Waste Minimization


Purdue University is committed to preserving a balance between protecting the health of people and the environment, while accommodating increasingly sophisticated and productive research operations. As specified in Executive Memorandum C36, University faculty, staff and students must comply with environmental, health, and safety laws and regulations issued by federal, state, and local agencies. Faculty, staff and students are required to comply with related University policies, procedures, and instructions. The Chemical Management Committee (CMC) requires each principal investigator/generator to certify their waste minimization efforts annually.

Waste minimization is any action that reduces the amount and/or toxicity of chemical wastes that must be shipped off-site for disposal as hazardous waste. This is a national policy specifically mandated by the U.S. Congress in the national hazardous waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). There is clear intent in RCRA, the Clean Air Act, and the Pollution Prevention Act to focus attention on source reduction and recycling as preferred environmental management approaches over the treatment, disposal, or release of harmful chemicals to the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established its hierarchy of waste minimization approaches: reduce, recycle, and treatment. 

Methods of Waste Minimization

  • Source Reduction (Pollution Prevention)
    The most desirable method of waste minimization is source reduction, which reduces the impact of chemical wastes on the environment to the greatest extent.  This is an activity that reduces or eliminates the generation of chemical waste at the source.
  • Recycling
    The next most desirable approach is waste minimization through recycling.  When a waste material is used for another purpose, treated and reused in the same process, or reclaimed for another process, this is called recycling.
  • Treatment
    The last minimization method is treatment.  The most common treatment that can be performed in laboratories is elementary neutralization.  Other kinds of treatment may involve chemical, physical or biological methods.

Substitution of hazardous chemicals with non-hazardous ones is a simple way to minimize waste.  For example: use Alconox for cleaning glassware instead of chromic acid based cleaners, and avoid mercury containing equipment whenever possible.  Modification of procedures, processes or equipment can also lead to waste minimization. In laboratories where high volumes of spent solvents are generated, distillation would provide a cost effective means of re-using these solvents.  Good laboratory practices such as computer modeling and small scale experiments can minimize waste, as well as purchasing only the amount and type of chemical needed for the experiment.  Keeping hazardous waste separate from non-hazardous will reduce waste as will good inventory control, housekeeping, and training of personnel.

Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimization Programs

Rechargeable Battery Recycling

Rechargeable batteries are found in countless devices used across campus.  Cordless power tools, laptop computers, cellular and cordless telephones, digital cameras, laboratory equipment, and many other hand held devices are used throughout campus facilities and departments.  Purdue recycles the following types of rechargeable batteries: nickel cadmium (Ni-Cad), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium ion, sealed lead acid, and mercury. When broken, these batteries can release heavy metals that damage the environment. 

Used rechargeable batteries may be classified as hazardous waste due to their heavy metal content and are thus regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  These regulations provide for management of hazardous wastes. 

The Universal Waste Rule is designed to reduce regulatory management requirements. The University manages used rechargeable batteries as universal waste.  The Universal Waste Rule promotes pollution prevention and waste minimization by encouraging the recycling of used rechargeable batteries instead of less desirable methods of disposal such as land filling or incineration.

Management: Used rechargeable batteries can be picked by completing a Hazardous Waste Pickup Request Form.

  • Training is mandatory of all personnel handling rechargeable batteries for recycling.
  • All rechargeable batteries must be intact.
  • Leaking or damaged rechargeable batteries shall be placed in a suitable, closed container and labeled accordingly.
  • All rechargeable batteries will be placed in the appropriately labeled container inside the trailer. NO MIXING OF BATTERIES.
  • Alkaline batteries shall be placed in the trash.

Any questions regarding this program please contact Hazardous Materials Management at (765) 494-0121.

Chemical Redistribution Program

Occasionally EHS receives chemicals of good enough quality that they can be redistributed to you.  These chemicals will be materials in the original container with original labeling.  The container may have been opened or never opened, half full or more, and uncontaminated (we will only do a visual check for contamination).  The most common chemicals available for redistribution are listed below:

  • Mineral acids
  • Acetic acid and trifluoroacetic acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide 30%
  • Solid oxidizers (permanganates, chlorates, chromates, nitrates)
  • Reactives (alkali metals, metal hydrides, hydrazones, sulfides)
  • Phenol crystallized
  • Non-halogenated solvents
  • Bromine

To inquire about chemicals for redistribution, contact Hazardous Materials Management at (765) 494-0121. We will require the following information at that time: quantity and type of chemical, your name, phone #, building and room number.

Computer and Electronic Equipment Recycling

Many people today are still unaware of the federal and state requirements for computer and electronic equipment disposal. Computer monitors contain materials that should be recycled. The Cathode Ray Tube or CRT is the viewing portion of computer monitors and televisions. The CRT contains hazardous material that needs to be recycled. In your discarded computer monitors, televisions, and other electronic equipment there are traces of lead, phosphorus, cadmium, barium, and mercury.

As a product, these hazardous materials are safely sealed. When the CRT is left on a loading dock or in an outdoor storage area the potential for breakage is increased, and the hazardous materials may be released creating a potential hazard to faculty, staff, students and visitors. Placing these units outdoors is an unacceptable management practice. No monitors shall be placed in a campus dumpster.

In addition, data in electronic storage media may be sensitive or restricted. If this equipment is not repurposed within the university, then equipment with usable life is resold to the general public. Otherwise, the equipment is recycled. To ensure the university manages this equipment in a secure and environmentally sound manner, please follow these steps:

  • For data security, follow ITaP Media Disposal Guidelines.
  • Purdue Universities Internal Audit approves the University Warehouse and Surplus as an official site for performing DOD wipes of computer hard drives.
  • Complete and submit a Property Accounting Equipment Change in Status form.
  • Send equipment to University Warehouse and Surplus for processing:
    • Contact the University Warehouse and Surplus supervisor at (765) 496-2222 to request a pick up for the equipment. The supervisor will make arrangements with the General Labor crew if necessary.
    • Departments may also deliver the equipment to the University Warehouse and Surplus.

For questions, concerns, or equipment pick up, please contact University Warehouse and Surplus at (765) 496-2222 or Environmental Health and Safety at (765) 494-0121.

Fluorescent Bulb and Ballast Recycling

Fluorescent lamps illuminate countless classrooms, laboratories, and buildings on campus. HID lamps (mercury-vapor, metal-halide and high-pressure sodium) are used for streetlights, floodlights and shop lights. When broken, these lamps release mercury and other metals that damage the environment.

Note: Broken Fluorescent lamps must be managed as hazardous waste. Submit a completed Hazardous Waste Pickup Request for proper disposal.

The University manages used fluorescent lamps as universal waste. The Universal Waste Rule is designed to reduce regulatory management requirements. The Universal Waste Rule promotes pollution prevention and waste minimization by encouraging the recycling of used lamps instead of less desirable methods of disposal such as land filling or incineration.

Requesting Bulb and Ballast Pickup

  • Purdue personnel can submit a notification requesting pickup of bulbs/ballasts. Please indicate in this email the quantity (number of boxes, buckets or bins), type of material (bulbs or ballasts), location (building loading dock) of the pickup, and contact information for any questions.
  • The work order will be routed to the respective zone and a zone lighting technician will come to pick up the material
Important Reminders:
  • University personnel can bring bulbs/ballasts from their buildings/shops to the trailer located near HMMT on Ahlers Road .
  • Training is mandatory for all personnel that handles used fluorescent bulbs.
  • All lamp containers must be closed and labeled with the words "Universal Waste Bulbs".
  • All buckets/boxes containing ballasts must be labeled with the words "Non-PCB" ballasts or "PCB" ballasts depending on the type of ballasts in the container(s).

Please call the Hazardous Materials Manager at (765) 494-0121 with any questions regarding this program.

Used Oil

Used oil can be a valuable resource when it is properly managed to avoid release to the environment and recycled for utilization of its lubricant or fuel value. The State of Indiana has adopted Used Oil Management Standard; codified in Indiana Administrative Code 329 IAC 13, to encourage the recycling of used oil and promote its environmentally sound collection, storage, and management. The University also recognizes the need for waste minimization and proper management of used oil.

University shops, farms, and other generators from campus generate on average 5,000 gallons of recyclable used oil annually. An outside vendor recycles this material at minimal cost to the University. All faculty and staff should participate in pollution prevention and waste minimization by recycling their used oil.

