Chemical Disposal and Lab Staff Reductions

By John K. Borchardt

Staff reductions can result in severe challenges to proper chemical waste disposal management. In some recent cases, entire large facilities have been closed. Some areas of research have been abandoned completely and work in others has been severely curtailed. Often personnel are required to leave the laboratory immediately after receiving notice that they have lost their jobs. Even when they have a week or more to leave the laboratory for good, chemical waste disposal may be the last of their concerns in a rush to write reports, turn over projects, work with patent attorneys to write patent applications, etc.

Laboratory personnel often depart leaving their former coworkers with responsibility for properly disposing of chemicals, returning unused chemicals or partially used bottles of chemical reagents to the stockroom, and transferring ownership of chemicals recorded in the laboratory chemical inventory. Doing this is a challenge in the absence of former employees. In addition to the mass of information that must be managed and the physical transfer of chemicals, this work is uninteresting and must often be done by laboratory staff members demoralized by the departure of their former coworkers.

Some solid commercial reagents may be surplus to the laboratory’s new requirements. The company’s other laboratories may also have ample supplies of these chemicals. In these cases, the options are disposal or donation to a university or college. Donation is often a cost-effective alternative to disposal and appreciated by local universities and colleges. (Many of these institutions are currently under funding constraints due to state budget cuts.)

Another concern is compounds and chemical intermediates synthesized in the laboratory. Often unlikely to be commercially available, these are more likely to be retained on the chance they will be useful later.

Categories: Lab Health and Safety

Published In

Laboratory Etiquette Magazine Issue Cover
Laboratory Etiquette

Published: May 9, 2011

Cover Story

Laboratory Etiquette

Many lab managers still remember them from their student days—a handful of hastily stapled printouts sternly titled “Laboratory etiquette—Acceptable standards of conduct.” Those were rules to live by, and the smallest violation landed a budding laboratory scientist in front of the ticked-off chief instructor.
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