outlet for the entire glycol waste output, remanufacturing it into a screen wash product which is sold commercially for a variety of vehicles.
In addition to diverting this toxic waste away from incineration the pharmaceutical client now pays nothing for its disposal.
University College London (UCL) is one of London's leading universities, with 8,000 staff and 22,000 students, mostly working in its 23 research and development laboratories. In 2011 we embarked on a project to examine the 250 tonnes of wastes emanating annually from these activities. All wastes were being disposed of by high-temperature incineration – a very expensive and high-energy disposal option.
Following a thorough examination of the laboratory waste we discovered that, typically, 20 per cent was not hazardous, including non-infectious sterilised clinical wastes, uncontaminated glasses, plastics and cardboards. These wastes are now diverted off for recovery and/or recycling. We also reclassified some clinical wastes as offensive, enabling them to be diverted away from incineration.
Not only have we moved waste up the hierarchy and reduced disposal costs, but also reduced CO2 emissions through decreased incineration. The annual benefits are calculated to be a 13% reduction in costs and a 24% decrease in carbon footprint.
In addition, we worked with UCL’s procurement department to enable them to purchase pre-approved waste packing products, such as bags and bins, for their laboratory wastes.
This scheme was recognised with an award for innovative best-practice from the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM).