How to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Pure Water in the Lab

Laboratories everywhere rely on water purification systems to produce the pure water they need for their daily procedures and experiments. Such systems, including those from EMD Millipore, use a combination of several purification technologies in order to remove contaminants present in tap water.

By

Problem: Laboratories everywhere rely on water purification systems to produce the pure water they need for their daily procedures and experiments. Such systems, including those from EMD Millipore, use a combination of several purification technologies in order to remove contaminants present in tap water. Some of these technologies are integrated within the systems, while other technologies and media are available as consumable cartridges. These cartridges have a limited capacity and typically must be changed once or twice a year. Until now, nothing had been done to reduce the environmental impact associated with disposal of the company’s purification cartridges.

More and more, reducing the environmental impact during the use and end-of-life phases of a product fits with the sustainability programs adopted by companies and academic centers. The approach is also of increasing interest to users of lab equipment themselves: scientists are sensitive to waste avoidance in their laboratories and are genuinely inclined to adopt sustainable solutions such as the ech2o™ Collection & Recycling Program.

Solution: The ech2o Collection & Recycling Program was created to reduce the environmental impact of EMD Millipore lab water purification cartridges for the company’s U.S. customers.

The program combines the complementary strengths of two customercentered and environmentally responsible companies: EMD Millipore and Heritage Environmental Services, the largest privately held U.S. full service environmental company.

By recycling their used purification cartridges instead of throwing them in the trash, EMD Millipore’s U.S. customers will be taking another step toward sustainability. The ech2o Collection & Recycling Program will have a positive effect on the environment by reducing packaging and solid waste by 40 percent. Environmental impact will also be reduced by 10 to 12 percent for overall cartridge life cycles.

Full Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) were performed for the cartridges by a third party LCA specialist using a multi-indicator approach, as recommended in the ISO® 14040 series and the PAS (Publicly Available Specification) 2050. Indicators used for this study are: global warming potential, non-renewable resources, air acidification, eutrophication, non-renewable energy, and product and packaging solid waste.

The entire process the program involves is also traceable and certified. Traceability starts with a user’s identification on our website, increases with the barcode affixed to the cartridge during transport, and continues right up to the auditable Heritage Environmental Services waste management site where recycling occurs.

Users who wish to participate in the ech2o program benefit from a streamlined, web-based process. Customers register on the website and request a cartridge mailback kit that contains everything needed to return a used purification cartridge for recycling. The program has been adapted to fit the needs of both small-to-mediumvolume users (who will send back one or two cartridges at a time) as well as large-volume users, who will prefer to return cartridges in a bulk shipment.

Summary:

Over the past few years, increasing emphasis on product stewardship has gone hand in hand with a rising number of customer requests for environmentally sound ways to manage the products used in labs. Launched in September 2011, the ech2o program provides one more way for scientists to work toward making their lab environments more sustainable.

For more information, visit www.millipore.com/ech2o

Categories: How it Works

Published In

Communicating Science Magazine Issue Cover
Communicating Science

Published: November 1, 2011

Cover Story

Communicating Science

The scientific community has historically taken a dim view of communications with nonscientific publics. No thanks, said scientists. What an imposition! Why bother? What good could possibly come from interrupting research, sticking our necks out and dumbing it down for non-scientific dunderheads, only to see them mismanage our findings?