Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 66.71
Liaison Greg Kozak
Submission Date March 6, 2020

STARS v2.2

Northwestern University
OP-20: Hazardous Waste Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Sarah Tulga
Sustainability Program Coordinator
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have strategies in place to safely dispose of all hazardous, special (e.g. coal ash), universal, and non-regulated chemical waste and seek to minimize the presence of these materials on campus?:

A brief description of steps taken to reduce hazardous, special (e.g. coal ash), universal, and non-regulated chemical waste:

The Office for Research Safety (ORS) trains all lab workers handling chemical and hazardous waste. The annual recertification program strongly emphasizes source reduction through purchasing only as much as is needed, sharing excess chemicals between labs, and stresses proper waste separation. Clean solvent wastes, that can be used for fuels blending and diverted from a chemical incinerator, are separately collected to prevent contamination with out of spec wastes. The internal Northwestern sewer disposal thresholds are set lower than the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District thresholds at the outfall stations.

The laboratory stores program does not offer volume purchase discounts, which encourages purchasing just the amounts needed. A free mercury thermometer exchange program is in place where labs can exchange mercury thermometers for non-mercury thermometers. Traditional film developing practices are phased out for lower waste digital technology. Irradiators based on high energy radioactive materials are phased out for electrically powered X-ray irradiators. The substitution of halogenated solvents with non-halogenated solvents is encouraged in research. Green Chemistry practices are taught and promoted in undergraduate labs.

Aside from waste avoidance strategies, waste separation remains the main strategy to manage regulated hazardous waste streams at Northwestern University. Non separated waste streams, so called mixed wastes, for example radioactive waste mixed with chemical or biological waste, can be one of the most unsustainable aspects of a hazardous waste disposal program. Keeping separate many hazardous, universal, special and non-hazardous waste streams is one of the most successful strategies to reduce the types and amounts of wastes that have to be incinerated or land filled. Unmixed waste streams open up opportunities for treatment, down cycling, energy reuse and recycling.

A brief description of how the institution safely disposes of hazardous, universal, and non-regulated chemical waste:

Northwestern University contracts the hazardous, universal, special and parts of the non-hazardous waste management program with Heritage Environmental. Eight full time onsite staff handle the 108 hazardous, universal, special and non-hazardous waste streams, that have been set up. Of these 108 waste streams, 59 waste streams are sent for fuel blending, chemical treatment, reclamation and recycling.

A brief description of any significant hazardous material release incidents during the previous three years, including volume, impact and response/remediation:

There were no significant hazardous material release incidents.

A brief description of any inventory system employed by the institution to facilitate the reuse or redistribution of laboratory chemicals:

In 2018, Northwestern University’s Research Safety contracted with BioRaft to professionally manage a digital registry platform. The digital research registration platform contains a chemical inventory system. As the use of this chemical inventory platform grows, better avoidance of duplicate purchases and sharing of small amounts of specialty chemicals between research groups is expected.

The Purchasing Department has set up pricing with the chemical vendors to avoid overbuying at large product sizes. Order pricing and supply chain processes incentivize just-in-time purchases and overall inventory control.

Does the institution have or participate in a program to responsibly recycle, reuse, and/or refurbish electronic waste generated by the institution?:

Does the institution have or participate in a program to responsibly recycle, reuse, and/or refurbish electronic waste generated by students?:

A brief description of the electronic waste recycling program(s), including information about how electronic waste generated by the institution and/or students is recycled:

Northwestern University coordinates an institution-wide ecycling program, and electronic items must be recycled as mandated by state law. The program is available, at no charge, for all faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff are encouraged to list working electronic items on the campus Surplus Exchange website before recycling. In addition to traditional computer equipment, laboratory equipment is also collected for recycling through the ecycling program.

Items generated by faculty/staff are picked up for recycling from their campus location. Students are offered a central drop-off location (one on each campus) for electronics recycling. These items are stored centrally until our contracted electronics recycling vendor picks the materials up from campus.

Our vendor, Vintage Tech, is e-steward certified, http://e-stewards.org/recycler/vintage-tech-llc/.

Is the institution’s electronic waste recycler certified under the e-Stewards and/or Responsible Recycling (R2) standards?:

Website URL where information about the institution’s hazardous waste program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.