Used oil is defined as any oil that has been refined from crude oil, or synthetic, and has been used and as a result of such use is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities.

Used oil for recycling:

  • Lubricants
  • Hydraulic Fluids
  • Motor Oil
  • Metalworking Oil
  • Wire Drawing Solutions

Note: All containers used shall be closed at all times except to empty or fill the container. The words "Used Oil" shall appear on the outside of the container in plain view. A pickup request shall be submitted to EHS prior to container removal

Used oil that must be collected separately and cannot be recycled include:

  • Refrigeration oil
  • Heat Transfer oil
  • Any oil contaminated with any quantity of the following items:
    • Fuels (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, fuel oil, jet fuels 
    • Creosote
    • Solvents (lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, turpentine, paint thinner, degreaser solvents, Stoddard solvent, Varsol™, white spirits, oleum, naphtha, petroleum naphtha)
  • Duplicating Fluid
  • Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Petroleum Distillates

Parts Washers

A parts washer is used to remove residues such as, grease, wax and oil from metal parts, assemblies, and other fabricated products. Sink-type parts washers are a common site in shops across campus. Cleaning solutions used in parts washers include solvents and aqueous cleaners. Solvents clean by dissolving away dirt. Solvents include petroleum-based solvent mixtures such as mineral spirits, Stoddard solvent, petroleum naphtha, and pure organic solvents such as trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, benzene, and xylenes. Aqueous cleaners are pH-neutral or alkaline water-based solutions that break down and remove dirt from part surfaces.  Semi-aqueous solutions that contain small amounts of solvents are also available.

The University has found that solvent substitutes with lower volatility and higher flash points combined with simple changes in shops cleaning operations reduce waste generation, improve compliance, and increase safety, while saving money at the same time. The University is using three different sink-type parts washers. 

  1. A solvent exchange service. Waste (dirty) solvent is removed and reused as a roofing material component. 
  2. A low volatile, high flash point solvent and a filter that cleans the solvent.  The clean solvent is then re-circulated through the machine for reuse.
  3. A built-in distillation process to clean the solvent before being re-circulated for reuse.

Effective use of these three(3) types of parts washers will reduce the volume and toxicity of hazardous waste generation (an excellent waste minimization/pollution prevention technique), reduce operating costs, protect employees, and improve efficiency.   

Never use solvents containing the following constituents (EPA has determined that emissions from cleaning equipment using these solvents present a threat to human health and the environment):

  • methylene chloride
  • perchloroethylene
  • trichloroethylene
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • carbon tetrachloride,
  • chloroform

To extends solvent life:

  • Pre-wipe parts to remove excess grease or oil
  • Use separate parts washers in stages for heavily soiled parts. Use one for initial cleaning and another for final cleaning.
  • Use the longest service interval possible when using a solvent exchange service.
  • Change filtration part washer filters and pads frequently enough to prevent fouling.
  • Remove sludge from aqueous parts washers often.

Do not allow any other solvents to be used in or over the parts washer. A common source of contamination is the use of spray solvents such as brake cleaner or carburetor cleaner containing tetrachloroethylene and other regulated solvents. This will cause all the solvent in the parts washer to become hazardous waste and prevent it from being recycled.

Mercury Reduction

Click the link above to go to the EHS Mercury Information.

Organizational Support

Waste minimization is a process of continual improvement. All University faculty, staff and students shall be encouraged to identify opportunities for waste minimization in their daily activities. Environmental Health and Safety Department will support the University's waste minimization efforts by providing training in procedures, techniques, and best management practices. Additionally, EHS will organize special, University-wide waste minimization efforts and facilitate information sharing by University personnel through the use of web based fact sheets. 


Waste prevention and minimization has positive environmental, human health and safety, and economic impacts. Therefore it is an important goal at Purdue University .  Implementing a "less is better" concept provides better protection of human health and safety by reducing exposures, generating less demand for disposal on the environment. Less Waste also lowers disposal cost. You can do your part helping Purdue reach this waste prevention and minimization goal by educating yourself and others about waste prevention and minimization. All faculty, staff, and students should take responsibility for educating ourselves about environmental protection as well as human health and safety.

Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimization Links

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