Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship: Pollution Prevention & Waste Minimization

Laboratory researchers can participate in programs that minimize the environmental impact of activities conducted at Stanford. Programs result in cost-savings, are simple to implement, and benefit labs and the environment.

Wastewater Discharge Related to Research Activities

The University’s wastewater generator discharge permit specifies that non-sewerable materials are not to be disposed of down the drain. All sanitary, process, and laboratory waste is “treated” at the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) prior to discharge into San Francisco Bay.

Discharge Limits for Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Materials

Is it sewerable? infographic

“Sewerable" Discharge Limits are not the same as "hazardous waste" disposal limits set under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for hazardous waste disposal.

Check product labels and MSDS before disposing of materials into lab sinks! Kits, rinsates from staining process, film processor waste, algaecides, biocides, cleaners and organic solvents MAY contain materials that cannot be disposed of down the drain!

The standard formula for the reagent has 20-50% methanol and 10% acetic acid and cannot be disposed of in the sink.

Best Management Practices

Wastewater: BMP Factsheet - summarizes best management practices and requirements at Stanford. The City of Palo Alto periodically collects wastewater samples to check for the presence of non-sewerable materials from sites specified in the permit.

The Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant strives to stay abreast of emerging contaminants that may become pollutants of concern.

Soldering Dos & Don’t’s - Post information at all soldering workstations as a reminder of best practices and requirements when soldering.

Water Bath Algicides can contain copper that will harm fish and wildlife. Information and a short list of non-copper algaecides that should be used to reduce the amount of copper released into San Francisco Bay is provided as guidance for labs.

Fumehood Cupsinks - RWQCP recommends taking unused fumehood cupsinks out-of-service. (Plug with a rubber stopper, covered, and labeled as "not available")

Water aspirators - RWQCP requires that water aspiration devices be removed from water faucets.

Mercury Thermometer Replacement Alternatives - SoM buildings are “Mercury-free” so replace old thermometers with “mercury-free” alternatives.

Wastewater Management

The Palo Alto Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, where Stanford's wastewater ends up eventually, has strict wastewater discharge requirements to protect South San Francisco Bay from pollutants. Improper disposal or accidental chemical spills to the laboratory sink drains could impact water or wastewater quality. Proper storage and disposal of chemicals safeguard against such occurrences.

Mercury Thermometer Replacement Alternatives

Mercury is a toxic pollutant and is listed as one of 12 priority chemicals. In the laboratory, mercury-containing compounds present a health hazard and spills from broken thermometers are costly to clean up and dispose of. A mercury thermometer can be easily identified by the presence of a silver bulb. If the bulb is red, blue, purple, green or any other color, it is most likely not a mercury thermometer.

Surplus Chemical Program

Gives researchers a direct means of improving the environment by reducing the volume of chemicals being purchased and disposed of as waste. EH&S maintains an inventory of over 300 free, unused and unopened chemicals available for immediate use and will be delivered promptly to the requesting laboratory. Participation in the program not only reduces purchase and disposal costs, but it also reduces the significant environmental impacts associated with chemical waste disposal.

Laboratory Product Substitution Opportunities

For laboratories include cleaning/sterilizing/rinsing substitutions, and the use of nonhazardous or less toxic chemical alternatives.

Laboratory Process Modification Opportunities

Include analytical equipment modifications, neutralization/deactivation/recovery protocols, and micro-scaling processes. Please consider incorporating as many of the following into your research as practicable.

Lab Bottle Recycling

Diverts qualifying containers and materials disposed from labs from going to the landfill.  Most glass, metal, and plastic containers (excluding pyrex type lab glass) can be recycled.  It is critical that containers meet the definition of an empty container prior to being recycled.