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Environment, Health and Safety Division

Waste Management

As a generator of waste at the Berkeley Lab, you must develop and implement waste minimization in your research or support areas.  Divisions are encouraged to review waste generating processes prior to the waste being generated and periodically thereafter.  Berkeley Lab maintains a successful waste minimization program.

The following list highlights a few of the things you can do to minimize your waste.

Separation and Segregation

  • Avoid cross contamination by storing radioactive waste separately from hazardous and nonhazardous wastes and other nonradioactive materials.
  • Segregate your liquid radioactive waste based on isotopic half life.
  • Scintillation vials showing no activity above background should be accumulated separately and managed as nonradioactive waste.
  • Segregate non hazardous materials from hazardous materials or wastes.

Good Housekeeping

  • Keep accumulation of wastes in your SAA to a minimum by requesting frequent waste pickups.  This can reduce the potential for generation of spill clean-up wastes in the event of an upset condition (such as an earthquake).
  • Label and note contents on all in-use containers such as beakers, flasks or tubes, whether hazardous or not, to reduce the potential for generation of unknown waste mixtures.

Material Recycle and Reuse

  • Reuse gel staining or destaining solutions.
  • Reuse spent solvents for initial rinses or general cleaning.
  • Reuse cleaning solutions when practical.

Material Substitution

  • Substitute nonhazardous chemicals whenever possible.
  • Substitute red liquid (alcohol) thermometers or digital thermometers for mercury thermometers where practicable. 
  • Substitute biodegradable nontoxic detergents for cleaning solvents.
  • To the extent possible use isotopes with half-lives shorter than 90 days.
  • Search for and use nonradioactive substitutes (e.g. immunoassay reagents, materials labeled with stable isotopes or other nonradioactive tracers), particularly when the use of long-lived isotopes is desired.

Process Modification

  • Design your experiments to use the minimum amount of hazardous or radioactive material (i.e. microscale chemistry).
  • Implement benchtop treatment whenever possible (contact your Generator Assistant for details)
  • Keep 3H and 14C activities in animal tissues and scintillation fluids below 0.05 microcuries/gram whenever possible.

Inventory and Purchasing Controls

  • Order only the amount of radioactive materials and chemicals you will use in a reasonable period of time.  Centralize purchasing in your laboratory if possible to minimize duplicate orders.
  • When practical, reassign chemicals to another owner for use rather than disposal.

For more details on any of these suggestions, or for assistance in waste minimization, please contact your Environmental Management Representative.