Chemistry labs divert more than one ton of PPE from waste stream

Left to Right: Sayantani Sur (Snyder Group), Ari Nunez (Lab Manager), Sevi Agiakloglou (Burke Group); photo by Fred Zwicky.

In 2023, the Department of Chemistry diverted from landfills more than one ton of personal protective equipment, mostly nitrile gloves used in labs.

Through the Kimberly-Clark Right Cycle Program, teaching labs and some research labs in the department diverted 1.03 tons or 2,278 pounds of PPE waste last year, earning the 2024 Greenovation Award, which recognizes Kimberly-Clark customers that demonstrate sustainability leadership and proactively reduce their environmental impact.

The Chemistry Teaching Labs have been participating in The Right Cycle Program since 2017. Serenity Desmond, assistant director of teaching labs, said the program is expanding with the research group of Prof. Cathy Murphy and the research group of Prof. Ben Snyder now involved as well. And the two undergraduate courses with the largest enrollments have also been added to the program since 2017, which has significantly increased the amount of PPE the department is diverting from the waste stream and landfills. Desmond said the ChBE Teaching Lab is also planning to participate in the program. 

These hard-to-recycle items are diverted from the waste stream and landfills and turned into new consumer goods, such as flowerpots, patio furniture and plastic shelving. There are two chairs on the first floor of the Chem Annex that are made from the recycled lab gloves.  

Prior to this program, students disposed of used gloves in the regular trash bins, but now, students in the teaching labs throw their gloves into designated glove recycling bins. These bins are then shipped to a Kimberly-Clark partner company, where they are decontaminated and recycled.