Request a clear out of excess and out-of-date chemicals

Amber Kenney

Amber Kenney of the ESH&Q Section wrote this column.

Hanging on to things comes in handy when you want spare parts or you need to refurbish old equipment. Repurposing is not only a sustainable practice that is good for the environment, but it can also save money. For these reasons, the practice of keeping “stuff” is a long-standing Fermilab tradition.

This practice can occasionally lead to problems, especially if there is an accumulation of chemicals, some of which may not perform as expected after a certain designated time, or shelf life. Furthermore, the prolonged storage of chemicals can result in serious reactions and pose a health or fire risk.

To address these risks, the ESH&Q Section’s Hazard Control and Technology Team (HCTT) launched a chemical clear-out program. The program is intended to assist D/S/Cs to safely and efficiently dispose of stockpiled chemicals that are no longer needed and cannot be used by others at the lab.

The primary benefit of the program is the elimination of potential chemical exposures and the reduction of health and fire hazards in the work place. Additionally, the HCTT helps to expeditiously and accurately characterize and package waste, ensuring that chemicals are disposed of legally and responsibly. Other benefits include saving time for waste generators, freeing up storage space and minimizing the inventory of hazardous chemicals.

Since the inception of the program, environmental officers from several D/S/Cs have partnered with HCTT for chemical clear-outs, and as of December, HCTT has characterized and packaged chemical waste at 19 locations throughout the lab. This resulted in the collection of more than 1,300 containers, amounting to approximately 800 gallons of waste.

If you have a cabinet of chemicals that are no longer useful, consider requesting a clear-out by contacting your environmental officer to coordinate a visit by HCTT. We all need to remember the Fermilab Sustainable Acquisition policy: Purchase only the volume of chemicals that we will most likely use because any immediate cost savings from buying in bulk may be overshadowed by the cost of disposing of excess chemicals later.